A company controlled by the family of former strip-club manager Kenneth A. Jackson has bought a three-story building on Baltimore's Antique Row for a restaurant that is to feature international cuisine and guest stints by celebrity chefs.
The El Dorado Lounge, which has closed, won't be moving from West Baltimore Street to the Howard Street location, said attorney Lisa Harris Jones, who represents the Jackson family and its business, KAJ Inc.
The liquor license for 889 N. Howard St. requires that 40 percent of the establishment's sales be from food, and zoning of the site bans adult entertainment businesses there.
"It has nothing to do with the relocation of the El Dorado," Harris Jones said.
The Howard Street location will become Britton's Restaurant, operated by local caterer James Britton. Area merchants, some of whom initially feared that a strip club might become their neighbor, hailed the restaurant as a potential boon for the century-old stretch of shops.
City officials say the Jackson family -- whose business owned the El Dorado building and bought the Howard Street property in the spring -- could receive a low-interest loan for the restaurant as a result of the city's condemnation of the El Dorado property, at 322 W. Baltimore St.
The Jacksons could apply for a program set up to help businesses affected by the west-side redevelopment, said Sharon Grinnell, chief operating officer of the quasi-public Baltimore Development Corp. and coordinator of the city's west-side project. The club was closed weeks ago to make way for apartments and shops.
The city has paid the Jacksons $450,000 for the Baltimore Street building, twice what KAJ Inc. paid for it four years earlier. The city abandoned efforts to move the club to city-owned property on South Gay Street in the spring amid a furor over the proposal's legality and appropriateness.
If the Jacksons pursue a low-interest loan for the restaurant, Grinnell said, they could not receive city help to re-establish the El Dorado. Grinnell said she doesn't know whether the Jacksons are looking for a new location for the club.
Harris Jones said a low-interest loan for the restaurant is "not something [the Jacksons] are exploring right now." She said they are "trying to resolve things with the city" regarding the possible relocation of the El Dorado, but she gave no details.
Britton, president of Class Act Catering, said the restaurant will have 80 to 120 seats, a bar and a smoking lounge. Famous chefs will cook once a month, he said. The restaurant is scheduled to open in September.
Britton envisions the restaurant's serving Maryland General Hospital across the street, the state office complex on West Preston Street, Meyerhoff Symphony Hall, Antique Row and the nearby Eubie Blake Center.
Philip S. Dubey, owner of Dubey's Art & Antiques, welcomed the news. "We've been after a restaurant for God knows how long," he said. "People coming to Antique Row are always asking, `Where can we get something to eat?'"
Leilani's of Hawaii, a restaurant that occupied the space for 16 years, closed years ago. The building is empty.
Britton, who has catered events for politicians including Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend and sits on the board of the Baltimore Area Convention and Visitors Association, said the restaurant would benefit the area.
Britton said his family has known the Jacksons for 10 years. Britton will run the restaurant, but he said KAJ will get a percentage of sales that has not been specified. Harris Jones said she is not privy to such an arrangement.
Britton said he has an agreement to buy the building from KAJ in three to five years. KAJ paid Emil M. Rosenbaum and Adam Koutelis nearly $200,000 for the property, he said. No exact figure is known because the transaction has not been recorded. Rosenbaum said the deal closed May 31.
The city Board of Liquor License Commissioners approved the transfer of 889 N. Howard's liquor license in January. It won't be final until the board has proof that inspections have been performed.
Kenneth A. Jackson's wife, Emilia Jackson, and his sister, Rosalind Jackson, applied for the license. Marcine Britton, Britton's wife, was initially a co-applicant, but Harris Jones told the board last month that Marcine Britton wanted to be removed from the application. This week, James Britton said he was not aware of that change.