Blaze adds to list of delays

Seafood restaurant seeking liquor license was poised to open in Galesville

March 22, 2006|By NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON | NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON,SUN REPORTER

The weekend fire that destroyed a just-completed Galesville crab house and bar has - for the third time in 2 1/2 years - put on hold a project that many residents opposed.

Saturday's three-alarm fire caused $2 million in damage and took more than 80 firefighters over three hours to control, according to fire officials.

The restaurant was to have opened in May for private parties, said Charles N. Bassford, owner of Woodfield Seafood. Work on the 200-seat crab house, which is at the same site as Woodfield seafood market, was completed two weeks ago, and nine employees were on staff at the Tenthouse Creek site in the 4700 block of Woodfield Road.

Although fire officials are still investigating the cause of the fire, Bassford suggested that something might have gone awry with the electrical wiring.

"Lord knows what went wrong, but she burned down, that's for damn sure, and I'm sad," he said. "But nobody got hurt, so I'm sad and happy at the same time."

Bassford, who owns at least two other restaurants in the county, said he couldn't "envision anything happening for quite a while."

"Right now I don't have any plans at all for the restaurant," he said. "I don't know if we are going to do anything at all."

The fire is the latest setback for the restaurant, which had its kitchen destroyed by Tropical Storm Isabel in September 2003.

William R. Woodfield Jr., who sold the business to Bassford in 2002 and is now the assistant manager, applied for the liquor license in 2003.

In November 2003, a county judge reversed a county liquor board decision granting the restaurant a license to serve alcohol. The judge ruled that granting the license violated a law that bars the same person from having financial links to more than one establishment in the county licensed to serve alcohol.

Woodfield said the case is on appeal.

Residents of the southern Anne Arundel community were concerned that the restaurant and bar would cause congestion and that there was not a need for an additional eatery, said Albert Winchester, one of the litigants in the case.

But opponents took no joy in the devastation from the fire.

"The restaurant burning down is a tragedy and it affects the community," Winchester said. "These are our neighbors, and it is a difficult situation for all of us."

The fire broke out on a quiet morning in the waterfront village. Woodfield said workers were unloading a truckload of seafood and cleaning fish for customers. He said he didn't notice anything out of the ordinary until somebody said there was a fire in the attic.

Half an hour later, flames were all over the roof, he said.

"To me it was just like a member of the family that passed away. That building and the place has been in our family since 1917," Woodfield said. "It's been devastating. I've been working there since I was 12 years old."

nia.henderson@baltsun.com

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