Fiori Restaurant and the Wine Cellar Pub, the only tenants in the historic Samuel Owings House in Owings Mills, will close July 10 because of declining business, according to their co-owner Richard Pirone.
He linked the drop in business at the restaurants to news accounts on a proposal to move the house -- one of Baltimore County's oldest. It was built in 1767 by the mill founder for whom the community is named.
The owners of Samuel Owings House wanted to move it, then build a nine-story office tower in its place at Painters Mills and Dolfield roads.
Moving it would have put Mr. Pirone out of business, he had said, because the kitchen and cellar would have remained behind and he could not afford to rebuild elsewhere.
"Essentially, the articles that began appearing [in community publications] have just had such a serious impact on our ability to continue," Mr. Pirone said, citing sales records that show a 20 percent drop-off "almost to the day" the articles began.
The decision to close comes despite a June 8 vote by the Baltimore County Landmarks Preservation Commission to put the house on the county landmarks list. That action delayed any move of the building by owners, known as Painters Mills Associates (No. 1), until the County Council votes on the commission's decision within the next 12 months.
But Mr. Pirone said the commission vote did not change the flow of diners, so he made the decision to close the 18-year-old businesses, which employ 70 people.
"I could lose a tremendous amount of money . . .," Mr. Pirone said. "It doesn't take a genius [to know] that's the fact of the matter."
He said he had started to negotiate with two separate restaurateurs in March on the possibility of their buying the 8 1/2 years remaining on his lease. "If the right persons come in [and] energize it property, I think it has enormous potential," he said.
Mr. Pirone said he will devote more time to the other restaurants in which he shares ownership in the area -- Country Fare in Reisterstown, which reopened two weeks ago, the Brass Elephant in downtown Baltimore, Kings Contrivance in Columbia, and City Lights at Harborplace.