The bar that now stands in place of Federal Hill’s former No Way Jose Café wants to be the most down-home country club you’ve ever visited.
“It’s freedom for a few hours,” said Don Messinese, general manager of the newly unveiled One Star Country Club on E. Cross Street. “You can just have a good time. You have that camaraderie feel and that friendship feel.”
It’s the product of a rebranding campaign for No Way Jose, which was officially “retired” last weekend. The bar’s staff and proprietors sent it off ceremoniously, even auctioning off the decades-old watering hole’s bay windows and wooden door sign.
The new establishment features a country club theme that aims for “quality and a very relaxed atmosphere,” according to Messinese. The slogan he offered to capture that essence: “five-star fun with a one-star feel.”
The menu will offer pub fare, such as a diner-style burger and “pressed-style” sandwiches (not paninis, the manager insists). The bar will have six beer taps, including a rotating line for local brewers, as well as “not-so-classy cocktails.” Exhibit A: The Driver, a good-old-fashioned mix of vodka and orange juice that shares a name with the lowest-lofted golf club in the bag.
In a bold twist, One Star Country Club is taking its name to heart by encouraging happy customers to leave one-star – but still positive – reviews on sites like Yelp and Facebook. The most clever one-star reviewer of the month will get a complimentary happy hour.
The goal, Messinese said, is to subvert internet review sites’ increasingly influential role for bars, restaurants and other businesses.
“The whole hospitality business has experienced it – that online platform that people unfortunately use to sway other people’s opinion before someone gives them a chance.”
Oftentimes a sticking point in a negative review is out of an establishment’s control, Messinese noted. As an example, he offered the customer who orders a well-cooked dish that he or she doesn’t even like in the first place, and then decides to write about it online.
“We’re calling out what people are using those platforms for,” Messinese said. “It’s tough when you have to rely on that sometimes.”
Rather than fussing over reviews, he’s aiming for the One Star Country Club to “bring back that customer-bartender-service aspect of the business,” getting patrons to interact face-to-face with the person serving them instead of turning to the internet to help them pick where to go, or to distract them while having a drink.
“We really want people to come and visit us, and really form their own opinion and embrace what we’re doing here,” he said.
One Star Country Club opens tonight at 6 p.m. Its address is 38 E. Cross Street.
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