After 35 years in the bar business, Bruce Buettner is calling it quits.
The owner, with his wife, Dawn, of Bruce Bitner's Cafe and Grill on Route 22 in Campus Hills across from Harford Community College are closing their bar and restaurant after Saturday.
"I have mixed emotions. I love the bar business – I got in my first bar fight at 12 years old in my grandfather's bar," Buettner said Wednesday.
On Saturday, the Buettners are hosting a farewell party at Bitner's, where Bruce Buettner hopes to have a group picture taken of his regular customers over the years as well as his staff.
Buettner was before the Harford County Liquor Control Board in Bel Air Wednesday, asking to temporarily close the restaurant while repairs are made before a new restaurant opens in the building under another operator.
"I know what I have to do, but I can't do it while we're open," Buettner told the board members, who enthusiastically congratulated Buettner on his retirement and thanked him for being a good licensee over the years.
"You've been a staple, you've done a great job," board member Tom Fidler said.
The liquor license will be transferred from Bitner's to JD's Smokehouse, based in Baltimore's Canton area, that intends to open another establishment in Buettner's building. A transfer hearing is scheduled for June 25; the new restaurant could open a week after that.
No one from JD's Smokehouse was available for comment Thursday.
Buettner loves his county, his community, he said, his voice quavering, "but it's time to retire."
For daytime bartender and manager Kathy Ferracci, who's been there all 35 years, the closing is "kind of bittersweet."
"It's time for a change, but it's the only job I've had in my whole life," she said. "But I guess we'll move on to bigger and better things."
In other business at Wednesday's liquor board meeting, Acappella Italian Restaurant in Fallston was given final approval for an on-sale only, beer, wine and liquor license, pending completion of alcohol training for the staff before the restaurant opens (after the board voted, the training was scheduled for 11 a.m. Wednesday).
Michael Jackson will be the resident licensee and Mihallaq Rapo, who has about four years in the restaurant business, will run the restaurant, they told board members.
The entire facade of the Pleasantville Road restaurant, which will seat 80 to 90 people and have 17 to 20 employees, has been redone.
Jackson and Rapo were urged by liquor board members to make sure they are diligent in carding people who order drinks.
"History will show, we will be checking on our new licensees," board member Michael Thomson said.
The pair have made a "pretty significant investment" in the restaurant ($250,000 is the minimum required for the type of license they received), and Thomson said he hopes they "do it right the first time."
The Darlington-Dublin VFW Post 10146 was fined $500 for serving alcohol to a non-club member.
After receiving a complaint that non-members were being served drinks and bartenders were drinking while on duty, two Maryland State Police troopers went into the canteen area of the post on April 4 at 8:45 p.m. The bartender, upon finding out the troopers were not members, asked them to sign the guest book. They then ordered two beers and paid for them.