By Michael Ruby

One of the last vestiges of a bygone time peopled by such notables as E Scott Fitzgerald and H.L Mencken soon may be changing hands. The historic Valley Inn, located at 10501 Falls Road in Brooklandville, is being sold by family members who have owned and operated the landmark eatery since 1922.

Owners John A. “Bud” Hatfield, Jr. and his sister, Elizabeth Proutt, are negotiating the sale of the restaurant to Theodore W. Bauer, owner of the Oregon Grille in Hunt Valley, according to documents filed with the Baltimore County liquor board.

A hearing on transferring the Valley Inn’s liquor licensed from the Hatfield family to TVI (Md.), LLC, a corporation whose sole member is Bauer, is slated for December 20, according to a posting at The Valley Inn of the proposed action. The required notice is the first public indication that a change is coming to the establishment that had served for generations as the gateway to the valleys area.

Still talking
Usually, the transfer of a liquor license is one of the final steps in any restaurant sales transaction. But Bud Hatfield, who grew up in the bUilding’s second-story family quarters and has been a daily fixture at The Valley Inn nearly his whole life, claims the parties are still talking.

“Nothing’s a done deal,” said Hatfield. He refused to comment further.

Also, The Oregon Grille’s Bauer declined to comment, saying only it is “premature to say anything.”

However, on the liquor license transfer application, Fedhill LLC is listed as the owner of The Valley Inn premises and gives the same address for the corporation as The Oregon Grille on Shawan Road. No information about Fedhill was available through Maryland business records.

And other area restaurateurs, relying on the industry’s grapevine, say a deal was reached “two or three weeks ago,” said one source who asked to remain anonymous. That would put the hand shake between the Hatfield family and Bauer around mid-November. Around the same time, TVI (Md.) LLC articles of incorporation were created on Nov. 16, 2010, and the request for the liquor license transfer was filed on November 19, according to documents included in the liquor board file.

The place to go
In its heyday during the 1920s, The Valley Inn was the place to go for the hunting parties held after the area’s timber races and also was the site of dog races, polo matches and even cock fights. Besides Fitzgerald and Mencken, other luminaries who dined or drank there included Blackjack Bouvier, father of Jacqueline Kennedy. During Prohibition, the inn ostensibly became a tearoom though patrons allegedly provided their own libation of choice.

Over the years, The Valley Inn has changed little which is just fine with the regulars who have been dining there for decades. Predictably, the menu forecasts the seasons with shad roe and bacon in the spring, soft crabs and crab imperial in the summer, fried chicken or liver and onions in the fall and padded oysters in the winter. Its signature crab cakes are served year round.

In previously published interviews, Bud Hatfield said he did not advertise the Valley Inn because he didn’t want to create a commercial atmosphere. “People come here and they don’t want to be bothered,” he said.

Today, The Valley Inn is known as a retreat into a place that time forgot with its equestrian artwork, paneled walls and numerous fireplaces. Former Baltimore County historian John McGrain once wryly quipped that the best thing about The Valley Inn was its survivability.

Local landmark status
In addition to the alcohol dispensing permit, Bauer is seeking permission . for an increase in the premises, though no floor plan has yet been submitted to liquor board officials. A floor plan must be provided to the three-panel commission by the Dec. 20 hearing date, according to liquor board administrators….

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