A Bowie contractor has purchased the Wild Buffalo Grill Restaurant on Route 1, and is renovating the restaurant and changing the menu.
In addition to new coats of paint and a new floor, owner Eric Horton is adding corn hole and horse shoe playing courts outside in back of the restaurant. Horton said he wants to create a more family-friendly atmosphere by tweaking the menu and adding a kids menu that gives kids a chance to draw a picture, and a free cookie after their meal.
The restaurant opens at 11 a.m. for a lunch menu that offers $5 hamburgers and full-sized sandwiches. Horton said the kitchen closes at 10 p.m., but he will keep the bar open later if patrons are already being served.
Horton, who lives in Columbia, attended St. Mary of the Mills in Laurel as a youth. He owns Higher Standard Home Improvement Company, and said this is the first restaurant he has owned.
In August 2011 the North Laurel restaurant was struck by lightning and a fire spread to the restaurant's second floor and attic, causing an estimated $10,000 in damages but no injuries. It remained closed for five or six months, and then reopened and was up for sale, Horton said, which likely led a lot of passersby to think the restaurant was still closed.
The fire damage, and a reputation for serving alcohol to underage drinkers, Horton said, are two issues he is attempting to overcome with the restaurant renovations under his ownership.
"I'm trying to fight the old reputation of underage drinking" at the restaurant, Horton said. "All that's gone, no underage anything. ... I'd like it to be a place that people in Laurel can feel safe with."