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Ernest & Scott Taproom to close, reopen as duckpin hall Wilma’s

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Ernest & Scott Taproom on North Market Street will close Friday and reopen later this year as Wilma’s. | DBT PHOTO BY JACOB OWENS

WILMINGTON ““ Ernest & Scott Taproom will close Friday, Jan. 10, and reopen in the fall as a new recreation hall known as Wilma’s, featuring a duckpin bowling alley and pinball arcade.

The changes were announced Wednesday, Jan. 8, by Wilmington-based real estate developer and management firm Buccini/Pollin Group, which owns the nearly 100-year-old former Wilmington Trust Bank building at 902 N. Market St. where Ernest & Scott is located.

Buccini/Pollin Group released this teaser sheet for Wilma’s, the recreation hall it plans to open on North Market Street later this year. | PHOTO COURTESY OF BPG

The 5,700-square-foot space with 30-foot ceilings has been home to a number of restaurants over the decades, including Public House and Great Room of The Residences at Rodney Square. Its next life, however, will try to harness the immense space by adding the draw of duckpin bowling.

Unlike traditional bowling, duckpin uses solid 3-pound balls that are about the size of a softball and allows players three rolls per frame rather than two to knock down 10 smaller pins. The game is generally seen as more challenging due to the smaller size of the components ““ in fact no perfect score of 300 has been recorded in the game’s regulated history.

While the number of duckpin alleys have declined dramatically in the 2000s, the sport continues to draw participants in the Mid-Atlantic region and especially Baltimore, where residents claim long-ago Baltimore Orioles players created it after shaving down broken regular-sized bowling pins.

Now BPG, which is kickstarting a Market Street renaissance through housing projects like MKT, The Residences at Rodney Square and The Cooper, and commercial ventures like DE.CO food hall, Maker’s Alley beer garden, Stitch House brewery, The Queen Theatre, and Italian restaurant Bardea, will look to add Wilmington to the list of cities with duckpin alleys.

“Downtown residents and visitors alike have continually requested more things to do in Wilmington that are not solely focused on food and alcohol,” said Rich Snyder, director of food and beverage for the Buccini/Pollin Group, in a statement announcing the project. “While we certainly support the thriving culinary scene in Wilmington, we believe Wilma’s will strike the perfect balance between recreation and dining, no pun intended.”

Joe Van Horn, of Open Doors Hospitality Group, purchased Ernest & Scott following the sudden passing of founder Scott Morrison in 2016. He also purchased Morrison’s nearby Chelsea Tavern, located at 821 N. Market St., which is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year.

“I am proud to have kept Morrison’s legacy alive at Ernest & Scotts,” said Van Horn, who worked under Morrison after the late restaurateur was recruited by BPG to oversee the development of restaurants in its Market Street buildings, in a statement. “He saw the promise of Market Street very early on, and I know he would have been proud to see the growth that downtown Wilmington has experienced recently. Wilma’s is a welcome addition to Market Street as our neighborhood continues to progress into the next decade.”

Ernest & Scott, a 150-seat restaurant with a menu that promoted its craft beer offerings, was named after famed authors Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald, who lived in Delaware in the early 1920s. Morrison opened it in 2012.

Popular Ernest & Scott events like the Cinco de Mayo Block Party and seasonal Cigar Dinners will move to Chelsea Tavern, which has undergone a renovation project of its own. The food and bar menu will remain unchanged, as will its 1 a.m. daily closing time.

By Jacob Owens

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