The face-lift is complete, but the Market House's tidy new facade has not brought the Annapolis landmark any closer to opening after Annapolis Seafood Markets withdrew late last week from a deal to operate the establishment.
The eleventh-hour pullout was just the latest chapter in a contentious saga that promises to spill over into this fall's city elections.
Mayor Ellen O. Moyer (D), who is running for her second term, has set an Oct. 6 deadline for new bids to operate the historic market and hopes to have a new vendor in place by mid-November. Even by that optimistic timeline, however, it could be spring before the popular lunch spot at the heart of the city's historic district is reopened to customers.
Meanwhile, the city loses revenue each day the building remains closed. The market, which has been vacant since the beginning of the year, generated about $110,000 a year for the city under its old arrangement with individual tenants, according to the city's finance department.
The latest lease terms would have generated $100,000 to $300,000 a year under a formula that included base rent plus a percentage of sales.
"This is money that should be coming into the city, so we're trying to move things along," Moyer said.
City officials gushed last year after awarding the Market House contract to upscale New York grocer Dean & DeLuca. But after several months of private negotiations with the city, the gourmet grocery chain struck a partnership with Annapolis Seafood, then all but withdrew from the deal when it turned over management of the lease to the local company. Annapolis Seafood owner Nick Bassford promised to offer Dean & DeLuca products as well as fresh produce, baked goods and sandwiches.
Moyer said the new deal offered the "best of all possible worlds" -- a respected local operator with nationally recognized Dean & DeLuca products. But the change angered some on City Council, who characterized it as a bait-and-switch move. Site Realty, a Prince George's-based company that was passed over in favor of Dean & DeLuca in the original bid process, threatened to sue the city if it approved a deal with Annapolis Seafood, which did not submit a bid.
The acrimony reached a boiling point at an Aug. 23 meeting of the city's Economic Matters Committee when Aldermen Louise Hammond (D-Ward 1), and George O. Kelley (R-Ward 4), who is running for mayor against Moyer, called for an investigation into the collapse of the Dean & Deluca deal.
Three days later, Annapolis Seafood pulled out, citing the risk of litigation and delays as well as the prospect of becoming caught in the middle of a political tussle.
The U.S. Naval Academy plans a concert and pep rally today at City Dock as it rekindles a long-dormant football rivalry with the University of Maryland.
The two teams meet Saturday at M & T Bank Stadium in Baltimore after a hiatus of more than 40 years in the once heated rivalry. They last met in 1964, a 27-22 victory for the Terrapins. Why the rivalry was suspended is a matter of debate, though most say it was largely because of an obscene gesture made by Maryland linebacker Jerry Fishman to the midshipmen in the stands after tackling Navy quarterback Roger Staubach.
The rally, which is open to the public, begins at 6:30 p.m.