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Annapolis Market House: DOA

| February 14, 2011, 11:10 PM | 29 Comments

A Never Ending Story

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After paying Lehr Jackson nearly $10,000 per month for the past several months, after paying DLA Piper unknown hours to negotiate a lease, after countless hours of public testimony, after significant effort by City employees, the Market House is dead for now.

At the beginning of tonight’s meeting, Mayor Cohen announced that despite having enough votes to pass the lease, Lehr Jackson called him this afternoon and requested that the lease be pulled and the future of the Market House be run through a standard Request For Proposals (RFP) process.

Prior to the meeting, Eye On Annapolis got wind of the change. It was somewhat obvious that the deal was finished as Aldermen Paone, Arnett, and Finlayson were borderline giddy.

However, what precipitated this remains a secret only known to Cohen and Jackson. In talking with several in attendance, two scenarios tended to float to the top:

  • Lehr Jackson realized the public outcry and general distrust; and questioned the viability of operating the Market House in what could be considered a hostile environment. Would the locals support it?
  • Cohen did not have the votes for the lease and rather than being defeated, asked Lehr Jackson to withdraw the lease.

Which do you think is most likely?

Do you have another theory? Please leave a comment.

So, where does that leave the Market House? Back at square one. The City will be seeking RFPs for the space and Jackson may indeed come forward again to throw his hat into the ring.  Last week, Mayor Cohen stated that if the lease was voted down, there would be no one willing to come in for a Plan B.  I guess we will see.

In any event, this was a very expensive lesson in lease negotiations. We paid Lehr Jackson $40,000 to walk away and unknown legal fees to DLA Piper for advice on the negotiation.  Certainly if Lehr Jackson does come back into the picture, he will have a leg up on the competition as he already has all the plans drawn and ideas developed courtesy of the City. Will the City offer the same deal to the new prospects?

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About the Author - John Frenaye

John is the publisher and editor of Eye On Annapolis. As a resident and business owner in Anne Arundel County for nearly 25 years, he realized that there was something missing in terms of community news–and Eye On Annapolis was born in late spring 2009.

John’s background is in the travel industry as a business owner, industry speaker, and travel writer. In terms of blogging and social media, he cut his teeth with

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Comments (29)

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  1. Hmmm… Maybe we can have Paul Foer run an organic Farmers Market with daddy warbucks Mike Ashford and get the City Council to man the stalls selling milk and bread. The Hammonds & friends tried that at George Phillips minimall at Craig and Dock Streets — don’t you remember ?

    Ship of fools… Good work Annapolis you may have just chased away the most accomplished Market expert in the nation from your front door (who happened by luck to live close by) and now what are you left with ?

    What is your “Plan B” put some picnic tables on the plaza and sell produce, fish and crabs while the waterfront service sinks are reserved for the best views?

    Do you really think suburban AACO & beyond is going to come down to the City Dock to buy what you are selling ?

    Sayanora – you just lost a big opportunity for which you will pay dearly as Parole grows and takes the remainder of your business. Your fake plastic history isn’t gonna sell either – now you got a big problem and what are you going to do?

    Who is going to try and take this thing over now ?

  2. AMEN!!! ^ ..As A life long resident (36 years) and a kid that grew up in the Annapolis market house. I just watched a bunch of non- visionaries finish off the last bit of personality and hope that could of revived OUR struggling downtown economy in annapolis….WAY TO GO!!!!!. NOW WHAT SMART PEOPLE???? It is very clear that you have “your eye” on some other town called Annapolis. Because from where I am sitting as a tax paying citizen you really screwd the pooch on this one. BOO HISS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    John Fenaye you have not been involved in this town long enough to be in a position to spew your hate filled articles. How you ended up with this platform to spread your negitive message is one more sign on how far in the dumps this town as gone. Good luck on your quest for Bad Karma. Seems like you are really good at it!!

    That it is all……for now!

  3. Now as I do a bit of web browsing….. I remember the frist time I meet the current owner of “Eye on annapolis”. It was 15 years ago…. He was sniffing around one of my clients at the time “The Eastport Clipper” where I was providing sound and production for local bands. As he was not and will never operate on the level I do he just did his bottom feeding until I left town to work for a national touring artist. Now in the last decade to hear from real annapolitians that he is still bottom feeding but has the public fooled that he is the man that is selling a great product. Far from it. Truth is you are an over price business that blows lots of hot air!!! That is from LA or some other state. Because I was raised in Eastport and have been here my whole life and want to know how do you think you are?

    What a joke. This wedsite is a joke. You are the total sum of your chioces and now look at ya!!!! On your own website!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!

