With the fast cadence of an auctioneer's search for bids, the former Duffy's Tavern in Utica was emptied of dusty antiques, excess furniture and rare saloon memorabilia Wednesday as new owners prepare to open the village's newest restaurant, Lodi Tap House.
"Out with the old and in with the new," said Lodi bar manager Rob Westerman. "Nearly everything is being cleared out today during this auction — all of these antiques, beer signs, photos off the walls, tables, chairs, even the long front bar. We're basically only keeping the back bar and will start working on remodeling the place immediately."
The new owners, a group of investors from Maple Park, own another Lodi Tap House in that city. The eatery recently won WGN TV's Chicago's Best Burger award of 2018.
Dozens of people attended the Wednesday auction, which featured so many items that some of the sale was conducted in the nearby La Salle County Historical Society warehouse facility.
A mainstay in Utica for more than four decades, Duffy's Tavern was opened in 1972 by the late Patrick Duffy and his wife, Isabel. It was owned and operated by Lisle and Pat Elsbury since 2003 until it was sold in December.
James Kummer, a local collector of Starved Rock area memorabilia who lives in Ottawa, was excited to have his bid win him two iconic Duffy's Signs.
"My bid won me the original sign off the building and another one from Interstate 80," Kummer said. "I'm really into the preservation of local history, and there is certainly a lot here (in the auction) to choose in this sale."
Clarence Off, of Streator, was more than pleased with his purchase of an antique wooden duck decoy during the auction.
"I have been looking at all these antiques here in Duffy's for nearly 20 years, and I wanted to be here today to be part of this sale," said Orr. "You do not see many hand-carved solid wood ducks anymore — most of them these day are plastic. I also bought a pot belly stove earlier."
Utica Mayor David Stewart also was among the bidders at the sale looking through the many items on the auction block.
Commenting on the new ownership and the end of Duffy's, Stewart was optimistic about the tavern's future.
"Change isn't a bad thing," Stewart said. "This kind of change will be good for both the village and the community. We wish the new owners well."
Westerman said, if all goes according to plan, the restaurant, which will feature a new menu and Illinois-craft beers, will reopen during the first week of April.
"I have described our delicious food as modernized pub grub," he said. "We are excited about getting this place up and running."