GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP — The Ram's Head Inn took its last orders Wednesday night for the foreseeable future, according to co-owner Kurt Knowles.
"About a day or so before New Year's Eve, we had an issue with our sprinkler line system in the building. It kept losing pressure, and it won't hold, so we have had the sprinkler maintenance company come in and address it, and two other quotes from other companies," Knowles said, adding he does not know when or if the Ram's Head Inn will reopen.
The companies have told Knowles it is a quite an extensive "multiple hundreds of thousands of dollars sprinkler job."
"That does not include cutting open walls and ceilings and things of that nature for the (sprinkler) lines," Knowles said. "We have to look into this. We are trying to get other quotes. We don't know."
The biggest concern was putting the patrons and customers in harm's way by not having a fully functioning sprinkler system, Knowles said.
"We have to close indefinitely until we can resolve this," said Knowles. "If this job becomes very expensive, we will have to approach it as a business. We need to get all the fact and figures in line because we can make a decision."
Knowles and his family members do not know when or how extensive this project would be or whether they can afford it. The restaurant did its best to stay open through the new year. Since the sprinkler system problem was discovered, someone has had to stay inside the building and monitor it 24 hours a day, and the township fire department was aware of this, he said.
The staff was told at 4 p.m. Wednesday, Knowles said. During a typical January, the Ram's Head would employ 20 part-time staff and 12 to 15 full-time staff, Knowles said.
Mayor Anthony J. Coppola Jr. said Wednesday that he was surprised and troubled to hear of Ram's Head's closing.
"The Ram's Head has been a Galloway landmark for generations," Coppola said. "We recently designated the entire Route 30 corridor as a redevelopment area in an effort to drive reinvestment in that area. I am confident that we will see some positive growth in the entire zone."
Ram's Head Inn, which is 40,000 square feet, contains a tavern, a banquet room, two private dining rooms and three a la carte dining rooms, Knowles said.
"If we get a company that is willing to come in and says, 'We can fix this, or we can patch this, and we can get you running, and you will be sound and secure and safe,' then that's another story for us," Knowles said.
Organizations with events planned there are being informed of the closing and told they'll need to seek new venues. People who have gift certificates to the Ram's Head Inn will be able to redeem them at other restaurants owned by the Knowles family such as The Manor and the Highlawn Pavilion in the northern part of the state.
Last year was the 40th year the Knowles family has owned the Ram's Head Inn.
The inn started as a roadhouse during the 1930s, according to its website. Over the years before it was purchased by Fred and Ethel Noyes during the 1970s, it was known as the Black Steer Ranch and the Dutch Barn. The Knowles family acquired the property from the Noyeses.