  4. Bad grammar and all…I think you get my point. The truth will set you free people……


  5. Fred Shubbie®©™ says:

    This was a decisive victory for the people of Annapolis and an unequivocal vote against Josh Cohen. Up until the final moments, Josh was enthusiastically promoting his pet project as the ONLY WAY, the perfect solution, and yet his saviour failed to walk on water as promised. The votes were against him. But that is not the real issue, let us ignore the fact that Josh has fabricated the fact that ‘he had the votes’ ( he did not) and accept his fiction. What does that say about Josh ? He was wrong about Lehr and Lehr is a man that can not be trusted. If one accepts Josh’s politically moitvated false premise that Lehr did in fact throw in the towel it follows that Josh is a man NOT to be trusted with the city’s resources.

    Power to the People y’all

  6. If this city does not have the power to properly govern a public landmark and bank account in the city epicenter no matter who has the lease.Then why even vote on it? Come on!. See the big picture! We need change. This just means no matter what from here on out all parties involved are going to have to work for it. DO you really think no matter what a developers business history is that they are willing to jump in and give you mouth to mouth for free. Get Real. It called a retainer smart guy.

  7. all this talk once again….While the city continues to trend on the surface. Please someone do something besides talk a big game!!!!! Because my ears hurt from the BLAHBLAH BLAH BLAH BLA BLA BLAH!!!!

    and I ‘m done.

    Thank you and good day annapolis!!!!!!!!

  8. John Frenaye says:

    I believe you are mistaken. I only moved to Maryland in 1997 and have never frequented the Clipper/Rockfish. And I am not in the entertainment industry.

    Curiously, you seem to think that some “non visionaries” drove this deal into the ground, but there was testimony last night from the Mayor that Lehr Jackson (your mother’s partner in Gone To Market LLC) was actually the person who requested the lease be withdrawn.

  9. She is my Aunt but I love her like my mother. But I’m not just speaking up for her .I am annapolis resident that sick of idea people with no follow through.


    The State of marlyand says this website/company is owned
    by whom I referenced. Which it also says it was created for this purpose. So you tell me. Ho wtellin gthe truth?

  10. Fred Shubbie®©™ says:

    Mr. Witte, your input is a little late; you sound like Josh’s inner-child screaming and pounding his fists after hearing ” NO !!”
    It is time to regroup and reach out to Josh’s inner-child and give him a hug.

  11. John Frenaye says:

    I believe you are looking at a site called eyeonannapolis.COM this is a NET address and to be honest, I wanted the COM one but it was unavailable and the owners would not return phone calls.

  12. Once again you miss the point.

    Without Her there is no “Gone to Market”. So call it how you want. But there is always two sides to the story.

    Yes she will spend the rest of her life paying back the money she owe’s. Yes I understand why her wanting off lease would make it seem like funny business under your mircoscope called “The eye on annapolis”. But the truth is she already lives with all of that on her shoulders .So the last thing she is going to do is work for a bunch of people with that have no real businees execution to then just hands them a successful business after cleaning up the city’s mess?

  13. It is never to late for change! Free your mind narrow people

  14. No… I’m not his inner voice at all. I have not spoken to Josh in many years.Back then it was to just ask if he could hear is sax in his monitor. So yes I’m late and no I’m not Josh nor lehr or Kathy. So say what you will.

    Again more HOT AIR!!!!!

  15. Bob McWilliams says:


    It was predictable that the phoney posters like Roy Drake Witte or whoever that is (CW or CP) would come out of the woodwork and launch right into the personal attacks. Their childlike antics do nothing to further the debate or generate solutions. In the blogosphere, we’ll have to put up with their tantrums for a few days, then maybe the adults can get back to work.

    As for the post mortum, your poll needs a few more options. Because Isreal voted against the lease in the Economic Matters Committee, it was necessary for Cohen to flip him to get the necessary votes. Israel had problems with the assignment clauses. Dick wanted to make sure Jackson would hang around and not just immediately cash in the valuable assetts Cohen was giving him for free. A possibility is that the changes needed for Israel’s vote were unacceptable to Jackson, and Jackson’s concern for “ill will” was a more convenient “public” reason for withdrawing. But, who knows? In reality, it’s probably some combination of legal, political and economic issues that all combined to shoot down what was clearly an unacceptable business arrangement.

    Now, they’ll do the RFP as they should have done in the first place, and it will be a level playing field for everyone.

  16. The city should just lite a bonfire with $100 bills on main street. Because leaving that place empty for another summer is pretty much the same thing.

  17. Phoney posters? My nickname is “Boomer”.Do your homework. There is not a phoney bone in my body!!!

  18. Ahhh and the Annapolis Market House has been put out to pasture. Shame Shame Shame!

    Well Bob you have your level playing field. Batter up!!!!

