In case you haven’t noticed lately, the Ryleigh’s Oyster group has been lobbying pretty hard on Twitter and Facebook in an effort to bring to fruition “Baltimore’s first German Biergarten” in the form of Cross Bar, an open air multihundred seat bar restaurant to occupy addresses 12-18 Cross Street. They lobbied hard, had a petition going, sought all avenues of support for their plan but the time-tested opponent to all things bar Federal Hill Neighborhood Association took umbrage and folded their arms extra hard at the plan. The liquor board hearing for the project was pushed to June 27th and the bomb was dropped by one Steve Fogleman, head of the board:
Crossbar, 12-18 E. Cross Street – transfer and expansion of premises denied after 3.5 hour contested hearing.
— Steve Fogleman (@BaltoBeerBaron) June 27, 2013
With the expansion blocked, Cross Bar is forced to eschew its plan for a restaurant in addition to a bar and stick with simply, a big fat bar encompassing 12-14 Cross Street. Which is exactly what folks have been contesting the whole time. Stepping up to the plate to offer his own two cents on the matter is blogfriend and CTB podcast “network” member Carne Cabeza.
I am writing this in an effort to not come across as one of those grumpy, old men screaming, “GET OFF MY LAWN!” In full disclosure, I am a 30 something who just recently moved out of the Federal Hill area which I called home for over three years.
A new bar has been proposed by the owners of Ryleigh’s on Cross Street, a couple doors down, set to occupy the space formerly Billabong (and Turner’s for that matter). It’s a German style, outdoor type of “restaurant” commonly referred to as a biergarten (literally a beer garden. Well I think, anyway… I don’t really know German), called the Crossbar. It is slated to add 300 potential patrons to an already strained Federal Hill Bar scene (yay).
Here are some of my issues, which the Federal Hill Neighborhood Association will also be bringing up in a public hearing later this afternoon (Thursday):
1) “Over the last decade, even though the number of liquor licenses in the immediate vicinity of the Cross Street market has stayed the same (34), the capacity of these bars has grown from a maximum of 3,751 potential drinkers in 2003, to 5,025 in 2013 – a 34% increase.” (source). As anyone who has ever tried to park past 8PM on a Friday or Saturday knows, this is a terrible idea. Federal Hill does not have the infrastructure in place to accommodate 300 more people. It simply doesn’t.
2) One of the major gripes I have with the FHNA is their history of protesting entertainment licenses. Their major complaint is the thought that these would bring louder noise pollution from to the residents living in the area. Although, I disagree with this point, having an open air “mega bar” would further complicate this issue. Trying to get, in my opinion, more “culture” into the Federal Hill scene would be greatly undermined with the addition of an outdoor drinking venue.
3) The operating group of Ryleigh’s is pushing the beautification of federal Hill, by turning vacant, run-down buildings on Cross Street and renovating them, creating a more pleasant atmosphere. That is a nice theory, and something I would totally be on board with, if it wasn’t for the fact that it hadn’t been property of the Ryleigh’s ownership group since its purchase of Turners and the produce store immediately next to it. You cannot promote the beatification of a neighborhood, if YOU are the reason for its unsightly buildings!
4) I personally believe that the ownership group of Ryleigh’s is bad for the community, even among the federal Hill Hospitality Association (headed by none other than Brian McComas, owner of Ryleigh’s). Without going into the gory details, just check out this article about No Way Jose’s battle to stay alive from a few years ago.
5) Allowing McComas to setup shop in a prime location, rewards him for his past failures. Just look at C&R’s rapid sale from Taverna Corvino, as well as the failed parking lot at the corner of Cross and S. Charles, and Federales to boot. All of these locations were McComas ventures, ideas, whatever you wanted to call them that have failed.
6) If you have learned anything in history class, it’s that anything related to German crosses have not turned out very well for anyone involved!
What are your thoughts on the matter?