We’ve seen a recent trend of business owners closing their Baltimore restaurants while blaming the city’s image for their troubles. But Clyde’s Restaurant Group is betting big that people will show up in force.

The Washington, D.C., company owned by the Graham family — yes, that Graham family — has taken over South Baltimore’s Rye Street Tavern, which opens July 15. Able to serve about 1,200 covers a night with seating for almost 500 in the combined indoor and outdoor spaces, it just may be the largest restaurant in the city. I couldn’t think of a larger one, and neither could the president of the Restaurant Association of Maryland.

Is that a gamble? Bart Farrell, vice president of development for Clyde’s, doesn’t think so.

“This area is growing,” Farrell said, referring to the surrounding development of Baltimore Peninsula, formerly called Port Covington, which will soon include a Slutty Vegan and Bar Vegan, a Ben & Jerry’s and BK Lobster, all set to open later this year. A new coffee shop, Little Wing, just opened across the street.

And there’s certainly demand for waterfront dining. Farrell pointed to nearby Nick’s Fish House, just up the street from Rye Street Tavern: “They’re always packed.”

Farrell said Under Armour founder Kevin Plank, the brains behind the larger Baltimore Peninsula project, had some clear thoughts about what he wanted from the revamped restaurant. He has even lent his fragments of the original Star-Spangled Banner flown at Fort McHenry in 1812 to be put on display upstairs.

Yes, that artifact was on display at the previous incarnation of the Rye Street Tavern, but don’t be fooled. The two restaurants couldn’t be more different.

While the former Rye Street Tavern, a 70-seat eatery managed by celebrity chef Andrew Carmellini, felt members-only exclusive, the new iteration is meant to welcome everyone. Even the artwork on the walls — I spotted some impressionistic dogs and vintage Baltimore oyster cans — channels warm accessibility, as opposed to the sleek, leather and metal-heavy interior designed by Patrick Sutton.

Farrell, who started with Clyde’s in 1984, talks about the previous layout of the kitchen and bar with the bafflement of a new homeowner discovering that the previous resident installed a swimming pool in the bedroom. When Clyde’s took over, staff transformed both areas to make them run more smoothly. An unsightly — but functional — addition was put on the side of the building to allow for extra storage. The electrical panel was upgraded.

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Bobby Jones, left, and Bart Farrell of Clyde’s Restaurant Group prepare the Rye Street Tavern for reopening. (Christina Tkacik)

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Outside, there’s a brand new patio bar where customers can watch kayakers paddle and sip Sagamore rye from the distillery next door. The eatery will be open for lunch and dinner daily, plus brunch on weekends. You can order takeout and delivery, too. Are kids welcome? “We love kids,” Farrell said. “They bring their parents.”

Days ahead of opening, with cooks reviewing recipes on tablets in the kitchen and servers folding cutlery into napkins in the dining room, the restaurant already seemed more open and inviting than I remembered.

Want a boozy milkshake? You got it. Crab cakes? Check. Chef Stephen Lyons, vice president of culinary operations for Clyde’s, said he and his team spent years perfecting the recipe. He’s confident his version will please the pickiest of Baltimore diners.

And talk about oysters: Staff will shuck them to order at a big downstairs oyster bar overlooking the water; they’re half-price during happy hour, too. (Just no raw Maryland oysters; Farrell says while Clyde’s uses local bivalves in cooked dishes, they don’t serve them raw for food safety reasons.)

Like Farrell, purchasing chef Bobby Jones has spent more than 40 years with Clyde’s. For the last 20, he’s worked at Old Ebbitt Grill, a Clyde’s-owned restaurant next to the White House that consistently ranks among the highest-grossing eateries in the nation.

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There’s only one thing that could have made him leave, Jones said, and that was if Clyde’s opened a spot in his hometown, Baltimore. When Clyde’s decided to launch in Charm City, he was one of the first staffers to get called up. He thinks Rye Street Tavern, with the restaurant group’s focus on simplicity and consistency, will make it a natural fit for the area. “We just make good food,” he said.

And then you have the biggest star of all: the view.

As I approached the entrance of the restaurant, I caught myself staring in awe at the massive ship docked just a few hundred feet away. I forget, sometimes, that Baltimore is a port city.

The Rye Street Tavern is ready to remind me and everyone else of that fact, and to get us all fed, too — 1,200 of us a night.