Signaling the further death-knell of working class enclaves in South Baltimore, Bill’s Lighthouse Inn (1741 Light Street, Riverside), the storied and longstanding neighborhood bar has been sold to a group known as Velocity Cafe. Bill’s went up for auction in December, but owner Adele Wedemeyer rejected the $475,000 bid for the sizable property, opting to go the Craigslist route and hope for more money.
And it would seem the tactic paid off, with the new owners soon taking over the bar/restaurant, liquor license, furnishings and application for outdoor seating – plus that cute little lighthouse on the awning.
According to the internet, Cafe Velocity was a neighborhood coffee shop in Santa Monica that closed recently, a far cry in premise and execution from a restaurant known primarily for its crab cakes and neighborhood retirees unironically drinking canned PBR, but there’s no word as of yet whether the new owners will change anything other than the decor. The interior of Bill’s could use some updating, as it’s your quintessential Old Baltimore neighborhood establishment – drop ceiling, wood paneling with tiled floors and mirrors all over the place – but aside from that the operation runs a very successful carryout business and has a fiercely loyal customer base, so a complete overhaul would more than likely be a loss for the community. (but that’s just my opinion)
In an area of Baltimore where working class roots are slowly but surely being pushed to the margin and gentrified out of existence, it’s sad to see a place like Bill’s go. Any joint that has impromptu 50/50 raffles, video poker machines (which were very recently confiscated in a heavily armed raid by law enforcement), $2 drafts and overstuffed soft crab sandwiches for less than 10 bucks is a welcome bit of awesomeness, the kind of thing that makes Baltimore great. Whether or not new ownership can embrace and capitalize on that awesomeness, well, let’s hope so. In the meantime, stop by Bill’s while you can and enjoy some Keno and a basket of fried shrimp. You’ll be glad you did.
*…and if the new owners didn’t do their homework with regard to that part of the neighborhood, they’re in for a rude awakening
BIG OL’ UPDATE: As it turns out, the new owners of Bill’s are none other than two folks that go by Marla Streb and Mark Fitzgerald. Interestingly, Marla Streb is an accomplished mountain biking champion with an MS in Molecular Biology, who hails from and lives in (presumably) Baltimore, so that’s a plus. I’ll try to get a hold of her and ask her about her plans for Bill’s.