Oakland Mills Village Center has another opportunity to fill an empty building, a key piece to its rejuvenation.
A liquor license application submitted this week by a prospective restaurant operator moves the village center a step closer to filling the void left by the closing of Last Chance Saloon, a 23-year-old neighborhood pub and restaurant.
Vaughn Ennis, one of the three partners in the venture, said the establishment would be "a standard American family restaurant," serving a variety of dishes, including seafood. The partners plan to open the restaurant, to be called Fire Rock Grill, by early July.
Ennis said he and his partners are waiting to receive the lease from Kimco, the company that owns the village center.
"I'm very excited," Ennis said. "People are already coming up ... asking, `When are you going to open?' "
The vacant building had been leased by Haluk Alec Kantur. Kantur had planned to open a restaurant called Rusty's Chill 'n' Grill last year, but the county liquor board denied his liquor license based on inaccuracies on the application.
In November 2004, the County Council agreed to allow Kantur to sell the 10-year lease of the building.
A restaurant at the center would add what community leaders say is an important element in continuing to make the center lively and economically viable. In the past, the center has suffered from boarded-up storefronts, vacant properties and crime.
Today, the center is rejuvenated, community leaders say. A Food Lion has been added, and police opened a satellite office -- a mobile trailer -- in the area.
"The center is full of potential energy," said Calvin Ball, community development officer for Oakland Mills village. "There is still a lot of energy there, but having that restaurant there is a good link in the chain to propel that energy even further."
Barbara Russell, the village's representative on the Columbia Council, was pleased about the prospects of a new restaurant at the center.
"We have been waiting on pins and needles for this to happen," she said.