Oakland Mills greets new restaurant

Fire Rock Grill replaces Last Chance Saloon, which closed in 2004 after 23 years


When Last Chance Saloon, a 23-year-old neighborhood pub in Oakland Mills, closed in January last year, residents and local officials said its loss as community restaurant and gathering place left a major void in the village center.

They were pleased when the "coming soon" banner on the former pub's white, wood-paneled building came down recently, signaling the arrival of Fire Rock Grill, which opened Tuesday.

"This has been a long and anxious wait for us, and we are absolutely delighted that they have opened," said Barbara Russell, an Oakland Mills resident and member of the Columbia Association board of directors.

The eclectic restaurant opened for dinner Tuesday. Nish Patel, one of the owners, said the grill will be open for lunch as soon as next week.

Local officials said the opening marks a much anticipated and needed addition as the village center is revitalized.

"People went there for years, and your jaws just dropped when they closed," Sandy Cederbaum, Oakland Mills Village manager, said of Last Chance Saloon. "Now that Fire Rock Grill is open, it gives a destination for the people that live in the community [and gives] the ones that don't live here another reason to come here."

Vic Warch, a barber at Village Barber Stylist, said he expects the restaurant to lure more patrons to the village. "You always hope that it contributes to more business in the area and more activity and more traffic," he said.

Patel said, "Through the entire process people have been coming in, and they were just curious in seeing how things were going and asking about an opening date."

Cederbaum said Fire Rock Grill is an important addition to the village center as revitalization continues. She said there is "some storefront space that is owned by Food Lion that we are hoping to fill."

Others are confident that the new restaurant will become established in the neighborhood.

"Just like the Last Chance Saloon was a fixture of the community, we are really looking forward for it [the new establishment] to be a fixture in the village for years to come," said William Woodcock, chairman of the village board.


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