Fishmarket flounders as investors vanish


The Texas-based management team that announced plans last month to reopen Baltimore's Fishmarket has apparently shut down its Baltimore office and left town, raising doubts about whether it will move ahead with its project.

The office of Baltimore Management Co., the group formed by Texans Billy Bob Barnett and Spencer Taylor to oversee the reopening of the Fishmarket for developer Frank McCourt, has been locked for more than a week, and its telephone has been disconnected.

A telephone inside the Fishmarket at Market Place and Water Street also has been disconnected, according to a recorded message.

Mr. McCourt, a Boston-based developer who opened the $25 million entertainment complex in December 1988 and closed it in July 1989, could not be reached for comment. Neither could William Boucher, a publicist for the project, Mr. Barnett or Mr. Taylor.

Others close to the project say they understand that financing fell through and that the Texans left town until a new deal is put together.

Mr. McCourt reportedly was seeking a loan from a New England bank to reopen the Fishmarket but needed financial assistance from the city and state as well.

Mr. Barnett and Mr. Taylor met with reporters in Baltimore Nov. 15 and indicated they were working to reopen the Fishmarket with a modified format in early 1991. But they declined to say how much their project would cost or how they were funding their proposed renovations.

Mr. Barnett experienced financial difficulties several years ago with a development group he headed in Fort Worth, Texas, and eventually filed for protection from creditors under the U.S. Bankruptcy Code. At that time, he lost control of Billy Bob's Texas, the huge entertainment complex he opened in Fort Worth in 1981.

At the Fishmarket yesterday, there were no signs of work crews or construction activity, and even a trash container set up outside the building had been removed. Signs on the Water Street entrance read: "Temporarily Closed. Please Watch for Reopening."

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