Brass Elephant owners eye Milton Inn Restaurateur in talks to take over business at closed landmark

September 30, 1997|By Jay Apperson | Jay Apperson,SUN STAFF

Owners of the swank Brass Elephant restaurant are negotiating to take over the dining business at the Milton Inn, a Baltimore County landmark that closed this month amid a leasing dispute.

"We seem to be moving toward an agreement," said Richard Pirone, a longtime Baltimore-area restaurateur who would own a portion of the Milton Inn business.

Pirone, who also owns parts of the King's Contrivance and City Lights restaurants, said that if a deal is struck soon, he and his partners might begin serving dinners at the Milton Inn by December.

Pirone has long been associated with restaurants in historic buildings. The Brass Elephant is housed in an opulent midtown Baltimore rowhouse that dates to 1850. King's Contrivance is in a 19th-century mansion in Howard County.

He also owned Fiori, the restaurant in the 18th-century Samuel Owings House before that building was razed last year to make way for an office building and parking garage in Owings Mills.

"This helps fill the void that was left by what one might say was the destruction of the Samuel Owings House," Pirone said. "This would fit very well with our style of operation and the ambience we like to be involved with."

Gary T. Gill, executive vice president of MacKenzie Properties, which controls the limited partnership that owns the Milton Inn building and name, declined to comment yesterday on any negotiations. Gill has said he is looking for a tenant who can meet or exceed the acclaimed reputation forged by previous restaurant operators there.

National guides, such as Zagat's and Conde Nast Traveler, have rated the Milton Inn one of the area's best.

The restaurant closed Sept. 15 after negotiations failed to produce an extension on the previous proprietor's lease. Lynn Patrick, who was general manager and part owner of the restaurant that recently closed, said the business struggled financially under the burden of maintenance costs for the aging building and rents of up to $14,000 a month.

Patrick has said he will open a new restaurant in another historic building -- this one in the Admiral Fell Inn in Baltimore's Fells Point.

His restaurant team was to take over the space occupied by Savannah restaurant in November. But the operators of Savannah were told yesterday to vacate the restaurant and Patrick took over the kitchen for last night's dinner, spokesmen for the restaurants said.

Savannah will relocate to the Inner Harbor East area.

When he closed the Milton Inn restaurant, Patrick said he was unable to make good on about $130,000 in unused gift certificates.

Pirone said he hopes to achieve a "compromise" on the question of who might honor the outstanding gift certificates.

He also said that if a deal is reached, the new restaurant would try to offer food at prices that are "a little more reasonable" than the $28 entrees on the Milton Inn's most recent menu.

Pirone said remaining issues in lease negotiations include determining who would be responsible for renovations and maintenance of the building, originally a coach stop for Quakers who settled in the area.

Pub Date: 9/30/97

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