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The Alexander Brown Restaurant, located in historic Baltimore building, to close permanently because of coronavirus

Executive chef Andrew Fontaine peers from the balcony of The Alexander Brown Restaurant, which has closed.
Executive chef Andrew Fontaine peers from the balcony of The Alexander Brown Restaurant, which has closed. (Ulysses Muñoz / Baltimore Sun / Baltimore Sun)

The Alexander Brown Restaurant is closing permanently because of the coronavirus pandemic, a spokeswoman confirmed Thursday.

The landmark restaurant is a notable casualty of a pandemic that some experts predict will close around half of all eateries permanently. The closing casts uncertainty on the future of the building at 135 E. Baltimore St., which is listed on The National Register of Historic Places.

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“We are sad beyond belief, and truly feel privileged to have been able to spend the time we did within such a gorgeous building,” said Jess Anderson, brand and public relations director for Oxford Commons, the Florida group that owned the restaurant.

In March, Gov. Larry Hogan ordered restaurants and other businesses to close to dine-in service to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

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Anderson said “it was not sustainable” for the Alexander Brown to be closed for such a long period of time.

While some eateries have since continued to offer carryout service, owners have expressed doubts about their ability to stay in business with reduced or no revenue.

“If we don’t see any aid coming in, it’s really a waiting game,” said Phil Han, who owns Dooby’s and Noona’s, among other Baltimore eateries. He and other restaurant owners have reported challenges getting aid through the federally funded Paycheck Protection Program and other grants.

After a grand opening in 2019, the Alexander Brown Restaurant had been open for just over a year before the virus reached Maryland. The restaurant, helmed by chef Andrew Fontaine, received four stars in a 2019 review from The Baltimore Sun.

A major draw was the handsomely restored interior.

Built in 1901 as home to the nation’s oldest investment bank, Alex. Brown, it was one of the few buildings in downtown Baltimore to survive the great fire of 1904. More recently, it was a Capital One branch.

The building is owned by the Griswold family of Baltimore, descendants of the bank’s founder and previously partners in the restaurant. They could not be immediately reached for comment. Anderson said she did not know what the Griswolds would do with the building.

Property records list the owners of 135 E. Baltimore St. as Brown Realty LLC. The building was most recently valued at around $7.4 million.

The building’s owners had been engaged in a legal dispute with developers over the project, alleging they had “grossly” understated the cost of renovating the two-story building. The project included restoring historic marble and the Tiffany-style dome skylight. Last year, a judge ruled in favor of Metropolitan developers, ordering the establishment of a lien of nearly $200,000. In a countercomplaint, owners alleged breach of contract.

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