The Annapolis Market House is open -- sort of.
The first vendor in the downtown landmark, Amsterdam Falafelshop, planned a soft opening with a private guest list for Thursday night.
After a few more private events, they hope to have the eatery open for good by Sunday night or Monday, said Amrish Vyas, owner of the Annapolis location of Amsterdam Falafelshop.
The company has popular eateries in Washington, D.C., and Somerville, Mass. They serve falafel with an assortment of toppings, as well as french fries and brownies.
Arianne Bennett, one of the company's founders, said she's "bouncing off the walls" with excitement for the Market House location to open.
Amsterdam Falafelshop occupies one corner of the Market House. While the other vendors continue to work on their spaces, construction will be moved to nighttime so as not to interfere with the falafel eatery's operations.
On Thursday morning, workers were chopping vegetables and mixing sauces in Amsterdam Falafelshop's kitchen. The eatery expects to employ about 20 workers from the Annapolis area.
Annapolis city officials said they expect Firenzes Gelateria to open next. Also in the works are Hard Bean Cafe, Carl's Corned Beef and Delicatessen, Annapolis Organic Market, Good Life Smoothie Bar and Yellowfin Seafood & Oyster Bar, which is expected to be the last to open.
Bennett said the vendors have gotten to know each other through the permitting and construction process.
"We've gotten to be a very tight-knit family," she said. "We can't wait to eat their food."
Thursday night's soft opening for Amsterdam Falafelshop comes on the last day of spring. Annapolis Mayor Josh Cohen has been saying for months that he hoped to have Market House re-opened by spring.
Cohen is on a tourism trip to Ireland, but left behind $10 so he could be the first official customer at Amsterdam Falafelshop. Vyas said he plans to print out a receipt and frame it for the mayor.
Once all of the Market House vendors are open, Cohen has said he'll fulfill a promise to "walk the plank" into the water at City Dock after blowing a previous deadline to get the Market House open last fall.
The city-owned Market House has been a source of controversy in Annapolis for years, ever since it was badly damaged by Tropical Storm Isabel in 2003.
The city has spent more than $1 million on repairs and improvements, as well as legal fees resulting from disputes with prior tenants. It's been open only sporadically in recent years.
In an email from Ireland, Cohen wrote: "Annapolitans are beyond ready to turn the page, and I am thrilled that today we begin a new chapter for the Market House ... I am confident that our community will embrace the new mix of vendors, and that the Market House will once again take its rightful place as the pride of Annapolis."Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun