VALDOSTA -- Chairs rested on top of tables at the Wooden Nickel Pub on Saturday evening as the last of the dishes were washed, the last beers were shared and last songs played from the jukebox. By 6 p.m., all that remained were employees and friends of the pub that served locals for more than 25 years.
Manager R.J. Tolbert said patrons filled the pub throughout the week and at times waited in line to get inside for one last visit on Saturday, the Wooden Nickel's final day. Some, however, left with more than menu specialties.
"Lots of things have been liberated: mugs, silverware, menus," Tolbert said. "It's been busy, not much of a stop."
So many mugs were taken that plastic cups were purchased to hold customers' beverages. By 4 p.m., Tolbert said, business came to a halt as the last of the food was served.
"We made the decision Friday to close at six or until we ran out of food," Tolbert said.
Wooden Nickel managers and employees were notified last Sunday that the pub would close, with its last day on Saturday. Tolbert said he could not comment on why the pub closed.
The pub leased the property from Park Avenue Bank and was owned by Carmike Cinemas Inc. Earlier this week, Park Avenue Bank president Jeff Hanson said the pub did not resign its lease.
James Cooper, who was a cook at the pub, said the bank didn't give employees sufficient notification to find new employment options.
"This is absolutely devastating for me, personally," Cooper said. "I'm currently a full-time college student and this is devastating to my cash flow."
Cristina Reece, who was a waitress, said she, too, was upset with the notification employees received, adding that the pub had a family-like atmosphere.
"They gave us not even a week to find another job," Reece said. "It's like they're breaking up a family. This is such a landmark in Valdosta."
Tolbert said waiters made decent money, averaging about seven tables at one time, and estimated that the pub had about 400 customers on an average day and 800 on a busy day.
On Wednesday, Tolbert said the pub received about $1,000 more in business than usually with customers lined past the pub's back fence.
"It was unbelievable," Tolbert said, who has worked at the pub for 14 years.
Richard Tomlinson, who has worked at the Wooden Nickel since its opening, said he will have many friendships to take with him now that the pub has closed.
"It's been like a social thing, you could meet your friends here," Tomlinson said. "I've gotten to know a lot of people, I've known people for 20 years just from them being customers. Most of us consider people here like family."
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