Jul 29, 2014
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Future of Bel Air Bill Bateman's Up in the Air

The restaurant on Route 1 has been closed as the owner figures out next steps.

Future of Bel Air Bill Bateman's Up in the Air
The owner of Bill Bateman's Raw Bar & Grille said he wasn't sure how long his restaurant on US Route 1 in Bel Air would be closed.

"The place needs a makeover," restaurant owner Scott Lukas told the  Harford County Liquor Control Board at its most recent meeting. "I've been looking for a different concept ... for the last three years."

Lukas said he was considering a new owner for the restaurant, but the deal didn't close.

"I thought I had it all figured out, and at the last minute everything kind of fell apart on us," Lukas said.

"After everything fell apart in December ... I paid the employees and I said, 'You know what? We're shutting it down and will start fresh in the new year,'" Lukas said.

The new year came, and the restaurant is still closed.

Bill Bateman's originally planned to make renovations, and there had been a problem with heat, which was why Lukas was slated to appear before the board, Administrator Judith Powell said.

The  rules and regulations of the Harford County Liquor Control Board stipulate that liquor licensees must notify the board of major modifications and operational changes.

Powell asked how long Lukas anticipated the restaurant being closed.

Lukas said he was considering two options for moving forward, one that involved a new owner and another in which he would remain part of the restaurant.

If the restaurant gets a new owner, the closure could last for five months, since the prospective buyer wanted to gut the building and make approximately $500,000 worth of renovations, Lukas said.

Another group interested in the restaurant could be ready for operation in two weeks, Lukas said, making changes he described as "cosmetic."

The restaurant's liquor license was up for renewal, Powell said, a process that was time-sensitive.

"These things just take time," said Commissioner Thomas Fidler, who works in commercial real estate when he's not sitting on the liquor board. He suggested providing Lukas with at least 30 days to firm up his plans.

Fidler noted that Lukas "has been an outstanding [restaurant] operator for years and a staple of our community."

The board voted unanimously to grant Lukas continued possession of his liquor license until March 5, by which point he would need to notify the board in writing how he planned to proceed.

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