After 50 years in business, Fells Point restaurant Bertha’s Mussels is closing and going up for auction Nov. 12. Photo courtesy of Alex Cooper Auctioneers.

Another landmark Fells Point restaurant is changing hands.

The owners of Bertha’s Mussels, a fixture at South Broadway and Lancaster Street for five decades, announced this week that they’re closing the restaurant and putting it up for sale.

Alex Cooper Auctioneers has scheduled an online auction for the property next month. The restaurant will stay in operation through the auction, according to the owners, the Norris family.

“Closing Bertha’s is bittersweet,” the owners said in a post on Facebook. “As a family, we’ve given so many great years to this wonderful place and are now ready to pursue other life paths and interests. We have made many treasured friendships over the years with our customers, staff and neighbors.”

According to Cooper, the online auction will be held starting at noon on Nov. 12. The sale includes two buildings at 730 and 734 S. Broadway St. containing a total of more than 7,000 square feet of space; a seven-day Class B Beer, Wine and Liquor license; and most of the equipment and furnishings.

The opening bid is $750,000, and a $20,000 deposit is required to bid. Cooper is giving guided tours of the property by appointment on Nov. 7 and 14. The auction will close at noon on Nov. 17.

Bertha’s Mussels spread the word about its Fells Point restaurant with “EAT BERTHA’S MUSSELS” bumper stickers like this one, circa 1973. Photo courtesy of Alex Cooper Auctioneers.

Bertha’s opened in 1972 and was a pioneer in establishing Fells Point’s bar and restaurant scene. Known for its mussels and other seafood dishes, its reputation spread with the help of a popular bumper sticker that urged: “EAT BERTHA’S MUSSELS.”

On Google, Bertha’s has more than 900 reviews at 4.5 stars, the auctioneer noted on its website. “The new owner will be inheriting a tremendous amount of brand recognition.”

The sale comes one year after The Wharf Rat bar and restaurant on South Ann Street sold in an Alex Cooper online auction for $914,600. Other Fells Point bars and restaurants that have changed hands in recent years include the Waterfront Hotel, the Admiral’s Cup, and Jimmy’s Restaurant.

“We are proud to have actively participated in the growth of this neighborhood,” the owners of Bertha’s said in their Facebook post. “We THANK YOU ALL for being part of our lives…Please visit us in our final weeks and months to celebrate our time together.”

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Ed Gunts

Ed Gunts is a local freelance writer and the former architecture critic for The Baltimore Sun.

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  1. I have nothing but the fondest memories of Bertha’s, both as a patron and a former employee. I tended bar at some of Baltimore’s iconic venues and to me Bertha’s ranks as one of the top 10 IMHO. This is of course was entirely due to the owners, Laura and Tony. Both of which I might add are very accomplished musicians. They always made you feel like family, whether you were a customer or an employee. And I dare say that the new owners will have some pretty darn big shoes to fill. But to be completely honest, without Laura greeting you as she takes your table reservation, or Tony introducing you to a nice rare single-malt in the bar, it will never really be “Bertha’s”.

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