The former home of The Windup Space will continue on as place for the arts.
Rituals, a new bar and venue operated by bartender Émile Joseph Weeks, is due to open in the North Avenue space later this summer.
Much like the Windup, Weeks said Rituals will host live music and art exhibits, with an added emphasis on booking artists of color and the LGBTQIA community. That representation is important to Weeks as a black queer man.
“I want it to be very welcoming, I want it to be a place of intersectionality,” said Weeks, who’s tended bar at Ida B’s Table, Pen & Quill and Parts & Labor.
Unlike the Windup, there’s going to be more of a delineation between Rituals’ functions as a venue and a place to get a cocktail. Throughout the work week, the space will primarily be a bar and hangout spot, pivoting to performance and art on the weekends.
To start out, Weeks’ drink menu will focus on the classics, like Manhattans, Old Fashioneds and martinis, and offer a simple-yet-necessary staple: the boilermaker.
While fully appreciating craft cocktail menus that rotate with the seasons, Weeks said it’s important to him start out with the essentials.
“Being able to offer the classics is how you’re able to establish a good rapport with people,” he said. “Everyone has their go-to when they are at a bar.”
Weeks said he will open next weekend for Baltimore Pride, and again during Artscape, to let the community know he’s there. After completing touch-ups to the building and filling up the performance calendar, Rituals should open full-time around September, he said.
The physical space will mostly remain the same. But Weeks said he wants to change the color palette, drawing inspiration from the artistic concept chiaroscuro, developed during the Renaissance, of strong contrasts between light and dark colors (Weeks studied art history in college). So, the back bar and area near the bathrooms will be painted black, while most of the rest of the space will be an off-white hue. It’s a setup that should provide interesting lighting and shadow play for artists.
The name itself speaks to some of the concepts and feelings Weeks is trying to evoke. While rituals can be tied to religion or even mundane everyday tasks, they’re also something that can describe going to a favorite place.
The familiarity and welcoming atmosphere that come after repeat visits to a particular bar, and the connections made there, are elements Weeks is hoping to replicate. For him, he’s thinking about places like Club Charles, the Ottobar and Rocket to Venus, and the staff he’s befriended at those locales along the way.
And it’s also honoring the history of art in Baltimore, particularly the residue left over from the recently closed Windup Space and its long history as a place for music, art, theater and so much more.
“There was an energy about going to a Future Islands show there back in the day, connectivity,” said Weeks. “I believe that those moments stain a space.”
Weeks said he was approached by the owner of the North Avenue Market, Michael Shecter, over a month ago about taking over the location (Shecter did not immediately respond to a request for comment), but he wanted to hold off on making any formal announcement.
“I thought it was necessary to give everyone time to grieve and share their memories of this space,” he said.
Many of the stories posted online, Weeks noted, touched on Windup proprietor Russell De Ocampo’s indispensable role in helping projects along and providing a place for people to experiment and be themselves.
“He’s been very supportive, which is very important to me,” Weeks said.
Now that he’s getting the chance to shape a bar into his own vision, Weeks said he’s equal parts excited and nervous.
“It feels wild,” he said. “But it also feels right.”