The city is closer to signing a 20-year deal with Dean & DeLuca to operate the historic Market House at City Dock through a joint venture with Annapolis Seafood Markets, City Administrator Bob Agee says.

The City Council approved the lease with the gourmet foods retailer on May 23, but as of Tuesday the lease remained unsigned and city officials did not have an opening date for the now-vacant building in the heart of the city's waterfront tourist district.

Agee said the negotiations are down to "last-minute" details. He does not expect significant complications in a deal that has already been plagued by delays, he said.

Under the deal, Dean & DeLuca and Annapolis Seafood will form a Maryland corporation called Annapolis Market House and will run the operation jointly, Agee said. Mayor Ellen O. Moyer has said she expects the market to reopen by the fall.

Courthouse Collar

For as long as there has been trade in illegal drugs, dealers have staked out turf on street corners and in alleys. Rarely, one assumes, have they claimed territory directly in front of the local courthouse.

Yet last week, authorities say, a parole officer and a probation officer saw what appeared to be a narcotics transaction in the gated courtyard of the Anne Arundel County Circuit Court. After the exchange, according to a statement from Sheriff George F. Johnson IV, the apparent seller "continued standing on the outside of the fence counting the money."

Sheriff's deputies arrested Joseph P. Machlinski Jr., 52, and Walter Bryan Jr., 35, on drug charges. From Machlinski, deputies confiscated what they suspect were 15 pills of the prescription drug Xanax.

Both Machlinski, the alleged buyer, and Bryan, the alleged seller, were charged with possession of controlled substances with intent to distribute. (Neither of the suspects could be reached for comment. Attempts to locate a phone number for Bryan were unsuccessful. Machlinski's phone number is unlisted.)

"This is a highly unusual situation," Johnson said of the arrest. "In my 11 years I've never encountered this before, people being so brazen and doing something like this right out in front of the courthouse."