Gunning's Crab House sold at auction, to reopen BALTIMORE CITY

February 11, 1993|By Lorraine Mirabella | Lorraine Mirabella,Staff Writer

Gunning's Crab House, a South Baltimore institution for more than two decades, was sold in a foreclosure auction yesterday for $305,000 to a caterer who says he intends to carry on the tradition -- although probably not under the same name.

The popular crab house, which built a reputation on steamed crabs, crab cakes and fried peppers with powdered sugar, closed in December after a series of misfortunes and financial troubles led to a foreclosure by Laurel Federal Savings Bank.

As part of a Chapter 11 filing in U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Gunning's Crab House Inc. had arranged in December to sell the business for $725,000, said Howard M. Heneson, the corporation's attorney. But when a bankruptcy judge rejected the sale, citing Internal Revenue Service objections, the bank was forced to auction the property to collect a $210,000 loan.

Leo Devine, owner of Adell Caterers, offered the highest bid at an auction run by Alex Cooper Auctioneers, Inc. and attended by about half a dozen serious bidders and dozens of spectators -- neighborhood residents, former employees and tearful members of the Gunning family. The sale includes the property on South Hanover Street and a series of interconnected buildings, not the business name, equipment or liquor license.

Mr. Devine, who with his brother, Mark Devine, also owns Best Crabs Inc., a carry-out crab house on South Monroe Street, and Dietrich's, a Glen Burnie carry-out crab house, plans to remodel Gunning's interior but to keep the red and white tablecloths and paneled walls.

He expects to open as early as May 1 with 60 to 70 employees. Mr. Devine said he would like to rehire former employees and possibly members of the Gunning family, though he declined to elaborate.

"The Gunnings did a wonderful job for many, many years," Mr. Devine said. "They just got into financial problems. I hope to do as well, by sticking to the same menu, with good service and good food. It's a good location, a long-established crab business and we intend to continue the tradition."

Mr. Devine said he did not know if he would continue using the Gunning name.

Mr. Heneson, who also represents the Gunning family, said the restaurant's troubles, exacerbated by the recession, started when a fire destroyed the Ocean City Gunning's in 1989 and the family found itself underinsured. The restaurant corporation filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy court protection in March 1991.

Had the family been allowed to sell Gunning's as an operating business, it could have sold for up to three times the amount the property alone brought in at auction, Mr. Heneson said.

"They're heartbroken to see it go this way," Mr. Heneson said.

Robert Sloan, a Whiteford, Taylor & Preston attorney representing Laurel Federal, said the bank held off on foreclosure proceedings to give Gunning's a chance to sell. But when the bankruptcy court rejected the December sale proposal, the bank moved ahead with the auction.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.