The Market House in Annapolis is shutting down as the city prepares to turn over operation of the landmark building to a new company.
Harvey Blonder, who operates most of the vendors in the city-owned market and who lost a bid to become the new landlord, texted out a terse statement Thursday morning saying he planned to cease operation.
“Market House closes.”
Blonder, whose companies operate several restaurants in downtown Annapolis and around the county, said he is following a notice sent to him by the city Wednesday to vacate the building within 30 days.
Earlier this month, the City Council voted to move forward on lease negotiations with New Market LLC. The decision removed Blonder’s company, Annapolis Oyster LLC, from the process of selecting a new company to operate the historic property.
Workers were at the Market House on Thursday morning clearing out the building, and all vendors have been laid off, Blonder said.
The development was not a surprise for Mayor Gavin Buckley, who was preparing to speak Thursday morning at the annual Anne Arundel County Chamber of Commerce Legislative Breakfast.
“I’m happy about that,” Buckley said.
Buckley, who recused himself from the vote because of business ties to its partners, said Thursday he hopes New Market will be able to begin renovations on the Market House in February and reopen in March.
New Market lead partner Jody Danek has started negotiations with Blonder to purchase existing equipment in the market, Buckley said.
Danek said Thursday his company was surprised that Blonder decided to cut and run so soon, especially when there is debate between Blonder and the city about who owns what equipment on site.
“Hopefully the city and Harvey can come to an understanding that will settle that soon,” Danek said.
He said the city had said a lot of the equipment would remain on site, such as exhaust hoods and walk-ins.
“If more of the equipment is removed that could change our plans,” Danek said, noting it would add time and cost to an estimated three-month buildout with the major equipment remaining.
“Hopefully cooler heads will prevail. They made a decision and we would like to get in there … June is right around the corner.”
Alderman Ross Arnett, D-Ward 8, said the council was expected to discuss negotiations for New Market at a work session Thursday, and planned to meet with the partners in the next several days. He said a public hearing would be held at Monday’s council meeting, and a vote on a new lease could come in early February.
Arnett said Danek and his partners have predicted they need 10 weeks to renovate the Market House and open under the new concept.
Alderwoman Rhonda Pindell Charles, D-Ward 3, said she planned to stand back from the negotiations, as the only council member who was involved in the entire, drawn-out selection process. The City Council took most of the year to seek proposals, hear from the prospective companies and finally settle on New Market.
Blonder, who owns five of the six stalls, said last month he was unsure what his involvement would be if the lease went to New Market. Representatives for Firenzes Gelateria and Cafe, the sixth Market House stall, could not be reached for comment.
New Market has proposed a hall-style eatery with fresh and prepared options.