LANGLEY — Maureen Cooke is reaching back to the old country to put a new patina on her business life.
The longtime downtown Langley shopkeeper and food purveyor is about to turn her hard-pressed Langley hamburger joint into a traditional English pub.
“It’s not a tavern and it’s not a bar. It’s a pub,” Cooke said Monday. “There’s a difference.”
She sees the transformation of Maurlee’s Take-Out and Catering into Mo’s Pub and Eatery as a concept waiting to happen, given the city’s dwindling number of watering holes and the ever-increasing population of transplanted Brits.
“I’m really looking forward to filling a niche,” Cooke said. “People like to go to bars. But this won’t be bar — it’s a pub.”
She said Maurlee’s will close at the end of this month for remodeling. A fireplace is planned, along with dark paneling to go along with the existing exposed beams, and some traditional English furnishings.
“The whole building will be completely transformed,” she said.
Cooke plans to reopen as Mo’s in April, specializing in single-malt scotches and English beers and ales, along with an assortment of wines.
She said she’ll keep much of her current menu, but will add some traditional English concoctions such as bangers and mash (sausages and mashed potatoes), shepherd’s pie and steak-and-kidney pie. She’ll also have an extensive bar menu.
Cooke said the bar area will be separate from the family dining area, and there will be outside dining as well.
“In England, a pub is a gathering place,” she said. “That’s the kind of atmosphere we’re trying to create.”
Cooke and her late husband, Ray, moved to Clinton in 1989. He was a native of Great Britain, and together they set up a bed-and-breakfast called Twickenham House Inn at the intersection of Langley and Maxwelton roads just outside Langley.
The Cookes later sold the business, and it became first Ashingdon Manor, and later the Northwest Language Academy.
Cooke’s current business has had a number of transformations since she bought the building on Second Street just west of Anthes Avenue in 1997.
She started with a kitchen shop, where she also offered cooking classes. She later added a popular British section, carrying hard-to-find merchandise missed by transplanted locals.
In 2001, Cooke added a seafood section and renamed the business the Fish Bowl, then turned the operation into a full-fledged restaurant a year later.
“It was very successful,” Cooke said. “Then in 2008, the price of fish went up, and the economy went sour.”
She said she was forced to close later that year, and she put the building up for lease, but was unable to find a tenant.
Then Cooke’s daughter took her to a small Seattle place called Red Mill Burgers.
“There were people lined up all the way out the door,” Cooke said. “I said, ‘Let’s try that.’”
Maurlee’s opened early this past year, but never seemed to get off the ground, Cooke said.
“I saw the handwriting on the wall,” she said. “You can’t make money on just hamburgers — not here anyway. We don’t have enough demographic.”
But Cooke thinks her latest idea will be the charm. She said that with the closing of the Edgecliff Restaurant and the still-dormant state of the Dog House Tavern, only Prima Bistro offers a place to sit down, have a drink and socialize downtown.
And she figures the new pub will be popular with the hundreds of Britishers who have settled on the island, and will attract more visitors to Langley.
Cooke said she has applied for a full state liquor license for beer, wine and spirits, and expects it to be in place when she reopens in April.
“I have British friends who can’t wait,” she said. “If I build it, they will come.”