Robert and Alida Lowry's decision to reopen Cockey's Tavern next month is welcome news to Carroll residents who may have thought the historic restaurant on Westminster's East Main Street would never open again. Not only will eating and drinking continue in the building as it has for two centuries, the reopening of Cockey's Tavern may signal a change in direction for downtown businesses.
Many people felt the closing of Cockey's Tavern last September signaled the death knell for Main Street merchants. The conventional thinking was that if this establishment with its well-known history and reputation could not survive, then newly established businesses would be doomed to fail.
When the Lowrys could not obtain $275,000 for the building at a January auction, downtown Westminster's fortunes looked especially bleak. The historic tavern was going to be added to the growing list of vacancies in the city's traditional business district. The closing probably accelerated approval of the Greater Westminster Business Development Commission, the quasi-government organization intended to retain and attract businesses to the heart of the Carroll County seat.
Rather than allow the building to sit vacant and produce no income, the Lowrys have decided to reopen the restaurant with a revamped menu and a brighter interior. The menu will feature lighter main dishes with more vegetables, which Mr. Lowry believes is in keeping with current customer tastes. Instead of concentrating on expensive entrees, Mr. Lowry said he is planning to offer dishes with a wider variety of prices.
When Cockey's closed, Mr. Lowry blamed the downfall of his dining trade on the Main Street reconstruction project, which the city is undertaking to replace aging water and sewer lines and to correct drainage problems.
Even though the road construction will continue after Mr. Lowry reopens, he apparently believes this time he and his customers can temporarily weather the inconvenience.
While much is made of the venerable history of Cockey's Tavern, the hard fact is that a restaurant must appeal to today's customers and tastes to survive. The Lowrys seem to be taking the necessary steps to revive this landmark.