Grand Central Commentary Rebuttal Commentary

grand central

Grand Central: The DC Bar, located in New-Detroit

by Ann Marie and Liz

Grand Central experienced some impromptu remodeling on Monday night, when the driver of a stolen car crashed in to its south-side wall. The driver also managed to smash into a truck carrying drums of white paint, splashing it all over the sidewalk and side of the building. Fortunately, no one was injured, but Baltimore did become a little more enlightened about something that the queer community may have already realized: Grand Central is kind of awful.

For those of us who have frequented Grand Central in the past, it’s hard to deny that this is a bar that aims to draw in a certain type of gay crowd. After spending a few weekends exploring the three different areas in this “entertainment complex” – The Pub, the Discotheque, and Sappho’s – you begin to notice a few things:

  • Central’s drinks are overpriced, they charge a cover, and have a coat check. This leads me to believe that, somehow, they must think they’re located in DC.
  • If you’re not a cisgender (staff edit: for those wondering), white gay man, you will probably not get quick service at the bar in either the Pub area or the Discotheque area. Lots of transphobic, racist, and sexist vibes going down here. But the upside is… well… I guess you can hang out with other transphobic, racist, sexist folks?
  • Sappho’s, Central’s answer to the lesbian bar, is tolerable only because it’s the only one of its kind in the gayborhood. Simply the same service and culture as their downstairs counterparts, instead catering to lesbians.
  • Basically, if you’re a well-off, well-dressed cisgender gay man or lesbian, Grand Central wants YOU. If you’re not – well, they’ll take your money.

    After the car crashed into the side of Central, Baltimore Sun interviewed Don Davis, the bar’s owner, who currently resides in Florida (far away from Baltimore, his bar, and its customers). If there were still any doubt where the aforementioned vibe comes from in this club, maybe we should take a look at what he told the Baltimore Sun, post-crash:

    The neighborhood has been going downhill, is now home to parties at other clubs that draw rowdy crowds, and his clientele no longer feel safe, Davis said.
    “People are scared to come out. They can’t find parking and they don’t want to get mugged,” he said.
    After 22 years owning Grand Central, this may be the last straw, he said.
    “We’re going to get it fixed, but I’m not sure what I’m doing after that,” Davis said. “I might sell the place. I’m tired of the whole city.”

    Also, originally published, but removed because “editors thought the line lacked context,” were these two lines:

    Maybe he’ll sell to a KFC, he said.
    I’m tired of the whole city. In a couple years it’s going to be Detroit.

    I don’t think these lines lack context at all. I think that they fit perfectly into the context that Davis is afraid that his neighborhood is “going downhill,” that there are “rowdy crowds” at other clubs, that his clientele don’t “feel safe.” At best, the context is ignorant. At worst, overtly racist. This is the platform that Central has been operating on for years, and many of the reasons why a lot of people of color, queer, and trans* folks are no longer GC patrons.

    You’re right, Mr. Davis. I think it is time to sell the place. I think that an awesome queer club, gay-friendly restaurant, or welcoming bar can open up in its place. A place where a trans* woman won’t be asked to pay a men’s cover charge. A place where different-sex queer couples can hang out without feeling ostracized. A place where queer folks of any race can flirt, dance, and drink a beer together. Believe it or not, Baltimore is ready for that place, even if you aren’t.

    ann marie and lizAnn Marie and Liz are both queer Queers living in the city of Baltimore, forever searching for a gay bar that isn’t awful. You can follow them on Twitter at @annmariebrok and @lizrawr, respectfully.

110 thoughts on “Grand Central Commentary Rebuttal Commentary

  1. Although I agree with your column, you could rethink the tag line under your picture. When you claim that you’re forever searching for a gay bar that isn’t awful, you sound completely negatively biased. Perhaps you two should give up your seemingly hopeless search.

    1. That’s a good point. For what it’s worth, we don’t believe it to be a hopeless search. There are other gay bars/dance parties in the city that are less exclusionary, and offer a better experience to all kinds of queers and allies.

  2. A bar for “everybody” does not sound like a solid business model. People gravitate to their own “lunch table” eventually, but a bar that spends a fortune trying to be the biggest and most lavish bar EVAH! instead of hosting events that lots and lots of different kinds of people want to come to and providing excellent customer service is also not a solid business model. Working in a bar means dealing with hundreds of people in various stages of alcohol induced stupidity. They are a business not a social service agency. If they dont think that you look like you have money to spend and are likely to tip heavily (erroneously perhaps), it is their right (though not their obligation) to serve other people first.

    1. As Ann Marie stated in another comment here, it is actually not that hard to be less exclusionary and still run a successful bar. Leon’s seems to be doing pretty well for itself, while maintaining a welcoming atmosphere. And though Ottobar and the Wind Up Space are not /gay/ bars, they are welcoming of so many different kinds of people. The patrons may be majority cisgendered and straight, but the atmosphere is one that does not encourage the exclusion of people of color, queer, and trans* patrons.

