Grand Central, Baltimore’s largest LGBTQ-friendly nightclub and a fixture on Charles Street for the past 15 years, will change hands early in 2019, current owner Don Davis said.
Davis disclosed over the weekend that he has reached an agreement to transfer the business and real estate at 1001-1003 N. Charles St., to new owners by Feb. 28. He did not share a purchase price or identify the buyers.
In a message on Facebook, Davis said he has brought in a management team that will work for him until Feb. 28, after which they’ll begin working with the new operators.
Davis, who has been in poor health, said he plans to leave Baltimore on Dec. 22 and retire in Texas, where he has a home and will receive medical care.
“It was a really hard decision but it’s time to pass the torch so I can take care of my health,” he wrote.
In a follow-up email, Davis said he could not disclose names of the new owners until the settlement takes place in February. Asked if Grand Central will continue to be a gay-friendly nightclub, he said “it will remain the same for at least a year or more.”
The sale is notable because Grand Central occupies a prominent corner in the Mount Vernon historic district, and has long been a gathering spot for members of the LGBTQ community and others in central Maryland.
The transfer is contingent on approval from Baltimore’s liquor board and other factors. If it proceeds, this would be the second time in three years that a gay-friendly nightclub in Baltimore’s Mount Vernon area has changed hands.
In 2015, the Hippo nightclub at 1 W. Eager St., was closed to make way for a CVS after owner Chuck Bowers retired. Its liquor license was transferred to the Baltimore Eagle, which closed in July following a dispute between the landlord and its managers, leaving Grand Central as the largest gay-friendly club in Baltimore. Patrons have long joked that they fear it will follow the Hippo and wind up a Walgreen’s or Starbucks.
Davis has indicated for months that he was contemplating a sale, and said in late 2016 that the asking price was $2.6 million. The property has nearly 15,000 square feet of space on Charles Street and could be sold as a turnkey operation, he said, with all furnishings and fixtures included.
Grand Central began in 1991 as Central Station Pub, which occupied the corner building at 1001 N. Charles St., across Eager Street from the Maryland Club. In 2003, Davis purchased the adjacent Stagecoach nightclub at 1003 N. Charles St., combined the two properties and renamed them Grand Central. Featuring multiple bars, a large dance floor and karaoke, it became an anchor for Baltimore’s gayborhood, serving as a backdrop for the annual Baltimore Pride Block Party and other events.
Davis has described Grand Central as an “alternative” club, drawing a primarily gay crowd but welcoming anyone. Its website calls it the “the distinguished alternative.” He has noted that gay people socialize in different ways today than they did when he opened Central Station.
“So many are now meeting people on the internet and so many are now feeling comfortable hanging out with their straight friends in pubs/restaurants,” he wrote two years ago.
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