Cockey's owners say they'll try to reopen Roadwork, resignations blamed for tavern's closure Tuesday

September 17, 1993|By Greg Tasker and Kerry O'Rourke | Greg Tasker and Kerry O'Rourke,Staff Writers

The owners of Cockey's Tavern, a Westminster landmark that closed its doors abruptly Tuesday, said yesterday they are trying to reorganize and reopen the restaurant in a "reasonable amount of time."

Co-owner Robert Lowry said he and his wife, Alida A. Lowry, closed the restaurant, at 216 E. Main St., because a few longtime employees had resigned and the East Main Street road reconstruction project had hurt the business.

"If we're not manned correctly, we can't do the job right," he said.

The closure left 15 to 20 people unemployed. Stunned workers learned of the closing Tuesday through a handwritten note tacked on the front door. Mr. Lowry said he didn't tell employees about his closing plans earlier because he was afraid they would panic and not show up for work.

Mr. Lowry said paychecks have been mailed to employees, and his suppliers will receive checks within 10 days.

"It's not like we took the Colts out of Baltimore," he said. "We're not going to leave debtors unpaid. We're still paying a mortgage and a loan. We've been in touch with most of our purveyors."

Mr. and Mrs. Lowry have owned and operated the restaurant for eight years.

They lived above the building at 216 E. Main St. and are now living in Naples, Fla.

"We're trying get our own thoughts together," Mr. Lowry said. "We're trying to come up with a plan of action to take -- to get Cockey's back or not to. Our endeavors are geared to having Cockey's reopen."

The owner of the Quail Ridge Inn on Route 27 in Mount Airy has offered to give some former employees of Cockey's Tavern temporary jobs.

L "I hate to see people go through this," Austin Isemann said.

Mr. Isemann employs about 30 people at his restaurant and said he could hire some temporary employees to work in his catering business.

Mr. Lowry said he and his wife were surprised by the publicity surrounding the restaurant's closing.

He said they were sorry for distressing employees, customers and their suppliers.

"When we come back, we will take care of customers who have gift certificates and who have planned parties," he said.

Mr. Lowry said he also plans to write to the county liquor board to explain why he closed and what his plans are.

Even though the East Main Street reconstruction work is a few blocks from the restaurant, Mr. Lowry said the project has hurt business tremendously.

The work isn't expected to be finished until October 1994.

"We rely a lot on out-of-town customers," Mr. Lowry said. "We get

calls from customers who want to know if they can still get to Cockey's. Of course they can.

"It's the customers that don't call and take for granted that all of Main Street is torn up that have hurt business," he added.

He criticized local government officials for allowing the reconstruction project to take so long. Road paving began this summer.

Mr. Lowry said he and his wife have been trying to sell the restaurant for months, but have not found a buyer.

Cockey's, one of Westminster's upscale restaurants, has been a tavern or an inn since the early 1800s.

Regulars liked to tell the story of a resident ghost who rearranged art work on the walls.

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