March 4, 2024
Annapolis, US 45 F

O’Briens Oyster Bar & Restaurant changes hands

After nearly 25 years on Main Street, Annapolis restaurateur Jerry Hardesty has sold O’Brien’s Oyster Bar and Restaurant.

Hardesty, 76, is winding down his presence in the Historic District with the sale.  He still owns Middleton Tavern, which he opened in 1968, but is ready to scale back and enjoy semi-retirement.

When taking over O’Brien’s is 1993, Hardesty gave it a Naval Academy flare.  Action pictures of USNA athletes adorn the walls and portraits of heroes line the bar.

For many years O’Brien’s hosted weekly live sports and political radio broadcasts.

O’Brien’s established a reputation for after dinner entertainment and activities with acoustic music in the bar and bands and DJs in the club.  Poker nights and tango exhibitions drew enthusiasts of all ages downtown.  Crowds were particularly lively during General Assembly sessions with contests like “Legislative Idol” on Monday nights.

O’Brien’s also hosted the iconic Santa Speedo run, which raised money for charity every Christmas season while providing plenty of cheer for participants and spectators.

Perhaps the greatest accomplishment in Hardesty’s tenure on Main Street was the introduction of sidewalk cafes.  During the reconstruction of Main Street in 1994, Hardesty petitioned the city government to permit him to add outdoor seating on the newly widened brick sidewalks.

The measure faced stiff opposition from downtown residents who feared rowdiness and expansion of bar capacity.  It was not until fall of 1995 that permission was granted for temporary seating outdoors.

The cafe was an immediate hit, particularly with families who found it convenient for strollers, wheelchairs and canines.  Within days, other restaurants applied for cafe licenses.

What was once a temporary permit has now become a mainstay in downtown dining, and one of the most popular attractions for tourists.

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