Decision likely soon on Buell's Plans detailed for Chinese restaurant

October 14, 1992|By Frank Langfitt | Frank Langfitt,Staff Writer

Buell's, one of Howard County's oldest remaining home-style restaurants, is one step closer to becoming history.

Last night, a local company asked the county liquor board to transfer Buell's liquor license so it could open a Chinese restaurant on the site. Neither the public nor the board appeared to have any major objections.

Board member Charles C. Feaga lamented the loss of the 53-year-old eatery, but appeared supportive.

"It's a part of the history of Howard," he said, but "we'll learn to eat Chinese."

The board is expected to make a decision in the next few days.

If the board approves, owner Trudy Buell will sell the restaurant, which has been in the Buell clan for three generations, to the Y.Y. Lee family of Ellicott City.

The Lees, known as Y.Y. Lee Inc., plan to overhaul the old roadhouse and reopen it as a Szechuan-style restaurant specializing in health food, said one of the principals, Wilson Lee.

Mr. Lee, a chemist with Procter & Gamble Manufacturing Co. in Baltimore County, said his family planned to spend a lot of money renovating the restaurant, where the current decor includes steer horns, a pinball machine and a juke box.

Mr. Lee said he would knock down the wall that currently separates the bar from the restaurant to increase seating from 75 to 120. He also said he would replace the wooden-shingled roof with tiles. Mr. Lee had planned to call his new restaurant Jade Garden, but has changed it to Uncle Y.Y.'s because of a similarly named restaurant, he said.

Y.Y. Lee is Wilson Lee's father. He works in Taiwan in the restaurant and hotel business.

Wilson Lee said he had hoped to continue to sell beer and liquor as carry-out items. However, the board said that would violate state law, because the establishment is changing from a tavern, where the majority of sales come from alcohol, to a restaurant, where the majority comes from food.

Buell's is one of the last restaurants of its kind in a county that has gone from soybean farms to subdivisions in a little more than a generation. Since Buell's first opened in 1939, it has been a gathering spot for blue-collar citizens in the county as well as a meeting place for service clubs.

As fast-food shops have popped up along U.S. 40, more and more home-style restaurants have sold out or gone under. Mrs. Buell is selling because of the work and the competition, according to her attorney, Lewis S. Nippard of Ellicott City. She has had increasing difficulty running the place after her husband and partner, Bud, died in 1988, Mr. Nippard said.

When Buell's opened, it was the only restaurant west of Baltimore on U.S. 40.

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