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Otter House planning to close

January 9, 2013 12:10 am

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The Otter House in downtown Fredericksburg was known as both a restaurant and musical entertainment venue.

BY CATHY JETT
BY CATHY JETT

A downtown Fredericksburg restaurant and bar that had a run-in with city police last year will close Sunday.

The owners of The Otter House at 1005 Princess Anne St. were charged in July with maintaining a common nuisance, but a judge dismissed the misdemeanor charge in October, saying there had been insufficient probable cause to raid the establishment.

"Basically, when it all that went down, our business was affected terribly," said co-owner Paul Stoddard. "We've come back in the last month or so, but our sales are still down considerably."

He and Stephen Cameli, the other owner, said they decided to close before their next rent payment is due Jan. 15. According to Stoddard, landlord M&K Enterprises said they violated the nuisance clause of their lease and is taking them to court Jan. 28 "even though we were exonerated."

Landon C. Davis III, a Fredericksburg attorney who represents M&K, said that his client's original lawsuit was based partially on the nuisance clause and partially on extension of the lease. The Otter House's owners had never exercised an option to extend the three-year agreement when it ended last July.

"As the lawsuit was going on, we were holding their rent checks in escrow as they were paying until we were able to go to trial," Davis said. "We eventually decided that the best thing for our client was to cash the checks, and it turned out that all [four] were returned for insufficient funds."

Stoddard said that he and Cameli kept the business going until after New Year's so they wouldn't have to let their 25 employees go during the holidays. They will hire as many of those employees as they can at their other, smaller restaurant, Sunken Well Tavern at 720 Littlepage St., Stoddard said.

The Otter House has a restaurant on the first floor and a bar and stage where local and award-winning bands have played on the second floor. The WAVOS, a New York City new-wave band, will play there Friday and Ric Flair Gun, an indie-alternative band, will be there Saturday.

"Our last day is Sunday," Stoddard said. "We'll just be there and have friends come and ride off into the sunset, I guess."

Cathy Jett: 540/374-5407
Email: cjett@freelancestar.com





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