By Kathy Knotts
The anticipated downtown Annapolis location of The Choptank restaurant is due to open July 11. Situated on Ego Alley on Compromise Street, the second location of the restaurant owned by the Atlas Restaurant Group will have a similar concept to the Fells Point, Baltimore location but with “an elevated design and broader menu options,” says Atlas’ director of marketing and public relations, Joe Sweeney. “It is also much bigger than our Baltimore location.”
The restaurant is already creating a buzz among those eager to dine there and also among members of the Housing Authority of the City of Annapolis, thanks to a surprise $10,000 donation to their community pool.
The City of Annapolis and Mayor Gavin Buckley’s office announced the conveyance of a grant directly to HACA last week so that their community pool, in the neighborhood of Harbour House, can open and be operational for families this summer.
“We had no idea it was coming,” says Melissa Maddox-Evans, HACA executive director. “I’m happy to accept it even though we haven’t received it yet.”
Maddox-Evans says somewhere between $30,000 and $40,000 is needed to open the Leron Fisher Community Pool at Eastport Terrace.
“The housing authority was hit hard throughout the pandemic,” she says. “Our operating reserves have dwindled…and we are at an income deficit. There’s been a flurry of activity concerning the pool. It’s summertime—people want the pool to open but there are issues that we have been talking about for almost two years. When you have less funds to operate, it impacts your programs and your operation. That includes the pool.”
The Housing Authority had informed the City earlier this year that they were having difficulty funding the opening of the pool, due to fiscal constraints. Mayor Buckley dispatched senior advisor William Rowel to find out if funding could be covered through a direct grant from an area business or nonprofit.
“We are thrilled to be able to play a small part in ensuring local families have a place to swim this summer,” said Alex Smith, President and CEO of the Atlas Restaurant Group. “Giving back to the community is a core value at Atlas Restaurant Group and something we will continue to do in Annapolis.”
HACA has had to reduce staffing over the months and cut programs it previously was providing due to financial difficulty. “We knew opening the pool would be a challenge because of how costly it is to maintain a pool,” says Maddox-Evans. She says HACA was able to recently complete repair work and fix some of the plumbing issues at the pool and are now turning the focus to hiring staff.
To raise the required funds to pay for staff, HACA developed a nonprofit arm. The Annapolis Housing and Community Redevelopment Corporation was created to assist in supporting resident programs and redevelopment activities.
“We hope to be able to raise money to support the salaries of pool staff. Our longtime ‘pool man’ was reduced to part-time hours, so it’s difficult because he was also doing things like driving seniors to medical appointments and the grocery store. He was always the person to man the pool all day so we have had to shift staff. Then you layer these challenges with an overall shortage of lifeguards and it’s the perfect storm.”
The Collaborative Supporting Youth has been instrumental with fundraising, even setting up a website (togetherisbest.org/) with a PayPal link for donations.
The Atlas donation and funds raised by CSY will help pay for pool-related operations, maintenance and staffing, but HACA’s funding is an ongoing challenge that comes at the expense of outdoor recreation.
“What we’ve been saying for the last two years plus,” says Maddox-Evans, “It’s not just the pool—we’d like to have a baseball team, a basketball league, but we had to cut back because of our deficit crisis. The pool is on everyone’s minds now, we get it, but we’ve been dealing with it for quite some time.”
Maddox-Evans says HACA aims to open the pool June 27 and, as of press time, had hired two lifeguards.