After 21 years of business, the Phoenix Emporium is spreading its wings.
Vickie Goeller, whose husband, George, opened the Phoenix Emporium in 1979, said renovations are almost finished on a second floor that will house overflow crowds and private parties. The Goellers hope to open the new room in December.
The floor, which used to house two apartments, is being converted to a dining room and bar that will seat about 80 people.
"We were surprised once we took out all the walls how open and light it is upstairs," said Vickie Goeller, who is bookkeeper for the business. "It's going to be a pretty room.
"My husband wanted to do it himself, and it's taken him a long time."
The Phoenix Emporium, at the bottom of Main Street in the historic part of Ellicott City, has long been a popular restaurant among residents and tourists. Attractions include a large selection of beer, a quirky decor and specials such as half-priced burgers on Sunday nights.
The Phoenix Emporium is open 365 days a year, Vickie Goeller said. "Actually, we have wonderful business on Thanksgiving night and Christmas night," she said.
Apparently, people who have moved away turn the tavern into an informal holiday meeting place on return visits, she said.
"On Christmas Day, we open at 7 p.m. We never have a problem finding people to work those shifts. They get to see people they haven't seen all year. And during the holidays, people seem to be very generous, gratuity-wise."
George Goeller opened the restaurant after selling his portion of The Horse You Came In On, a Fells Point landmark. The name of his new establishment signaled a fresh start.
From the beginning, he has sold and displayed antiques that he collected. His slogan, printed on the menus, is: "This is not a museum ... everything is for sale."
"It's kind of a nice extra," Vickie Goeller said. "There's plenty for people to look at when they're waiting."
And people really do buy the posters, prints, stained glass and other items, she said. "I'm not always happy because I become attached to things."
The Phoenix Emporium serves beer, wine, mixed drinks and frozen drinks. It offers 80 beers, including entries from Russia, China and Denmark.
Appetizers, mixed drinks, wine and domestic beer are half-price during happy hour, 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.
The dining room is dotted with small tables, where customers nosh on burgers, crab cakes, salads and sandwiches.
Over the years, there have been some changes but not many. Live entertainment is still offered occasionally, but not several times a week as in the past.
And the emphasis has shifted toward the food. "More and more people are coming in to eat and not staying late," Vickie Goeller observed. "I think, in general, the public is drinking less."
Now the Goellers are planning the biggest change yet. "It's a great room, upstairs," Vickie Goeller said.
Where: 8049 Main St., Ellicott City; 410-465-5665.
Hours: 11:30 a.m. to 2 a.m. Monday through Saturday and 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Sundays.
Prices: appetizers, $4.95 to $6.95; entrees, $4.95 to $17.95.
Credit cards: Visa, MasterCard, Discover and American Express.