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The Elephant announces that it will remain open, even after filing for bankruptcy

The Elephant announces that it will remain open, even after filing for bankruptcy
An auction to sell the historic Mount Vernon mansion has been canceled, and the restaurant will remain open for the foreseeable future, the Elephant's owners announced Wednesday. (Amy Davis / Baltimore Sun)

The Elephant saga continues.

An auction to sell the historic Mount Vernon mansion has been canceled, and the restaurant will remain open for the foreseeable future, its owners announced Wednesday.

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The building located at 924 N. Charles St. was set to be auctioned off May 1, but the auction has been canceled because the owners filed for bankruptcy, according to auction agent Paul Cooper.

The Elephant’s owners proclaimed the news in a release by quoting a proverb: “They tried to bury us. They didn’t realize we were seeds.”

Co-owner Steven Rivelis said his lawyers had initiated bankruptcy filings this week in what he termed a restructuring, after one of the restaurant’s investors sued him in federal court.

“We fought back and our legal team set some things in motion that averted the auction,” Rivelis said.

Rivelis remained optimistic about the restaurant’s future, saying Wednesday that the restaurant will remain open “forever and ever and ever and ever and then some.” Staff will serve dinner Tuesdays through Saturdays.

Before becoming the Elephant, the building housed the Brass Elephant for nearly 30 years until it closed in 2009. It later became home to the Museum Restaurant & Lounge. Rivelis purchased the building in 2015 for $550,000, state property records show.

Built in the mid-19th century, the building was once a private mansion before it transitioned to a furniture store and then a dining destination. The space fell into disrepair after the Brass Elephant closed, and Rivelis and his wife, Linda Brown Rivelis, poured millions into its restoration.

Ahead of the Elephant’s opening in July 2016, its latest owners outfitted the space with a modern color palette and fresh fixtures, all while honoring its original architectural details.

Co-owner Mallory Staley says the owners funded the restoration with a loan from friends and family after banks refused to lend to them. But one of those investors sued them in federal court for repayment.

Last year, James Hickman sued the Rivelises and their LLCs, VSOP and the Pincus Restaurant Group, for breach of contract in federal court. According to online records, Hickman is seeking $900,000, the amount he says he has invested in the restaurant.

Both parties are scheduled to go into mediation this September, according to online court filings.

A GoFundMe campaign to stave off the auction raised $6,165 of its $600,000 goal.

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