BERLIN – Ocean City hotelier and restaurateur John Fager will take over Berlin’s Atlantic Hotel and restaurant, long considered the town’s showpiece and an anchor for downtown commerce.
Town merchants and officials say they are thrilled at the news.
“It’ll be a wonderful addition,” said Terri Sexton, owner of the Treasure Chest jewelry shop and a local business leader. “We couldn’t have asked for a better person to come in.”
Neither Fager nor anyone from his organization returned calls for comment to the press this week, but Angela Reynolds, managing director for the hotels at Fager’s Island in Ocean City, informed business leaders at a meeting Tuesday at the Globe of the pending move.
Rumors over potential new tenants of the historic hotel have abounded for weeks, with Fager emerging the front runner after being seen on the property in recent weeks.
Fager, a former Maryland Restaurateur of the Year, is the successful proprietor of Fager’s Island Restaurant and two hotels, the Lighthouse Club Hotel and the Edge Hotel, in Ocean City.
“He has a reputation for quality and service and good taste with his businesses in Ocean City,” said Berlin Mayor Gee Williams. “I’m genuinely excited John will be guiding the future of this historic hotel.”
Williams pointed to Fager’s understanding of the local community and a proven coterie of loyal clients locally and in the mid-Atlantic as pluses for the business and ultimately for Berlin.
“On so many levels, it seems just right,” Williams said.
Michael Day, coordinator of the town’s Main Street Maryland program, a downtown development initiative, said Fager is a good fit for the hotel and restaurant because of his experience and because he has the financial resources to do the job well.
“In these economic times, to be opening a new restaurant is pretty phenomenal,” Day said. “It’s sort of a leap of faith by him.”
Fager’s faith in Berlin gives all the businesses in town a boost, Day said.
An operating and successful Atlantic Hotel and restaurant is considered necessary to the economic prosperity of the town.
“It’s always been an anchor downtown,” Day said. “That puts more people on the street. It’s a captive audience. It’s like going into the theater and having to pay their price for the popcorn and soda.”
The hotel is a great amenity for marketing purposes, according to Day, but was not really used to its potential by the previous proprietors.
“We’re looking at all the rooms booked all the time,” said Day. “They’re going to make it a nice place to stay.”
Day said he has heard that the new management is already redoing the hotel rooms.
The Globe co-owner Jennifer Dawicki-David was particularly upbeat about Fager joining the Berlin business community, saying it’s good news for everyone in the area.
“We are absolutely thrilled that John Fager has come in to take over that operation,” said Dawicki-David.
Contrary to what some may say is increased competition for The Globe, businesses in Berlin, Dawicki-David said, are not in competition with each other.
“I truly believe that everything going on here is cooperative,” Dawicki-David said. “Everyone needs everyone in the town to make it.”
Local merchants remained optimistic in January after the sudden closure of the hotel and Solstice restaurant, predicting that the iconic property would not remain closed for long and would soon have a new tenant.
“We’re thrilled the lights will be on and glasses will be clinking,” Dawicki-David said. “It will bring people to town who have not made the trip.”