An auction at Cockey's Tavern yesterday brought out former employees, old customers and curious onlookers, but failed to attract a buyer for the historic Westminster restaurant that closed abruptly in September.
The bidding reached $150,000, about half the price that the owners, Robert and Alida A. Lowry, had hoped the tavern would bring, said auctioneer Tom O'Farrell.
The property at 216 E. Main St. was withdrawn from auction after the Lowrys found the bids unacceptable.
They had hoped to get $275,000 for the building, the restaurant equipment and some personal property on the premises, Mr. O'Farrell said.
Now, Union National Bank in Westminster could foreclose on the property unless a buyer is found, Mr. O'Farrell said.
The auctioneer invited interested buyers to speak with the Lowrys privately about purchasing the property.
The Lowrys, who had run Cockey's Tavern since 1985, closed the restaurant Sept. 14 without any warning to employees. They said the departure of some longtime employees and the East Main Street road construction project had hurt business.
About 50 people attended yesterday's auction at the Westminster landmark, which has been a tavern or inn since the early 1800s. According to local legend, the ghost of a wounded Confederate soldier who died on the inn's doorstep still haunts the place.
Before the bidding, the crowd wandered through the three-story building. Plates, glasses, champagne buckets, salt and pepper shakers, and menus were stacked up along the walls of the two front rooms.
In the kitchen, the freezers were still filled with food.
Mr. O'Farrell started the bidding at $400,000 for the building, restaurant equipment and personal property. The highest bid was $150,000 for the total package.
After conferring with the Lowrys, who were at the auction, Mr. O'Farrell took bids on the building only, and received a high bid of $145,000.
Due to the low bids, Mr. O'Farrell announced that the restaurant equipment would not be offered separately.
It appeared that many of the potential buyers came to pick up some individual pieces of kitchen equipment.
"I'm here for a meat slicer, that's it," said Merrill Thomas of Westminster. "I just want one for my house."
Becky Saunders, who runs Saunders Catering and Concession in Finksburg, had hoped to pick up a stove, and some knives, forks and baskets for her business.
A former waiter at Cockey's Tavern, Bradley Baker, was interested in buying restaurant equipment for Bradley's Fox Briar Inn, his parents' restaurant in Silver Run.
After Cockey's closed, Mr. Baker said that Bradley's hired nearly all of the restaurant's kitchen and wait staff.
Mr. Baker said the Lowrys had tried to sell Cockey's for $750,000 before closing the restaurant. The price was then reduced to $450,000, he said.
The Lowrys declined comment.
Auction-goer Angie Kent, a waitress at Cockey's for nine years, said she was shocked by the condition of the place.
"It's completely ruined; they've taken everything out," Ms. Kent said, referring to the floor-to-ceiling mirrors that adorned the foyer walls.
Many of the dining room fixtures were sold at Mr. O'Farrell's auction house Jan. 10.
H. Morton Rosen and Bob Hoy, who own nearby Main Street properties, came to the auction to find out if they would soon have a new neighbor.
"I came to protect my interest," said Mr. Rosen, a lawyer. He also bid on the property.
Nostalgia brought George Trump to the auction.
"I've been coming here for 23 years," he said. "I'm very disheartened."