The lunchtime crowd packed Mosby's Tavern on Wednesday, filling every seat at the bar and spilling out to the front and back porches of Middleburg's landmark pub.
But not one patron inside the orange building with dark shutters was eating lunch -- Mosby's Tavern has been closed since June 29. All of its contents, including the stack of green menus up front, the "appropriate dress required" sign and the kitchen sink, were being auctioned off.
"Middleburg is slowly fading," said Andrew Murfitt, 41, an Aldie resident who did maintenance work for Mosby's. He recalled the restaurant's $4.25 daily lunch special and complained how local watering holes were steadily being replaced by high-end establishments such as Sheila Johnson's planned Salamander Inn and Spa just outside town limits.
"More offices, more antiques -- this is another nail in the coffin of Middleburg," Murfitt said.
Mosby's served lunch to about 150 people each day, according to Edwin Markowitz, who owned the tavern with two business partners, Turner Reuter and Frank Vitale. Vitale would not identify those involved in Mosby's Tavern LLC, the new owner, which plans to turn it into an office building.
"We were making plenty of money, but we got an offer we couldn't refuse on the building," Markowitz said.
So one by one, pictures of the various items that had helped to make Mosby's a local favorite for nearly 20 years were shown on a slide screen as potential purchasers made their bids.
"Famous people ate off these plates," called the auctioneer as he sold Mosby's entire supply of dishware for $50. Among them were fashion designer Calvin Klein, former first lady Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, football player Sam Huff and actor Robert Duval.
Jay Linski, 39, owner and manager of Tailgaters Sports Bar in Charles Town, W.Va., bought several thousand dollars worth of flatware and kitchen equipment such as coolers and sandwich makers.
"It's kind of sad, especially when you're in the business," said Donnie Hawkins, 37, executive chef of Tailgaters. "You don't want to see anything have to close."
Even the Mosby's Tavern sign, with its distinctive two-sided rendering of a man sweeping a woman away on his horse, sold, with Vitale's wife, Mary, buying it for $5,000. She said she planned to hang it in her basement so that both the front and the back were visible.
"My children grew up here. A lot of friends were made here," Mary Vitale said, adding that she hadn't realized Mosby's full stature in town until it closed. "We never knew we had an institution."
Thelma Swain, 68, a lifelong resident of the area, had hoped to buy Mosby's photo of the Old Confederate Hall, where she lived with her husband shortly after they were married. The picture went to another bidder, who offered $600. But her greatest regret was the closing of Mosby's itself -- and the end of hamburger night on Tuesdays.
"There's not a lot of places in Middleburg you can go get a hamburger for half-price," she said.