Fifteen months after Grand Central nightclub closed permanently at Charles and Eager streets in Baltimore’s Mount Vernon neighborhood, a new LGBTQ-friendly nightclub called Central Bar Mount Vernon has opened several blocks away.
The developers who bought the old Grand Central property and closed the nightclub there so they can create a mixed-use office and restaurant complex in its place, a group called Landmark Partners, originally said they were aiming to complete construction by the end of 2021. They now say they’re behind schedule and have asked the city’s liquor board for extra time to open a new restaurant at that location.
A third Mount Vernon location that was at one point targeted to be a replacement for Grand Central, the former lesbian-oriented bar on Centre Street known as Flavor, will go up for auction on Dec. 3 at 10 a.m. in a sale by Atlantic Auctions on the steps of the Clarence M. Mitchell Jr. Courthouse, 100 N. Calvert St.
Here is an update on all three:
Central Bar Mount Vernon
Central Bar Mount Vernon had a “soft opening” on Friday, Nov. 12, at 885 N. Howard St., making it the latest addition to Baltimore’s Antique Row.
Owners Marc Hayes and Ivan Yordanov put a notice on Facebook around 6 p.m. on Friday saying that the bar would open around 8 p.m., with a limited alcohol selection, and it filled up right away. Over the course of the night, at least 75 people stopped in. Central had another crowd on Saturday – a sign that people are eager to check the place out.
Central is in the spot previously occupied by Bentley’s, a jazz bar and lounge. It’s actually three buildings in a row that are connected on the inside, 885 to 889 N. Howard St. Features include a long main bar, a dining area, a large commercial kitchen and second-floor dance and lounge areas with another bar and a mezzanine reminiscent of the one at Girard’s. The southernmost building is set up as a carryout.
Central markets itself as an LGBTQ+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and others)-affirming dance and night club that welcomes everyone. With 6,200 square foot of space over the three buildings, and Grand Central gone, it’s now one of the largest LGBTQ+ clubs in the city.
Hayes, who was the general manager of Grand Central, said he and Yordanov are using the first week or so to get alcohol and other items delivered and make sure everything is in good working order. They’re planning a “big opening” for the day after Thanksgiving, Nov. 26.
“We’re going to close for Thanksgiving to give everybody a chance to rest up and then get it on after that,” Hayes said.
Although Central didn’t have a cover charge the first weekend, Hayes said it will eventually have one on weekends. He said he also plans to have drag shows and other live entertainment.
Hayes and Yordanov had to obtain a new liquor license for the Howard Street location because Landmark Partners held onto Grand Central’s license when it bought the business and property at 1001-1003 North Charles St. from former owner Don Davis in 2019.
Grand Central license holders Jon Pannoni and George Watson said they wanted to use Grand Central’s liquor license for a new restaurant they hope to bring to the base of City House Charles, the eight-story office building Landmark is constructing in place of Grand Central.
Pannoni and Watson closed Grand Central in September 2020 after the city’s liquor board cited them for violating the city’s COVID-19 restrictions by serving people indoors when that wasn’t allowed. They paid a fine but retained the license.
Baltimore liquor board rules require license holders to keep a licensed establishment active or lose their license. The Charles Street location hasn’t served alcohol since Pannoni and Watson voluntarily closed Grand Central more than a year ago.
This fall, Pannoni appeared before the liquor board to ask for a 180-day “hardship extension” of a Class BD7 beer, wine and liquor license to give his team more time to open a new restaurant as part of City House Charles.
Pannoni didn’t speak but his attorney, former liquor board chairman Stephan Fogleman, told the board that construction is behind schedule because of the COVID-19 pandemic and supply chain issues related to that.
“The licensee suffered materials delays due to supply chain issues on items like lumber, exterior framing materials, and they’re now working with possible tenants and trying to get a lease together. So I’ve asked for an extension for 180 days,” which would keep the license active until June 2022, Fogleman said. After hearing their request, the liquor board members voted to grant the requested 180-day hardship extension.
During the liquor board meeting, Pannoni and Fogleman did not address another recent development at the City House construction site. In a presentation to the city’s Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation, commissioners were told that excavation of the Grand Central property undermined the foundation of the adjacent building at 4 East Eager St., making that historic building so unsafe that it has to be taken down. That work is currently underway.
Before Hayes and Yordanov obtained a new liquor license for Howard Street, Hayes and Pannoni applied jointly to transfer the license from Flavor, the shuttered lesbian bar at 15 East Centre St., so Grand Central could use it and move there.
Before Flavor moved in, the four-story Centre Street building housed Midtown BBQ & Brew and the Midtown Yacht Club. As presented to the liquor board, Landmark Partners would have had a financial interest in the relocated Grand Central operation on Centre Street, but it never materialized and Hayes pursued the Howard Street location instead without Landmark.
The Dec. 3 auction for the Centre Street property includes the real estate only, not furnishings, fixtures or a liquor license.