Baltimore Eagle owners seek to keep liquor license in the family, future of the club remains murky

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Photo by Ed Gunts

The recently shuttered Baltimore Eagle, one of the city’s largest LGBTQ-friendly nightclubs, will take a step toward reopening under new management if the city’s liquor board approves an application to transfer the liquor license for the property.

The board has scheduled a hearing for Thursday to consider a request to transfer the license to Baltimore Eagle LLC, a group headed by Lorraine Parrish and Kathleen Church.

The hearing comes four months after the club at 2022 N. Charles St. closed abruptly, following a dispute between the landlord, a group headed by father-and-son businessmen Charles and Ian Parrish, and the managers, 4 Crazy Guys LLC, headed by Charles King and Greg King.

At least one community group, the Charles North Community Association, opposes the proposed transfer. The application is also opposed by John Yelcick, a former investor in the now-defunct 4 Crazy Guys operation.

According to Ronisha Moore, an attorney representing the applicants, Lorraine Parrish is the wife of Ian Parrish and the daughter-in-law of Charles Parrish, and Church is an employee. An application on file with the liquor board states that Lorraine Parrish would own 99 percent of the stock in Baltimore Eagle LLC and Church would own 1 percent.

As part of the transfer of the BD-7 beer, wine and liquor license, the applicants are requesting to continue providing live entertainment and outdoor table service.

Reopened in late 2016 after more than $600,000 worth of renovations, Baltimore Eagle was one of several Eagle bars around the country that catered to the leather community, but it was marketed to others as well. In 2017, leaders of the Gay & Lesbian Community Center moved Baltimore’s annual Pride Festival Block Party from Mount Vernon to Station North, in large part because the Eagle had become a strong anchor for the area.

The dispute between the building’s owners and the business managers became public when the Kings wrote a lengthy message on their website stating that the Parrishes “meddled” and interfered with the way they operated the club, including criticisms of who they featured in ads and what events they promoted. On the last night under 4 Crazy Guys’ operation, managers reportedly allowed employees to take home bottles of liquor from the business, in case they didn’t get a final paycheck.

Lorraine Parrish was on the liquor license before the club closed in July, Moore said. She is also a secured creditor of the operation, according to a sign posted on the building. Charles Parrish, the landlord, signed a notarized statement, on file with the liquor board, saying he agrees to the license transfer. He operates an auction business, Auction Brokers LLC, and his son is president of Investors United, a real estate investment company.

Photo by Ed Gunts.

Lorraine and Ian Parrish and Church did not respond to requests for information about plans for reopening the business. Charles Parrish declined to comment on the application, other than to confirm that he supports the transfer.

Charles North president Alan Mlinarchik said his group does not support the application, after receiving conflicting information about the proposed transfer.

“Two different parties have presented us with information documenting ownership of the liquor license, one being the Parrish family who owns the building and the other being the primary investor in the Eagle, who has a judge’s order awarding him the license and all other assets of the now defunct entity Four Crazy Guys, LLC, who were operating the Eagle.” Mlinarchik wrote in an email message.

He continued: “The board of the CNCA has urged the parties to resolve the question of ownership prior to going to the liquor board requesting a transfer of the license; as such we will oppose any transfer until the ownership issue is resolved.”

Mlinarchik added in a follow-up email message that the community group wants to see the Eagle reopen.

“We are ready and eager to support the reopening of the Eagle ASAP, but, in the interest of fairness to both parties involved in the dispute over ownership, have asked that the Liquor Board or some other appropriate authority rule on the rightful ownership of the license prior to any transfer,” he wrote. “The Eagle is a valuable member of the Charles North community, and we hope to see it reopen soon.”

Moore said she does not know when the club would reopen if the transfer request is granted, but it likely would not happen immediately. Moore also said she could not say how the club might change or whether it would continue to be run as a leather bar under Parrish and Church, but she noted that the prospective license holders plan to trade as Baltimore Eagle, the same name as before. She also said the building doesn’t need any repairs.

Moore declined to comment on the claims made by the investor, Yelcick, or the judge’s order pertaining to the liquor license.

Asked whether the business is for sale, Moore indicated that is a possibility but said the Parrishes are in a better position to answer that. Charles Parrish declined to comment when asked about the possibility of a sale. In August, he posted an ad on LoopNet touting “[c]ash flow possible over $1,000,000 a year” for a would-be buyer. The ad has since been removed.

The Eagle is one of two large LGBTQ-friendly businesses in transition this year in Baltimore, three years after the closure of the famed Hippo nightclub at Charles and Eager streets.

The owner of Grand Central, at 1001 N. Charles St., has put his business up for sale, while also hosting some of the events previously scheduled for the Baltimore Eagle. In addition to its prime location, the building has amenities such as a large dance floor and multiple bars. Don Davis, the owner, could not be reached.

According to patrons, there has been talk that the club is under contract, but there has also been talk that a contract has fallen through. One of the rumored buyers is Phil Han, the owner of Dooby’s on Charles Street, Sugarvale on Madison Street and other businesses. The talk was that Han would continue to operate Grand Central as a club.

Reached by email this week, Han said that “we currently have no involvement with what’s happening at 1001 N. Charles.”

A spokesperson for the liquor board said the agency has not received an application to transfer the liquor license for Grand Central.

The Eagle license transfer hearing is scheduled for 1 p.m. Thursday in the Hyman Pressman Board Room at City Hall, 100 Holliday St.

Ed Gunts

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