Dave Lichty and Rob Frisch, co-owners of Mt. Washington Tavern, outside their bar/restaurant after a fire last November
Dave Lichty and Rob Frisch, co-owners of Mt. Washington Tavern, outside their bar/restaurant after a fire last November (The Baltimore Sun)

Mt. Washington Tavern, which was gutted by a two-alarm fire late last year, expects to re-open mid-fall, co-owner Rob Frisch said this week.

Meanwhile, the Baltimore City Fire Department has listed the cause of the fire as "not fully ascertainable."

That official listing does not suggest foul play. "It simply implies the damages and destruction was too great, which made it difficult and unsafe for investigators to narrow the cause to one specific source," said Chief Kevin Cartwright, Baltimore City Fire Department spokesman. 

The tavern is a city mainstay and a favorite among lacrosse players, and jockeys and horse trainers from nearby Pimlico Race Track. For years, plans for the Preakness Stakes have been unthinkable without it.

After the fire, many said it was like losing a member of the family. Frisch and co-owner Dave Lichty, who'd worked at the tavern in several roles since they were teens, had wanted to re-open by May.

But the damage from the fire was staggering. The roof caved in. The kitchen filled with debris. And in the garden, only "the retractable roof and some booze" is left, Frisch told me last year.

Reconstruction has been chugging along since last year to rebuild everything from scratch, and is now at the mid-way point. The entire venue is now all under one roof and the foundation is done, Frisch said. Next week, the bar will get plumbing and the week after the electricians will start their work.

"We've been fortunate because we've had no snow or bad weather to speak off," Frisch said.

When the bar/restaurant re-opens, fans will see some changes. The first floor, which was famously uneven, will all be at one level. There will also be a second entrance, so guests don't have to walk through the bar to get to the dining rooms.

The two dining rooms have been renamed and re-decorated - one, to be called the Pimlico Room will be on the second floor and is decorated with memorabilia donated by jockeys and horse trainers. The room will feature a recreated mural of Old Hilltop that was in the original bar.

The second dining room, which has not been named yet, will have a nautical-Chesapeake Bay theme, Frisch said. And the outdoor, 'Sky Bar,' which used to be seasonal, will be temperature-controlled and year-round.

For those who want a personal stake in the new tavern, the owners have begun a brick project that lets fans buy bricks to be placed on the sidewalk in front of the tavern's entrance. All proceeds will go to Mt. Washington Pediatric Hospital.

As for Preakness, Frisch said the tavern could host some kind of brunch on its parking lot, but that decision has not been made yet.

Tomorrow, Midnight Sun will have pictures from inside the new, in-the-works Mt. Washington Tavern.