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‘A True Champion For This Community.’ Longtime Tavern Owner Pat Daugherty Dies

Pat Daugherty, the owner of the Tavern Restaurant for 40 years and a widely beloved pillar of the State College community, died over the weekend. He was 75.

“Pat was a true champion for this community, bridging town and gown through many local leadership roles,” Lee Anne Jeffries, executive director of the Downtown State College Improvement District, wrote in an email. “He created a family culture at The Tavern and impacted hundreds of lives through mentorship and his kind generous spirit. During his service on the Downtown Improvement District’s Board of Directors, Pat’s experience and historical knowledge of State College proved invaluable to the organization. 

“He was a friend, loved by many, and will be greatly missed.”

A licensed professional engineer who worked at The Tavern while earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Penn State, Daugherty and partner Bill Tucker purchased the 220 E. College Ave. restaurant in 1980 from original owners Ralph Yeager and John “Jace” O’Connor, who opened it in 1948.

Tucker retired in 1986, but Daugherty carried on as the face of the downtown State College institution.

“I’ve been very fortunate all my life,” Daugherty told Town&Gown last year.

Daugherty was renowned for creating a family atmosphere at The Tavern. He employed and mentored hundreds of Penn State students, many forming lasting friendships with each other and with Daugherty. There have been nearly two dozen marriages of former employees who met while working at the restaurant.

Sharon Herlocher worked for Daugherty at The Tavern while she was a Penn State student and field hockey player.

“He did everything to make your life easier,” Herlocher said. “I was an athlete. I couldn’t work all the time, but I wanted to work all the time. I needed to make some money. Especially now as a business owner and older, you realize just how much he would go through to make working easy for college kids, at his expense.

“He made it that way, and it was like that for him when he worked there. He took it to another level. Jace and Ralph did a great job creating that family atmosphere but he took it to another level when he got there. Most business owners want to help college kids but it gets exhausting. He would just do it with a smile and sort it out.”

Now as a downtown business leader Herlocher chairs the Downtown Improvement District board, where she worked alongside Daugherty in his role as secretary. After his family and The Tavern, Herlocher said, Daugherty cared most about downtown State College.

“Pat is and will always be the heartbeat of downtown State College,” she said. “He loved downtown.”

Daugherty sold The Tavern building in January 2020 but continued as the restaurant’s operator, overseeing renovations to the 73-year-old restaurant and its reopening earlier this year.

Centre County Commissioner Steve Dershem knew Daugherty for decades. The last time he saw him was at the restaurant’s grand reopening celebration.

“He was sort of dancing around in his glory, holding court for everybody,” Dershem said with a laugh.

The two had bonded over their love of Penn State wrestling, and Daugherty was a strong supporter of the university and all of its athletic teams.

Daugherty was a longtime member of the Nittany Lion Club and The Tavern established two scholarships in women’s athletics, as well as helping to establish an endowment to support freestyle wrestling.

In 1999, Penn State named Daugherty its Renaissance Fund honoree, an annual tribute to an individual or couple for a lifetime of service to the Penn State and State College communities through philanthropy and civic leadership.

Contributions to the Renaissance Fund endowed three scholarships: one in Daugherty’s name, another in honor of his mother, Dorothy Kellogg Daugherty, and the third in the name of The Tavern Alumni Association.

“I think his spirit and love for this community extends well beyond those 40 years [as Tavern owner],” Dershem said. “The impact that he’s had on so many people, both folks that worked for him at the restaurant and patronized his restaurant, and folks in the community that he helped out… He was a very generous man, a very kind, giving thoughtful person, and probably one of the sweetest souls in our region.

“Pat was the real deal. He’s just such a class act. He’s going to be missed.”

Centre County Administrator Margaret Gray worked at The Tavern under Yeager and O’Connor while she was a Penn State student, just before Daugherty and Tucker bought the restaurant. (Her father also worked for Yeager and O’Connor as The Tavern’s first maître d.)

After Gray and her husband, now-retired Penn State vice president David Gray, returned to State College in 2012, they got to know Daugherty and developed a friendship.

“He was just a genuine, authentic individual, really interested in others,” Gray said. “People were attracted to him. He liked people and they liked him. He developed a lot of relationships over many years. It’s pretty remarkable to see all these testimonies to him today.

“Pat was one of a kind…generous, warm, supportive, always interested in everything Penn State and the State College community at large. He loved the Tavern and his extended Tavern family and he will be missed by many.”

Daugherty’s contributions to State College and Penn State were myriad. He annually hosted dinners for THON and the Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts. He hosted the speaker for the Kavanagh Memorial Structural Engineering Lecture at Penn State each year.

Under Daugherty’s direction, The Tavern has supported Mount Nittany Medical Center, Nittany Valley Symphony, Pennsylvania Chamber Orchestra, many youth charities and numerous other nonprofit organizations.

He held community leadership roles at the Chamber of Business and Industry of Centre County (CBICC), Pennsylvania Restaurant Association, and the Downtown Improvement District.

In 2019, Daugherty received the James Madison Award for civility in the community during the Constitution Day Centre Celebration.

“For decades, he has treated patrons at The Tavern with dignity and respect,” Keith Bierly, president of Constitution Day Centre, said at the time. “His friendly demeanor welcomes everyone regardless of age, gender, race or religion. His community contributions are varied and significant.”

Herlocher said that those contributions will live on.

“The downtown will forever love Pat Daugherty and his contributions that were tangible and intangible,” she said.

Arrangements are still pending.

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About the Author

Geoff Rushton (

Geoff Rushton is managing editor for Contact him at [email protected] or find him on Twitter at @geoffrushton.

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