Restaurateur to buy property damaged in Ellicott City fire

Main Street Blues owner hopes operation will reopen by summer

January 21, 2000|By Jill Hudson Neal | Jill Hudson Neal,SUN STAFF

The owner of Main Street Blues, the restaurant on historic Ellicott City's Main Street that was destroyed in a November fire, is buying the property from its owners.

Dennis Martin, 34, said he will rebuild the popular restaurant and hopes to have it up and running by summer.

"Owning and running a restaurant is what I like doing," said Martin, who opened Main Street Blues two years ago. "It's driving me crazy, all this down time. That's not me."

Martin considered buying the building from its owners before the fire, which officials believe started when a discarded cigarette ignited trash behind Main Street Blues. The fire destroyed five businesses and four apartments and caused an estimated $2 million in damage.

After the fire, Martin began looking for another site for the restaurant.

"I always wanted to stay in Ellicott City, but I didn't know if I could get back," Martin said. "I checked out many other locations in Howard County, but rebuilding and buying the building is the cheapest way to go."

Martin was discouraged to find that most properties were too expensive, including one along U.S. 40 that started at $400,000.

"And that didn't include things like the zoning and other costs," said Martin, who approached several restaurant owners along Main Street to see if they were willing to sell their businesses.

Main Street Blues and the other destroyed buildings were razed Jan. 11. Martin said he realized then the extent of the damage to the building.

"I thought erroneously that whatever you see is what it is," Martin said. "Boy, was I wrong. The fire got up in the walls, burnt out walls and the supports."

When the building's out-of-town owners approached Martin about buying the property, he jumped at the chance.

Martin received a small business loan from BB&T Corp. The deal is expected to close Jan. 28.

Although he refused to discuss the cost of the new restaurant, he acknowledged that "it's probably going to be more than I have at this point."

Martin said he will work to prevent another fire.

"Whatever it takes, I'll do it to make sure there'll be nothing like it again," he said. "I will look over everything to guarantee that."

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