What's in store

Cathy Jett is the business editor at The Free Lance-Star, and specializes in covering the area's retail scene. You can email her at

RSS feed of this blog

Otter House to close on Sunday

The Otter House on Princess Anne Street in Fredericksburg. The restaurant will close on Sunday

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

The Otter House at 1005 Princess Anne St. was 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 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 on Jan. 28 “even though we were exonerated.”

Landon Davis, 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 for their other, smaller restaurant, Sunken Well Tavern at 720 Littlepage St., Stoddard said.

Otter House has a restaurant on the first floor and a bar and stage where local and Emmy 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 indy alt 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.”