Beer soon will be served again in historic Reynolds Tavern in Annapolis - with English tea.
The 255-year-old building in a prominent location on Church Circle has been bought by a local couple who plan to reopen it this summer as an English pub, tearoom and bed-and-breakfast.
The large brick building has been empty for more than three years as its owners - Farmers Bank of Maryland, the Historic Annapolis Foundation and the National Trust for Historic Preservation - searched for a preservation-minded buyer with a viable business plan.
While several would-be buyers stepped forward with hopes of turning it into commercial office space, the proposal by Andrew and Jill Petit of Arnold was chosen because the couple plan to reopen it in its traditional use - though their offer of $825,000 was less than the asking price of more than $1 million.
"We are glad to see that the building will be turned into at least its most recent use with local owners who will take care of the building and keep it as a local treasure," said David Ritchie, chairman and chief executive officer of Farmers Bank.
The Petits, who settled on their purchase last week, plan to reopen the basement bar as an English pub that serves lunch and dinner. The first floor will feature an English tearoom, serving tea, desserts and lunch inside and on the back terrace.
The second floor will include guestrooms in "the luxury category," Andrew Petit said. They hope to open the B&B; and tearoom in July, followed by the pub in August.
"We intend it to be a meeting place for the people of Annapolis," Petit said. "The historic nature of the place scared a lot of [potential buyers] off, but for us that was the attraction."
Built in the Georgian style about 1747 by hatmaker William Reynolds, the 8,500-square-foot building originally housed Reynolds' shop, a dry goods store and an inn called the Beaver and Lac'd Hat.
It was later used as a home for Farmers Bank's cashier and as a library before it was donated to the National Trust in 1974.
The National Trust then leased the building to the Historic Annapolis Foundation, which sublet it to local developer Paul Pearson. Pearson borrowed $1.4 million from Farmers Bank to renovate and reopen a tavern there.
When he declared bankruptcy in 1989, the bank took over most of his ownership stake. The tavern reopened under new management in 1992 but closed six years later.
The building, which has remained vacant since, is protected by preservation easements on the exterior and the interior of the building held by the Maryland Historical Trust and the Historic Annapolis Foundation, respectively. Those restrictions, and the complex ownership structure, made it difficult to lease the building, so in August 2000 the owners decided to put it up for sale.
"We were all along looking for a prospective owner who could come in and ensure that it will be taken care of because it had an appropriate use that would provide enough funds that it would be kept up," said Paul Edmondson, vice president and general counsel for the National Trust. "I think that is the result here, and we are very pleased."
The Petits have experience running similar businesses. British-born Andrew Petit said his parents ran a pub in England. He and his American-born wife operated a restaurant in a 16th-century building in England.
The couple, who moved to the United States in 1995, also own an office building, a strip mall and several homes in Annapolis.
The Historic Annapolis Foundation and the National Trust each took $100,000 of the proceeds from the sale of the building, while the bank collected the balance, minus settlement costs, Edmondson said. With its share, the National Trust will establish a grant program for Annapolis preservation activities, he said.