News Column

Lamy museum to reopen Legal Tender

May 13, 2014

By Staci Matlock, The Santa Fe New Mexican

May 13--Fans of the historic Legal Tender in Lamy can kick up their boots and yell yeehaw.

The once popular restaurant and saloon in the Lamy Railroad and History Museum building is scheduled to reopen next week, months after a legal battle closed the eatery.

Situated across the street from the Lamy Depot, the Legal Tender will serve mostly Americana-style fare and sandwiches Tuesdays through Saturdays, from noon to 8 p.m. Patrons won't be able to order beer or wine for a few more months until the restaurant gets a license. The kitchen is scheduled for a health inspection Tuesday, and if that goes well, the eatery will reopen May 23, according to museum spokesman Edward Goldgehn.

In more good news for chef Michael Gintert's fans, he'll be cooking the Legal Tender fare. On Monday, he was scrubbing the kitchen in preparation for the health inspection. Gintert gained a following for his food at his former Lamy Station Cafe, built in a converted old train car.

The real mission of the Legal Tender is to "serve up history with every meal," Goldgehn said. The restaurant shares the building with the Lamy Railroad and History Museum, a nonprofit run by a board of directors. The board sees the Legal Tender as a way to infuse cash into the museum and keep the doors open.

"The place has quite a bit of history," Goldgehn said. "Our real goal is to bring that alive for a lot of people."

People can visit the museum alone for $2, or $1 for children 12 or younger. "Buy a meal and you get into the museum for free," Goldgehn said.

The Legal Tender space has been through a variety of owners, names and uses dating back to the late 1800s.

The last private owner, Richard Fisher, donated the building in 2006 to the Lamy Railroad & History Museum organization for use as a museum.

For a couple of years, the Legal Tender drew visitors and locals alike to dine, drink and dance. The restaurant was run by volunteer waitstaff and had lots of local support, but it became a victim of its own success. In May 2013, restaurant operators John and Cindy Jednak clashed with the museum board over expanding space for the restaurant and the rent.

When the Jednaks first announced they would close the restaurant, there was an outcry among loyal patrons. A crowd turned out to support the couple and petition to keep the eatery open. The couple and supporters filed a lawsuit in District Court and kept the restaurant running through the summer. But, the Jednaks said, the cost of the legal battle finally forced them to close Legal Tender for good. The case was later dismissed.

Goldgehn said the reborn Legal Tender will seat about 40 patrons in the bar and poker room. The dance hall will be reserved for special occasions and group rentals. Goldgehn said they're still working on an entertainment schedule.

Reservations are recommended, especially on weekends. Call 466-1650.

Contact Staci Matlock at 986-3055 or Follow her on Twitter @stacimatlock.


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Source: Santa Fe New Mexican, The (NM)

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