A sign reading “Store Closed” sits in the drive-through lane of the Bel-Loc Starbucks. Photo by Ed Gunts
A sign reading “Store Closed” sits in the drive-through lane of the Bel-Loc Starbucks. Photo by Ed Gunts

Was it all for naught?

In Baltimore County, one of the most controversial architectural losses in recent years was the demolition of the Bel-Loc Diner at Loch Raven Boulevard and East Joppa Road to make way for a branch of Starbucks.

This month, Starbucks has closed its Joppa Road location, at least temporarily.

Known for its metal-clad exterior, vintage interior and large neon signs, the building dated from 1964 and was a classic example of mid-century American diners, but it didn’t have any sort of landmark designation or protection.

Leaders of Preservation Maryland and others urged Starbucks to preserve the shell of the diner to house its coffee shop, since the two businesses weren’t that dissimilar. But company representatives said they needed to construct a new building, in part because asbestos in the diner made it impossible to save.

The diner closed permanently on March 26, 2017, ending 53 years of operation at 1700 East Joppa Road. The “Bel-Loc” Starbucks opened in June of 2018.

In a posting on Facebook yesterday, Baltimore County Councilman David Marks called the decision to close the Starbucks “a massive step back” in efforts to revitalize the area around Joppa Road and Loch Raven Boulevard.

Starbucks “has not announced a permanent closure,” Marks said. “They are, however, temporarily shuttered – based on our conversations – partly due to recent crime in the immediate area.”

Since 2019, Marks said, he has been working with business owners and community leaders to spark revitalization of properties around the “long-troubled intersection” of Joppa Road and Loch Raven Boulevard. He pointed to an investment group’s plan to convert the former 1st Mariner Bank building at that intersection to an urgent care center for children as a “big step forward.”

A woman looks through the window of the Bel-Loc Starbucks, which has temporarily closed. Baltimore County Councilman David Marks said Starbucks has not announced a permanent closure, but that the temporary shuttering of the store is partly due to recent crime in the area. Photo by Ed Gunts.

On social media, commenters said they don’t believe Starbucks should be blamed for closing because its business brought people and activity to the area. They also said the owner of the Bel-Loc Diner shouldn’t be chastised for selling to Starbucks, because he wanted to retire.

Many of the commenters said much of the blame lies with several nearby motels and inns that have been cited as centers for drug dealing, prostitution and other criminal activity. Police records include reports of a man killed at the Comfort Inn hotel on Loch Raven Boulevard and a woman firing a gun in the Towson Days Inn, both in 2019.

A common reaction was surprise at the turn of events.

“For this we lost the Bel-Loc Diner?” one commenter asked.

“It was a bad decision from the start,” said another.

“Starbucks created a traffic nightmare at that intersection,” said a third.

The original Bel-Loc Diner sign was salvaged and is currently on display at Second Chance, a second hand store at 1700 Ridgely Street in Baltimore.

Marks said in his message that he has met with nearby property owners and talked with the county’s police chief and that Jordan Levine, co-chair of his revitalization task force for the area, has had “many conversations” with Starbucks representatives over the past week.

“Make no mistake – we are exploring all options to force property owners to improve security on their premises,” Marks wrote. “I’ve constantly talked about the need for more police, but the responsibility for security also rests with property owners where there have been repeated problems over many years.”

A representative for Starbucks responded to a request for information by saying she could not speak on the record about the Loch Raven location. She noted that there are other Starbucks branches that are relatively nearby and remain open.

A message on the door to the Loch Raven store indicates that Starbucks plans to reopen the location, but does not give reasons for the closing or a potential date for reopening. The interior, seen through the front windows, still has tables, chairs and other fixtures in place and does not appear to be under construction.

“Please accept our apologies for any inconvenience,” the message on the door states. “We are working to re-open our store as quickly as possible. To find nearby Starbucks stores, please download the Starbucks app or visit Starbucks.com to find our store locator. Thank you.”

Marks didn’t give any time frame in his message for when Starbucks might reopen, but he said he thought it didn’t have to shut down at all.
“The temporary closure of Starbucks,” he said, “was completely avoidable.”

Editor’s note: This article has been updated to include the response from a Starbucks representative and the message that was posted on the door of the store.

Avatar photo

Ed Gunts

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

One reply on “Three years after replacing the popular Bel-Loc Diner, Starbucks is ‘temporarily shuttered’”

Comments are closed.