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In the more than three decades since Bill Bateman opened his first restaurant on Cub Hill Road in Baltimore County, his name has become synonymous with buffalo wings and crab pretzels in the Baltimore region.

As of next month, his namesake restaurant chain, Bill Bateman’s Bistros — which at one point sprawled to 17 locations — will dwindle to just two independently owned franchises, as the septuagenarian founder moves toward “semi-retiring" and continues to shift his business into grocery store distribution.

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“It’s been a hell of a run,” Bateman said in a phone interview Wednesday. “I’m getting tired of the day-in, day-out. Restaurant operations is not the easiest thing today. ... I love the people. The people have been incredible to me. The fun part has been the customers.”

Bill Bateman’s Bistro North Plaza in Parkville, the final restaurant owned by the founder, will close next month. It’s the chain’s second location to announce its closure this week and its sixth in the past two years. The Parkville location will redeem gift cards until it shuts its doors for good on Monday, Feb. 3.

There is still time to enjoy some crab cakes and laughs. Any one interested in any memorabilia, ravens, pictures, equipment, chairs, etc. call us.

Posted by Bill Bateman's North Plaza on Wednesday, January 8, 2020

The announcement came two days after the chain’s Havre de Grace franchise, owned by Christian Giasante and Lisa Carey, announced it will close after this weekend. Giasante and Carey did not announce a reason for the closure.

A pair of independently owned Bateman’s franchises in Rosedale and Shrewsbury, Pennsylvania, will remain open, their owners said, and the pair of Bateman’s stands in the 500-level concourse of M&T Bank Stadium will operate at least through next season, according to Bateman.

The Rosedale location, a Bill Bateman’s Express at 6241 Kenwood Ave., is “not going anywhere,” general manager Kyra Ortega said Wednesday.

And the Pennsylvania Bateman’s at 985 Far Hills Drive, which opened 12 years ago, has “no plans” to close, independent franchise owner Dustin Auffarth said.

But, Auffarth warned, “I have no ability to accept gift cards from a corporate store. If you buy it here, you can use it here.”

Four of the chain’s other restaurants have closed in the past two years.

The head of a Bateman’s franchise in Hanover, Pennsylvania turned it into a separate restaurant, The Broken Clock, in May 2018. That restaurant has since closed.

Another location in Towson closed the following month because of construction on Towson University’s Science Complex, according to the location’s then-co-owner Tony Gebbia. The Reisterstown location closed in August, and Marc Loundas, the restaurant group’s co-owner, told The Baltimore Sun then that the chain had closed an outpost in Severna Park in May.

Another previous location at BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport closed roughly nine years ago, an airport spokesman estimated.

The closures come amid a shift in the business out of Bateman’s brick-and-mortar restaurants and into grocery stores.

“The restaurants have not been growing,” Bateman said. “I don’t think any restaurants have been growing right now. You look how many are closing.”

Bateman said he began distributing his buffalo wings, crab pretzels, cream of crab soup and coleslaw mix to Geresbeck’s Food Markets, Weiss Markets and Klein’s Supermarkets about six years ago and plans to continue doing so, with hopes of expanding the offerings to Southwestern egg rolls and other “restaurant-quality stuff."

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The founder said he will miss interacting with his regular customers, who he said “have been very loyal."

At the Cub Hill restaurant and beyond, they would return again and again to watch sports at the bar and eat wings by the dozen. Charities held annual events at the restaurants, and Bateman said the police and fire departments have “always backed me.”

He still remembers the way regulars would sample his food in the 1980s and give him their feedback.

“A lot of that went on the menu because of the customers,” he said.

The Aegis contributed to this article.

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