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Jilly's in Ellicott City closes, to be replaced by White Oak Tavern

After a "huge crescendo" to the life of the bar and restaurant, Jilly's Bar and Grill, in Ellicott City, closed Sunday, Oct. 13, after 21 years in business.

"It was one big party," said part-owner Dean Volmer. "One big send-off. It was wall-to-wall people at one point Sunday evening."

The corner space inside the Enchanted Forest Shopping Center on Route 40 will be taken over by the White Oak Tavern.

Peter Frey, White Oak Tavern part-owner, said the new restaurant should open by Dec. 1. He said it will feature 25-35 craft beers on tap and farm-to-table food that is sourced from Maryland farms.

"We're big beer geeks ourselves and we've noticed that's kind of the new trend," Frey said. "It's been very popular, we know it very well and we're comfortable with it."

Jilly's was a popular spot to watch sporting events, and it was the headquarters for the 120-member Ravens Roost No. 4.

So what happens to them now? That's the question everyone wanted answered, Volmer said. His brother, Jeff Volmer, president of the roost, said the group would likely be moving to Kelsey's Restaurant and Irish Pub in the Normandy Shopping Center for football games.

Patrons who gathered to say farewell to the establishment Sunday evening weren't given much notice for their goodbyes — an announcement that Sunday was Jilly's last day was made two days prior on the restaurants' Facebook page.

A deal to sell Jilly's was finalized Oct. 11, Volmer said, the same day Jilly's sent out their farewell notice on Facebook. The sale came after about a year-and-a-half of casually exploring options for the restaurant with a broker, Volmer said. He declined to comment further as to why he and the other owners — Steve Stanton and Brian Reich — decided to sell.

"It's bittersweet," Volmer said. "I'm sad to see it go for a lot of reasons. I had good times, made good friends. Jilly's meant a lot to a lot of different people for a lot of different reasons."

Volmer said that though he was sad to see Jilly's go, he was excited to move on to "new ventures and the next chapter." He said he wishes the owners of the White Oak Tavern well.

Jilly's has been in Reich's family for more than 18 years, when his father, Will, bought the restaurant and the old Forest Diner across Route 40. He sold Jilly's to his son, Volmer and Stanton "a few years ago," Will Reich said in a May 2012 story when the Forest Diner closed. At the time, Reich said "the menus, the employees and hopefully the customers" would move to Jilly's.

Frey said he and the three other owners have been working on opening their own restaurant for "about a year now." Frey and the other owners have all previously worked at Bare Bones Grill and Brewery, which is less than two miles east of their new restaurant on Route 40. Frey said all the owners have been patrons of Jilly's.

"We thought Jilly's would be a good fit," Frey said. "It's sad to see it go, but it's exciting to see what we're doing with it. We're excited to see what happens with the new chapter."

Renovations began Monday, Frey said, and the new owners are expanding the kitchen and redoing the bar and decor. On Tuesday, White Oak Tavern began announcing on Twitter that Jilly's "memorabilia" is for sale, like the neon beer signs used to hang in the bar. Basically, Frey said, everything is being remodeled.

"We're focusing on the beer and the food — we want that to be high-end — but in a casual environment," Frey said. "The food and the beer is going to be top-notch and delicious, the way it should be, but in a more casual atmosphere so you don't have to go to a white tablecloth restaurant to get what we'll be serving."

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