Photo by Ed Gunts.

The former home of The Elephant restaurant is expected to change owners this week, clearing the way for The Manor, a restaurant and ultra-lounge, to open in the building next month.

The Elephant closed in June and its N. Charles Street home was listed for sale for $1.2 million by MacKenzie Commercial Real Estate.

The Manor will be owned by Joshua Persing and Robert Gay, who opened a nightspot called G.A.Y. Lounge at 518 N. Charles St., in April 2017, but closed it within six months after a dispute with the building’s owner.

Persing said he and Gay have negotiated a five-year lease to rent the four-story Elephant building at 924 N. Charles St., once the building is sold. He identified the buyers as Kevin Standard and Jeremy Lansdowne and said The Manor will be the sole tenant.

“Settlement is happening this week,” he said Monday. “We anticipate that it’s taking place this Thursday or Friday, and our lease starts once settlement takes place.”

The Manor is one of several new and relocated businesses planning to open along the N. Charles Street corridor in early 2020. Others include a new Asian restaurant inside the former Sascha’s Café space at 527 N. Charles St., and a relocated Eddie’s of Mount Vernon grocery store at The Belvedere condominiums, at N. Charles and E. Chase streets.

Persing said The Manor will be different from his last venture and will take advantage of the building’s history and grandeur. He said the business is named The Manor because 924 N. Charles St., started out as a “manor house” in the 1800s.

“This is going to be much more restaurant-oriented than our last space,” he said, “We will be a full-service restaurant, serving lunch and dinner, and then we’ll turn into a lounge during the evening.”

Persing said he and Gay have been looking for another location in Mount Vernon to open a business and were impressed by the restoration carried out by restaurateurs Steve and Linda Rivelis.

Their restaurant opened in 2016 after an extensive upgrade of the 10,000-square-foot building, restoring the former mansion’s high ceilings, crystal chandeliers and marble fireplaces. The eatery took its name from a previous restaurant that had been there for years, The Brass Elephant.

While The Elephant was popular, it closed in part because the owners weren’t able to refinance the property to repay initial investors.

“He did a wonderful job with the space,” Persing said of Steve Rivelis. “Rob and I love that history that’s within the building. We actually took the last two years to find the perfect spot and when this became available, it was simply a stroke of luck.”

Persing’s team plans to make some changes to accommodate its concept but for the most part don’t intend to alter the interior, he said.

“We will be keeping most if not all of the design modifications that [Steve] and Linda made in their restoration, because we simply adore it,” he said. “We will be doing some of our own touches, our own concepts, but it’s not going to be anything that will harm the integrity of anything they did.”

According to their plans, the first two floors will contain the restaurant, bar and ultra-lounge, while the third level will house The Manor’s offices and the fourth floor will be unoccupied, at least to start. The ultra-lounge will have touches such as low-level lighting, candles and fresh-cut flowers, Persing said.

Persing said he and Gay are aiming to open The Manor by the end of January, assuming they can get all their licenses and permits in time. They’ve applied for a new seven-day restaurant liquor license, rather than requesting to transfer an existing license, but don’t have a date for a public hearing. That will be one of the last steps in the approval process.

Persing declined to disclose how much he and Gay are investing, except to say that they will meet the requirements of the city’s liquor board. He said the business will employ 30 to 35 people and have a capacity of 149 people.

The Manor will be open seven days a week and will serve Modern American cuisine–“not fine dining by any means but upscale-casual, if you will,” Persing said. Part of the plan is to have drag brunches on weekends, a popular feature at G.A.Y. Lounge. A chef will be announced soon, along with other details, he said.

While G.A.Y. Lounge catered to a LGBTQ clientele, Persing said The Manor will have a broader reach.

“We are not going to be gay-centric, but we are going to be gay friendly,” he said. “We’re trying to give a home to those people who enjoyed our last bar and restaurant in Mount Vernon as well as provide a home to everyone in the community.”

The January opening date for The Manor means that it will be making its debut just as one of Baltimore’s largest LGBT-friendly clubs, Grand Central at 1001-1003 N. Charles St., is preparing to close.

A development group, Landmark Partners, acquired the Grand Central property in February and announced plans to construct an eight-story office building there.

Landmark’s principals said they would keep Grand Central open only until they’re ready to start construction. They originally indicated it might close this fall but more recently have said it likely will close early next year. It draws a diverse crowd, and on weekends it is packed.

According to Marc Hayes, the general manager of Grand Central, the club will be open for New Year’s Eve and into 2020. A permanent closing date has not been announced, he said.

Ed Gunts is a local freelance writer and the former architecture critic for The Baltimore Sun.

2 replies on “The Elephant building expected to change owners this week”

  1. It seems to me with all those improvements the Elephant owners should have been able to refinance. Then, these new owners aren’t buying their liquor license, but asking for another liquor license in the City. All seems unnatural.

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