Rams Head breaks out again Tavern: Since it opened nine years ago as a little pub in Annapolis, the Rams Head Tavern has expanded several times. Its newest addition is a $1.2 million amphitheater.

October 23, 1997|By Laura Sullivan | Laura Sullivan,SUN STAFF

Annapolis resident Rudy Kolich sat alone one recent afternoon in the old Rams Head pub a floor below the tavern's new brewery, new restaurant and soon-to-open new amphitheater.

Everyone else was upstairs as he reminisced about the days when the tiny basement pub was elbow to elbow with locals gossiping, cheering sports teams and drinking out of the 100 "beer club" mugs that hung from the ceiling.

"Today you say you're going to meet somebody at Rams Head, and you don't know where to find them," he said, referring to the establishment's expansion over the years.

Rams Head Tavern, which opened in 1988 as a little pub on West Street in Annapolis, is about to unveil its seventh expansion -- the $1.2 million amphitheater.

It follows the $1.4 million Fordham Brewery that opened above the pub in 1995. Several years before that, the tavern tore through its neighbor's wall to add an open-air kitchen and a dining room roomy enough to accommodate 100 patrons and took over the parking lot of an adjoining building to create patio seating. The patio has since been expanded. The tavern has broken ground beneath the restaurant to add storage space. The owners also added a new bar.

The only place left for the tavern to break through had been to the east, where, until recently, an insurance company bordered the entertainment complex.

With that obstacle out of the way, the tavern will open its new amphitheater Nov. 1, with folk singer Livingston Taylor booked as the opening act.

Tavern owner Bill Muehlhauser swears this is the last expansion. But he says that every year.

"It just seemed kind of neat," he said amid construction. "Each year, we set a goal to do something different."

The theater will seat 215 at four-person tables and feature a bar, a 10-item menu and a new staff. A side door will connect the theater to the back of the restaurant's kitchen.

Muehlhauser is hoping customers will eat in the restaurant or theater, try the home brew and stay for the entertainment. Even after the theater closes, the tavern plans to present local bands to round out a night spent in the bar upstairs.

Muehlhauser said theater entertainment is being planned with Rams Head's mostly middle-aged customers in mind.

Performers will include Arlo Guthrie, Leon Redbone and Nils Lofgren.

"We don't want this to be some rock 'n' roll hangout," he said.

Muehlhauser and his staff say they aren't worried about competition from two other theaters -- the Maryland Hall and Anne Arundel Community College in Arnold -- that bring in national acts at least monthly.

Tavern manager Bill Kocan said he wants to put on high-profile talent five or six nights a week -- possibly a tall order. He has booked 28 groups through the third week of December.

While no show has sold out, a few have sold more than 100 tickets.

"These are primarily national acts with local supplements," Kocan said. "That's the niche."

On nights without a performer, one side of the theater will stay dark, and the other will be used as a lounge for people filtering out of the bar.

After the amphitheater is complete, Muehlhauser might open a brewery in Middletown, Del., and sell his beers in a five-state area. The tavern already distributes beer without labels to 69 restaurants and bars.

There is also talk, Muehlhauser acknowledges, of a second Rams Head Tavern, for Cookstown, Pa.

Rams Head as the next Starbucks?

"Not really," Muehlhauser said. "It's just kind of fun."

Pub Date: 10/23/97

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