A Mount Vernon bar that was accused last year of turning the surrounding area into a “pirates’ cove” of illicit activity will get new owners this winter if Baltimore’s liquor board gives its approval.
The longtime owner of The Drinkery at 203-209 W. Read Street, one of the oldest and last remaining gay bars in Mount Vernon, has agreed to sell his business to new owners for $250,000, including a down payment of $1,000, according to a license transfer application on file with the liquor board.
The license is a “BD7” beer, wine and liquor license. The longtime owner is Frederick Allen, who is the president of Park-Read Inc. He is in his upper 80s and lives on the premises. The buyers are Amy Louise Miller of Bel Air and Stanley Freeman of Baltimore, organized as Read-Park Inc.
Miller would have 99 percent ownership and Freeman would have one percent ownership. Attorney Melvin Kodenski, who has represented Allen in the past, is now representing Miller and Freeman.
A fixture in Mount Vernon for more than 40 years, The Drinkery is a gay bar that briefly lost its license last May after community representatives testified at a liquor board hearing that its patrons caused problems for the immediate area by taking drinks outside, fighting, yelling, urinating and masturbating in public and otherwise disturbing the peace around closing time.
Mount Vernon resident Michael Pugh, who owns property on the same block as the bar, told the liquor board that he would see people go in the bar and come out “absolutely smashed.”
“It’s like a pirate’s cove out in the street,” he told the liquor board, based on a tape broadcast by CharmTV. “It’s dangerous.”
After hearing the testimony, the liquor board voted 2 to 1 not to renew the bar’s license to serve alcohol, forcing it to shut down. But the attorney for The Drinkery appealed the decision on the grounds that one of the people who testified against the bar, Jason Curtis, is named on the liquor license of another establishment less than 10 blocks away, the Hotel Indigo, and didn’t tell the liquor board. The board reversed its decision two weeks later and voted 2 to 1 to allow the Drinkery to reopen, with commissioner Dana Moore serving as the swing vote.
The case got attention outside Baltimore because three of the four people who testified against the Drinkery were gay white men, and the Drinkery has a clientele of largely gay black men. The gay white men were widely criticized for “going against their own tribe,” at a time when gay bars already were closing in Mount Vernon.
“The gay men who organized efforts to close the Drinkery created a lot of discord and distrust in the community,” Baltimore resident Brian Gaither told The Washington Blade. “To get their way, they exploited anti-gay prejudice in a way that undermines decades of work by activists in the city. The whole thing is shameful and appalling.”
To add to the racist overtones of the situation, there was testimony that Allen, who is white, wrote a note to an area resident saying he would sell his bar to a ‘black bailbondsman.’ “I hope you like your new neighbor,” the note from Allen reportedly stated.
Area residents say this month that they understand one of the prospective buyers, Miller, is the granddaughter of the current owner. Because she does not live in Baltimore, the liquor board requires another licensee who lives in the city, and Freeman meets that requirement.
The area residents say they understand that the bar will not change significantly under the new owners and will continue to serve the same clientele it does now. That means Baltimore is not losing a gay bar, as it did when the Hippo closed in 2015 and was turned into a CVS.
Miller did not respond to requests for information made by phone and email. Freeman did not provide an accurate phone number on the application to transfer the liquor license and did not provide an email address. Allen and Kodenski could not be reached.
According to the contract of sale on file with the liquor board, Miller and Freeman are buying the business and all of its assets, including the liquor license and the name. There is no indication in the file that they are buying the real estate, a three-story building on a prominent corner of Mount Vernon.
The application contains no information about a lease arrangement between the prospective business owners and the current building owner. There was also no information about what steps the new owners might take to address the community’s concerns about preventing illicit activity outside the bar. There is a request from Miller and Freeman to provide live entertainment as part of the operation, something it is not currently permitted to offer.
According to a contract of sale dated November 1, 2016, Allen agreed to sell the business for $250,000, payable at 5 percent per year for 15 years. The buyers have made a down payment of $1,000.
The application will be considered during a hearing that begins at 11 a.m. on January 19 at City Hal, 100 N. Holliday Street.
Jay’s liquor license being transferred to LeMondo on Howard Street
A second liquor license from West Read Street will be transferred to a new enterprise on Howard Street if the liquor board agrees.
The liquor license was held by Jay’s, a piano bar at 225 West Read Street that is now closed. Two applicants, Evan Moritz and Richard Royer of the World Theatre Company LLC, are seeking to transfer that license to 404-406 North Howard Street, the old Uniform City property, where a cultural hub called LeMondo is taking shape. Like Miller and Freeman, Moritz and Royer are asking the liquor board for permission to provide live entertainment.
The application will be considered during a hearing that begins at 11 a.m. on January 19 at City Hall.
Developers selected for parcel at Pratt and Light streets
The Baltimore Development Corp. and the City of Baltimore have selected a potential developer for a city-owned parcel at the northwest corner of Pratt and Light streets, near the base of the Transamerica Tower at 100 Light Street.
A joint venture of Corporate Office Properties Trust and Metropolitan Partnership was one of three groups that submitted a proposal to build commercial space at 10 East Pratt Street. The group proposed a two story, 23,000 square foot development with 14,650 square feet of retail space at the ground floor level and an 8,940 square foot rooftop restaurant with a 1,700 square foot rooftop terrace and 3,960 square foot rooftop plaza. Construction would begin this year.
According to BDC spokesperson Susan Yum, the city has agreed to give the COPT-Metropolitan team an Exclusive Negotiating Privilege to work out the details of the development. As part of the negotiations, the team is presenting its plans later this week to Baltimore’s Urban Design and Architectural Review Panel.
“Life drawing with a twist” at the Wind Up Space on North Avenue
Life drawing will meet Burlesque tonight when the Wind Up Space at 12 West North Avenue hosts Dr. Sketchy’s Anti-Art School: Baltimore with KiKi Allure as the model. It’s the first life drawing session of the new year for Dr. Sketchy’s. Doors open at 6 p.m. and drawing begins at 7 p.m. The price is $12 at the door. Participants need to be at least 18 to draw and at least 21 to drink alcohol.
A look back at Liam Flynn’s Ale House
After Liam Flynn’s Ale House closed last week on North Avenue, the owners posted on Facebook a video showing photos of many of the people who patronized the pub over the past five and half years. It goes a long way to showing what a pioneer it was on North Avenue and how much impact it had on the Station North arts district.