Milton Inn might reopen next month New operators agree to long-term lease

October 24, 1997|By Jay Apperson | Jay Apperson,SUN STAFF

The Milton Inn, a Baltimore County landmark that closed last month amid a leasing dispute, could reopen by Thanksgiving.

The owners of the Brass Elephant restaurant have signed a lease to operate in the historic inn, and a newly formed group is moving forward with a half-million-dollar renovation, said restaurateur Richard Pirone, a partner in the new operation.

A long-term lease agreement for the Sparks inn was announced yesterday by MacKenzie Commercial Real Estate Services, an affiliate of MacKenzie Properties Inc., the Lutherville company that controls the Milton Inn building and name.

The restaurant will be operated by Milton Fare Inc., a new entity made up of partners in three restaurants, the Brass Elephant and City Lights in Baltimore and the King's Contrivance in Howard County.

John F. Harrington, a senior vice president of MacKenzie, said yesterday that more than a dozen restaurant operations had expressed interest in the Milton Inn, including some from Washington. He said MacKenzie officials were impressed by the new group's experience operating restaurants in historic structures.

The Brass Elephant is in a midtown Baltimore rowhouse dating to 1850; King's Contrivance is in a 19th century mansion.

"A restaurant has a certain ambience, and we felt that those [restaurants] reflected some of the same qualities as the Milton Inn, and they've had the experience operating the same kind of elegant facility," Harrington said. "We think they have the pulse on the local market."

The Milton Inn -- rated one of the area's best restaurants by national guides -- closed Sept. 15 after negotiations failed to produce an extension of the previous proprietor's lease. The owner said the restaurant had struggled financially under the burden of maintenance costs and rents of up to $14,000 a month. When the restaurant closed, about $130,000 in unused gift certificates was left unredeemed.

Pirone, a partner in the new Milton Inn restaurant operation, said yesterday that the group's rent is based on a percentage of sales and that he expects the rent to be more than $14,000 a month. Neither he nor MacKenzie officials would disclose the length of the lease.

Pirone, a longtime Baltimore-area restaurateur, said no decision has been made on how to handle the unused gift certificates. He said the restaurant, which is expected to open no later than early December, will serve lunch on weekdays and dinner every day.

Pirone said his group is renovating the building, parts of which are thought to be more than 250 years old. New septic tanks have been installed, tripling the building's sewage capacity, he said. New plumbing and heating systems will be installed, along with new carpets and paint in the dining rooms.

Pub Date: 10/24/97

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