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Nick Shriver saw the smoke coming from Solomons in March 2006, but he didn't think too much of it.

In a fire that caused $5 million in damage, two restaurants, the Lighthouse Inn and Bowen's Inn, were destroyed, according to reports from The Calvert Recorder in 2006.

But from his spot at Clarke's Landing across the river, Shriver didn't think that eight years later he would be sitting in the rebuilt Lighthouse Restaurant & Dock Bar as the co-owner.

Before the fire, Sue and the late Richard Fischer owned the Lighthouse Inn, which opened in March 1985.

“It didn't ever feel like work,” Sue Fischer said. “We had the best employees.”

Fischer took care of the day-to-day operations of the restaurant and managed the staff. Richard was in charge of the overall business plan, she said.

The crab imperial, crab cakes and the twice-a-week surf and turf buffet were among the most popular items, Fischer said, and people loved the boat bar. The restaurant also was the site of many wedding receptions and marriage proposals throughout the years, she said, and even after the fire, people would ask her if they could visit the property on their anniversaries.

But after the 2006 fire and Richard's death in 2011, Sue Fischer decided to sell the property.

“It's bittersweet, but it's fabulous that there's something there,” Fischer said.

Now, the restaurant is managed by a different team: brothers Nick and Rusty Shriver.

The brothers ran Clarke's Landing in Hollywood, Md., for 16 years, but faced with a lease running out this April, they bought the former Lighthouse Inn property in early 2013 and started rebuilding.

The building itself is pretty much the same as it was. Nick Shriver said he kept the same name and footprint of the building to make the permit process easier. It's just the general look of the inside that's different.

There's still a boat bar, but instead of the beloved sailboat from the old restaurant, there's a power boat. A huge fish decoration hangs outside; the dining room has a view of the water; and paintings and photographs that reflect the local culture and scenery hang on the walls.

With Nick running the front of the house and Rusty in the back, the arrangement at the Lighthouse is the same as it was at Clarke's Landing. The menu also is very similar, with some new additions.

Nick Shriver said the Chesapeake chicken wrap — a grilled chicken wrap with crab dip, cheese and bacon — has been selling particularly well.

“I don't consider this a place you have to get dressed up to come to,” he said. “I want people to come off boats to a high-quality meal in a casual restaurant.”

It's the ingredients that set the Lighthouse Restaurant & Dock Bar apart, Nick Shriver said. The menu features old favorites, like burgers and crab legs, except the burgers are made with premium meat and the crab legs are high-quality king crab.

“Everyone wants to compare us to the old thing, but it's not the same,” he said.

But the new menu and restaurant have the stamp of approval from the old owner. Fischer said she has been to the Lighthouse Restaurant at least four times since it opened and enjoyed the experience.

“It's far more relaxing to be a customer than an owner,” she said.

Hollie Sikorski knows and likes the changes, too. For two years prior to the 2006 fire, Sikorski worked as a hostess at the Lighthouse Inn, and she now is back at the Lighthouse Restaurant working as a bartender.

She said she remembers driving into work for her 3:30 p.m. shift March 15, 2006, and saw the fire trucks from the 12:35 p.m. fire.

“It was devastating,” Sikorski said.

In the aftermath of the fire, without a job, she went to work for the Shriver brothers at Clarke's Landing for eight years and followed them to their new venture at the Lighthouse Restaurant. A kindergarten teacher by day and bartender by night, Sikorski works three to four shifts each week. It's good to be back, she said, but the Lighthouse Restaurant is different from the Lighthouse Inn.

“This is more laid-back, but it's still in a beautiful location on the harbor,” she said.

The larger building in a more well-trafficked area means more business for the Shriver brothers. The building is about twice the size of the space at Clarke's Landing, where they had about 150 people each day on the weekends. Since opening Feb. 24, the Lighthouse Restaurant has seen about 250 people on any given weekend day.

“I already see it as a success,” Shriver said.

The Calvert County Board of County Commissioners and the Department of Economic Development officially recognized the opening of the restaurant April 1 with a ribbon cutting ceremony.

Commissioner Gerald W. “Jerry” Clark (R) said the opening of the restaurant in 1985 was one of the most important events for the Solomons community; with it being gone for the past eight years, things haven't been quite right.

“I've watched Solomons go from the old days to the new days,” Clark said. “And all good things are worth waiting for.”

sfleischman@somdnews.com