Planned bar in Old Goucher aims to be an ‘eclectic, mixed-century living room’

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Photo via Google Street View

There’s “a rising tide” of new restaurants, coffee shops and bars that’s happening in North Baltimore’s Old Goucher neighborhood, says Bryan Ranere.

There’s Lane Harlan and Matt Pierce’s Fadensonnen, a beer garden and natural wine and sake spot; Helena del Pesco’s Larder, which shares a courtyard with the business; Sophomore Coffee just next door; the forthcoming gin bar Dutch Courage; and the planned gaming spot-bar combo of No Land Beyond.

In a few months, Ranere plans to add his own nightspot to that mix.

His yet-unnamed bar–he’s “circling around a couple” final choices–at 17 W. 24th St. “will be like being in a chic, eclectic, mixed-century living room,” with a focus on spirits and cocktails and curated beer and wine selections, he says.

His wife, an interior designer, will design the space with modern and traditional touches, and his brother, Anthony, will handle sound design.

The bar doesn’t have enough space for its own kitchen, but Ranere says he hopes to serve food made off-site, including from chefs he’s befriended since relocating here from San Francisco two years ago, as well as food trucks and other local cooks.

Bryan and Anthony have applied for a new Class BD7 liquor license. They’re due to appear before the city’s liquor board this Thursday. At this point, they’re aiming to open by early next year.

Ranere came to Baltimore in 2017 after working in the San Francisco bar and restaurant scene for almost two decades. He helped open and served as bar program manager and culture director at Foreign Cinema, an eatery with a patio-theater space that just celebrated its 20th anniversary in the Mission District. He also helped open a connected bar, Laszlo.

“I always loved the Mission,” he says. “It’s just that now, the rent or cost to purchase property there is just absolutely insane–which you could never have imagined there 20 years ago.”

A Philadelphia native, he grew familiar with Baltimore over the years while visiting his brother, who moved here for college and stayed. More recently, he helped advise Harlan and and Pierce while the couple–friends of Anthony’s–opened up Fadensonnen.

After two decades of working in an increasingly gentrifying and inaccessible market for creatives and entrepreneurs–SF Weekly described his former Mission District environs as “ground zero for gentrification” earlier this year–he sees more opportunity in Baltimore.

“This is a city where you could develop projects and take risks, whether you’re a painter or a filmmaker or trying to do some new business or restaurant or bar or whatever. It’s a high-risk operation and it costs a lot of money, and you want to feel that you’re not going to be crushed under the weight of a sort of ridiculous economy, which is what San Francisco has.”

Ranere says he notices some parallels between Old Goucher and the Mission from when Foreign Cinema first “put a flag in the ground” there in 1999–including a lack of foot traffic. “It was fairly desolate on some blocks at night, and certainly where we were.”

He says his new home neighborhood in North Baltimore has “better bones” to work with than the Mission in terms of existing buildings, and has a central location and more diverse population than what he’s used to back in San Francisco. But it has a similar feeling when it comes to lacking activity at night, he says: “I am in awe of the beautiful buildings and I love these blocks, but there’s a certain eeriness that after 10 p.m., sometimes you’re walking around and it’s sort of desolate.”

Ranere says the influx of new spots to host customers into the night can “create an environment where not only the neighborhood is gonna start coming around… but people are gonna start coming from all parts of the city.”

Asked whether he worries such rapid changes could be part of a similar gentrifying wave, he says he hopes that wouldn’t be the case. “I think it’s important for business owners to reach out and welcome the community that exists there. I live in this neighborhood and it’s the only area I’ve lived in in Baltimore so far, and I really love it. I just really want to make the neighborhood the best it can be.”

“Gentrification is absolutely… a double-edged sword in many ways,” he adds. “You want to improve the quality of everyone’s lives, but you don’t want to distance or isolate people where this is their neighborhood, this is where their family has lived for decades. This is absolutely something that you kind of have to understand if you’re putting, like I said, a flag in the ground. You have to be part of the neighborhood, not claim a neighborhood.”

Ranere says he ultimately wants to introduce a spot that feels accessible, where someone “can feel comfortable in a T-shirt or a tuxedo.”

“I want people to come to my place and feel cool, feel like this is mine in some way. And I want someone who’s completely different from that person to also have that same feeling. If you can establish that, I think you’re onto something.”

Ethan McLeod
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  1. Gentrification isn’t when you fix a place up. It’s when the government raises your taxes because fixed something up. And everyone elses!

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