Historic restaurant to reopen

May 06, 1994|By Amy L. Miller | Amy L. Miller,Sun Staff Writer

As the reconstruction of East Main Street nears completion, the owner of Cockey's Tavern in Westminster is rushing to spruce up the historic restaurant and reopen with a new decor and a fresh staff June 1.

Robert Lowry closed the establishment, a site that has been either a restaurant or tavern since the early 1800s, suddenly last September and blamed the road project.

"That cost me over $100,000 the last year, and that wasn't even the main part of the construction," Mr. Lowry said of the two-year road work that has stretched from Washington Road to Longwell Avenue. "You may suspect that I hold the roads crew in contempt because they cost me my business, but they're just doing their job.

"When all's said and done, it's going to be nice. They're doing a great job."

Amid the clutter of paint cans and tools, the vision of the new Cockey's Tavern begins to emerge. Brightly colored silk flowers in brass containers dot the dining rooms, and brand-new Victorian prints hang where portraits of Civil War soldiers formerly stood guard.

"We want the same ambience, but something fresher," said Mr. Lowry, noting that he and his wife, Alida, plan a Victorian theme.

A new lighter menu -- with pasta and other light, continental dishes -- is also planned to compliment the renovations, he said.

"When we were going through our menu, we saw that a lot of our items were heavy and a lot of them were expensive," Mr. Lowry said. "We're still going to have a lot of the top-end items, but we are going to have a broader selection of prices as well as [entrees]."

The ordering habits of their customers, particularly in the summer, also led them to change the menu, he said.

"In the summer, people like to go out and eat more," he said. "They want a nicely cooked meal in an elegant atmosphere, but they're not ready to sit down and have prime rib.

"We noticed that at night a lot of people were ordering from our lunch menus, but they still would like to have the vegetables. We'd like to try and fulfill both needs."

A new staff of four executive chefs will be hired to prepare the meals, Mr. Lowry said. Some of the former staff has been called back, but there is room for new faces among the crew, he said.

Last month, the Carroll County Liquor Board approved renewal of the Lowrys' liquor license. A similar renewal request by Leon Rebert, former owner of the Havilah Inn in Taneytown, was denied because the restaurant had been sold to Taneytown Bank and Trust at auction, said board chairman Russell Mayer.

"There is no question in our minds that they will continue to be a restaurant," he said of Cockey's. "They're not going to turn it into a nightclub."

Contrary to community rumors, the building didn't need any major renovations to bring it up to code, Mr. Lowry said.

"When I bought it, it was totally rewired and we had the plumbing and all the services done," he said. "That was just eight years ago."

Also, the restaurant is still solely owned by Mr. Lowry and his wife, he said. All bills were paid shortly after closing and the Lowrys intend to honor all the gift certificates previously issued.

Certificates will be redeemed for their face value plus 10 percent, Mr. Lowry said. Also, customers who redeem a gift certificate will be given 40 percent off their next meal, he said.

"We feel that a lot of people were inconvenienced [when Cockey's Tavern closed]," Mr. Lowry said. "We want to make it up to them."

Nearly 60 people have approached the Lowrys and said they were eager for the couple to reopen the restaurant, he said.

"We didn't know people enjoyed it that much," Mr. Lowry said. "We didn't know that we did, either. We really missed it. We didn't know what we had until we closed it."

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