  19. Fred Shubbie®©™ says:

    Roy Drake Witte’s comments are redundant and sophomoric. Less is sometimes more.

  20. Hey Fred..Not matter what you say from this point on I had a chance to say what I needed to say and if generations of Annapolitians that know me and my background would beg to differ. So have fun in your small little world.

  21. Bob McWilliams says:

    Well Drake, Boomer or whoever, I’ve made a suggestion to the Council on a possible use for the Market House, one that requires no further investment, utilizes the building as a true public service and will help, not hurt, the existing merchants downtown.

    I also communicated that suggestion, when I testified at all three meetings of the Economic Matters Committee.

    Other than your childish rant, exactly what solutions have you contributed?

  22. Keith Finnegan says:

    As others have said, Roy, you rant & rave (and type like my 3 year old) yet you offer no solution to the saga. Plus, your “I lived here longer than anybody else, therefore my voice is more important than anyone else’s” belongs in North Korea, not the oldest capital city in America. Do us all a favor and shut the $#%& up.

  23. Regardless of how you feel about this or any situation, the internet is not the right place to carry out your personal vendettas. If you have an issue with someone go tell them to their face. And if we could all stop speculating about this situation as if any of us actually know what’s going on, that would just be awesome.
    Also, having lived in this city your whole life does NOT give you the right to treat other people like complete $%^& who haven’t lived here their whole lives.

  24. Robert Simmons says:

    I was born and raised in Annapolis and did NOT move here from another city or state. The fact is there has been a lot of money put into Market House for it to just sit and rot in our great town. It’s time to stop fooling around and do what it takes to get tennant in the building. If the rent has to be lowered then so be it. Collection some rent is better than nothing at this point. If a tennant need certain plumbing or electrical hook-ups (within reason) DO IT.

  25. Sophia Marx says:

    My opinion is that something not quite kosher was going on and they figured to drop it and cover it up as quietly as possible. That is a personal opinion with nothing to back it up – so don’t go crazy.

    Options that MAY be viable after it is cleaned up:
    1. A city run gallery for local crafters.
    2. A farmer’s market for local farmers.
    3. A cafeteria with local favorites.

    None of these may work, but come on, why can’t we try to boost our local people and try to fix our local economy. I’ve lived in or near Annapolis for over 40 years. Why are we looking outside of our borders when we have plenty of intelligence within them.

  26. Mert says:

    Kinda Crazy, but Lehr Jackson was going to do exactly what Sophia Marx just suggested.

    He just did it in downtown Easton. He is a local expert on european style markets which supports local people, farmers markets, organic farmers, budding entreneuers and local cafe style eateries. Get it? Small business. You know, the type of business that Annapolis started kicking out for The Gap, Banana Republic, Ralph Lauren, etc., 20 some odd years ago. And where are they now? Parole and The Mall.

    As was pointed out ever so succinctly by several; time is money and the money that was paid to Lehr is nothing compared to the many screw ups that have cost Annapolis uncountable revenue.

    This an anchor to the downtown and it is going to the bottom once again.

    One thing you can count on. Once a bunch of rabble rousers get involved it will stay frozen and the downtown will suffer as it has for so long.

    Go to Easton Marketplace next Saturday~check it out. Go on. I dare you. While you’re there stay the evening and have some oysters and beer at Brasserie Brightwell at Easton Marketplace. Then tell me how untrustworthy and unreputable Lehr and Kathy are. I dare you go ahead.

  27. Bob McWilliams says:


    I don’t think people had any problem with Lehr Jackson’s integrity. In fact, those who opposed this lease recognized his business expertise in negotiating a lease with such favorable terms. I understand that Jackson is a nice guy; the fact that he wants this to proceed without ill will further reinforces that. But, personalities are not what this is about.

    There are two issues at hand. The concept itself and the business deal created to put that concept in motion. Some people are ok with the concept and others question it, but there was pretty much universal condemnation of the lease. Even those who supported Jackson’s concept, conceeded that the lease had serious problems.

    By the way, I did go visit the Easton Market. It’s a perfectly delightful place. I had myself some great bread pudding. But, if you’re looking for a $3 sandwich, you’ll be dissapointed; $9 – $11 is more the fare. Additionally, I suspect that the liquor store at the market is the primary driver behind its profitability and survival.

    Again, no one is questioning Lehr and Kathy’s trustworthyness or reputation. Anyone who suggests that is just trying to divert attention from the real issues.

  28. Rob Parker says:

    Building should be demolished and made into an open space park . Win-Win for taxpayers, local businesses, locals, and tourists.

  29. Why nor relocate it to Edgewater by barge? Maybe build some apartments with a view in it’s place for the dispossessed of the Ancient City…

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