Middleton Tavern celebrating 50 years

| September 5, 2018
Rams Head

Middleton 2018Shortly after Labor Day, 1968, 26-year-old budding entrepreneur Jerry Hardesty realized his dream of opening his own restaurant.  After working as a bartender while attending mortuary school in New York, he wanted to bring a new concept in dining to his hometown.  He found an opportunity with a lunchroom/variety store in an 18th century building on Annapolis City Dock.

In 1968, many storefronts on Main Street were shuttered after a new shopping center in Parole siphoned business away.  The wharf area was shabby, dirty and often dangerous after dark.  To many, opening anything with so many longtime businesses closing looked like a foolish endeavor.

But the newly renamed Middleton Tavern, originally established as a seafaring inn and ferry landing in 1750, quickly caught on — as did many other businesses that subsequently opened around Market Square.

Although Hardesty would go on to be involved in many other restaurant enterprises in Annapolis — including Carrol’s Creek, San Remo, the Upper Crust and most recently O’Brien’s; Middleton’s was always the flagship.  It was the site of the first Green Beer Races in the early 70’s, before the event outgrew the dock and had to be moved.  It hosted Navy sports radio shows, spirit events and many political gatherings.

While George Washington was the first President to visit there, Bill Clinton was the most recent, while running for office in 1992.

The famous Oyster Shooter, a longtime staple, was celebrated with a demonstration on Good Morning, America.  And the microbrewery craze of the early 1990’s produced Samuel Middleton’s Pale Ale.  Today, Oyster Ale is the favorite local brew on tap.

Middleton’s also popularized the concept of featuring local bands and the popular “Annapolis Sound” in the early 1990’s.  This late-night feature continues today, along with a weekend piano bar upstairs that has become a staple for locals and visitors alike.

Through the years, Middleton Tavern was a first job for many Annapolitans.  A teenaged Bill Belichick worked there in the early days.  Later, another well-known Annapolitan got his first job as a server, after sailing into town from Australia.

“Twenty-five years ago, I came ashore in this charming town intending to sell an ugly boat and move along, but I quickly fell in love with the town and a pretty local girl,” said Mayor Gavin Buckley.

“I owe my job at Middleton Tavern for keeping me here and eventually being able to convince this gal to become my wife. Jerry gave a guy like me a chance to earn a living and save up enough money to start a business.”

Despite two devastating fires that severely damaged the interior, the venerable building has remained steadfast and a popular meeting place in the heart of the City Dock.

Now 76, Hardesty is semi-retired, but has no plans to give up his life’s work.  Day-to-day operations are handled by a staff of professionals, many of whom have been with him for decades.  “I could not have succeeded all these years, during the ups and downs, without the dedication of the management family,” Hardesty noted.

To celebrate this milestone, Chef Arthur Gross, who has presided in the kitchen for more than 40 years, will bring back some menu favorites from the past. And the signature Oyster Shooter — a freshly shucked oyster mixed in special sauce and chased with a short beer, will again be offered for $1.00.

“My job at Middleton Tavern was a critical part of achieving my American Dream. As Mayor, I hope to return the favor and encourage as many locals and guests to keep the tradition going at Middleton’s,” Buckley added.

Rams Head

 

Category: Businesses, LIFE IN THE AREA, Local News, NEWS, Post To FB

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