After 25 years as a fixture in Mount Vernon, City Cafe has closed permanently.
Owners Gino Cardinale and Bruce Bodie posted on social media today saying the business, currently closed because of the coronavirus pandemic, isn’t coming back.
“This isn’t the ending we hoped for,” they wrote.
“Sadly, we notified our employees and landlord today that City Cafe will not be reopening when the shutdown ends. It breaks our hearts to say farewell, but since there is so much sadness in the world already, let’s focus on the remarkable success this once little coffee shop (founded September 1994) became. For that, we THANK YOU Baltimore and especially Mount Vernon.”
The restaurant and bar at 1001 Cathedral St., had been a mainstay in Mount Vernon even as other establishments such as the Hippo nightclub and Elephant restaurant shut down, and Grand Central announced plans to move. Gay-owned but straight-friendly, it occupied the same spot as the old Girard’s disco, a late 1970s-era club modeled after New York’s Studio 54.
The business has been closed since mid-March, when Gov. Larry Hogan prohibited dine-in service at all Maryland restaurants as a way of preventing the spread of COVID-19. It hasn’t been offering meals to go the way many restaurants have.
For the past week, the internet has been buzzing with speculation about the fate of the business, after the City Cafe page on Facebook disappeared.
This afternoon, the Facebook page was back with tributes about how much City Cafe meant to the community as a dining spot, a place to socialize, a destination where people from all over the city felt comfortable.
Cardinale and Bodie have been strong boosters of the Mount Vernon area and the Mount Vernon Belvedere Association. Cardinale was a champion of the neighborhood even though his half-brother was killed during a robbery in the alley behind City Cafe as he walked to the bank on N. Charles Street.
In 2016, the owners bought a second restaurant, Tark’s Grill and Bar at Green Spring Station in Baltimore County. Unlike City Cafe, Tark’s has been offering takeaway service during the pandemic, including recent chef’s specials for Mother’s Day
Cardinale declined to comment when asked for more information about the status of Tark’s or the decision to close City Cafe.
As recently as February, before the first American died of COVID-19, he spoke optimistically about future prospects for the business, which had recently thrown a 25th anniversary bash.
Asked about a proposal to reduce the height of a 10-story apartment slated to be built across W. Eager Street from City Cafe, he said Bodie would be happy because the shadows cast by the new building wouldn’t be as long.
Now, it looks like City Cafe won’t be around when the new building is complete.