      And personally, I understand completely that it’s their right to operate however they’d like, and do whatever they want to do to make money. This criticism of them isn’t really about that, though. It’s a response to the owner saying that he’s ready to call it quits, and close down. This piece points out the reasons why that wouldn’t be such a bad thing, and gives an idea for what kind of establishment should take its place.

    2. From my experience, Mixer’s is less exlcusionary, as I feel there is always a mix of guys and girls in their, even trans people from time to time. They seem to be thriving, and there are rumors of them expanding, though I can’t comment on the validity of rumors. I don’t think this Utopian LGTQAIG bar exists, but in the right location it could…

      1. Ann Marie and I were actually just discussing going on a little gay bar crawl of Baltimore, starting with Mixer’s. Neither of us have been before, but I’ve heard great things about it. I’m just sad that it’s a bit of a drive from where we live in the city. But I’m excited to check it out!

        1. As someone who now lives in the county, Mixer’s is perfect… 5 minute drive with easy parking… compared with 20 to downtown and the gayborhood with its parking… “magic”. I’ll meet you all there, buy some beers, and plot a takeover of Central.

      2. Liz has actually mentioned Mixers to me (I haven’t been there yet), but I have heard mostly good stuff about it.

        Plus, there’s THIS comment on their G+ page, which makes me REALLY want to go there: “One of the worst gay bars ive ever been to dirty ghetto no respect grandcentral 10 times better then mixers!!!”

        1. Mixers Bar is incredibly open and inviting to anyone and everyone!! I have been going there since it opened, and I will continue to frequent that bar as long as they open their doors. They have drink specials different times of the week, karaoke, open dance floor every night (with live DJs a couple nights a week), and a monthly drag show. Something for everybody. If you haven’t been there yet, you should REALLY check them out!!!

    3. As a regular Friday night patron, if you are well-known to the staff, and you tip well, you get good service. That’s hardly unique to Central: it’s true everywhere.

  3. This sounds more of a complaint that Grand Central isn’t a lesbian bar than anything else. The whole Baltimore gay community is under served. Most of us go to DC or just wait for events to come here. The whole gayborhood needs a revamp – not just GC.

    1. I actually am not big on the lesbian bar model (considering that I am in a different-sex relationship and sometimes my partner is not allowed in, or has to pay a heavy cover charge). Honestly, my favorite “queer” bar in Baltimore is Ottobar, because it is more of a “come as you are” bar, and I like that. I also have started liking Leon’s, even though it is traditionally a “male” gay bar, but they are very welcoming and the crowd there is super-diverse (race, age, gender identity, sexual orientation, etc.). I totally agree with you though; Baltimore’s entire gayborhood needs a renaissance.

  4. I would definitely agree in that the Central crowd is very homogeneous and unwelcoming. I am a queer man of color, and the few times that I’ve walked in there, I feel immediately judged and ostracized. It is definitely not my kind of bar.

    I prefer the Metro Gallery and Ottobar; both places have abundant queer people and seem very welcoming– no matter your sexuality, gender or race.

    1. I am really glad to hear your perspective as a person of color. Liz & I have both definitely had our own experiences at Central, and have perceived a racial divide there, but to have someone that has experienced it first-hand is really helpful. I am really sorry that you have had to feel judged and ostracized; no one should have to feel like that in any place.

      I agree with you on Ottobar & Metro Gallery. Both are great and very welcoming!

  5. I don’t understand your view on the cover charge. Are you saying men should be the only people to pay a cover, and that lesbian and trans folk should not?

    1. Personally, I would like to see gender-dependent covers abolished at all gay bars. If you’re going to have a cover, it should be for all people, regardless of their gender/perceived gender.

        1. Central charges men – cis and trans* – to get into Sappho’s on specific nights. The reasoning behind them doing that is to ensure that it is mostly women in the bar. One of the authors has witnessed a trans* woman being asked to pay once, and that is just inappropriate and ignorant.

          1. I only go out on Friday, or sometimes Saturday, but I haven’t noticed Sappho’s charging cover for at least two years.

        2. Ah, ok. No, everyone is charged a cover to enter the “Discotheque” area. Men are charged a cover when they attempt to go upstairs to Sappho’s, the designated lesbian area.

          1. Sapphos normally never has a cover. If you could possibly give a date where sapphos charges only men to get into it please let me know?

          2. Can’t really say that I have “Grand Central” penciled in to my calendar any time that I’ve gone, so I can’t give you a specific date. I can maybe take a look at my Foursquare and see if there’s any info there I could give you. I just know that on weekends that we’ve gone there, the men that have accompanied us have had to pay a cover to the person standing guard at the entrance to the upstairs.

          3. Yeah its not like that anymore haha. Also I think there might have been some confusion with a transgender paying the cover and such. Example a employee could just be an asshole and be rude to someone and not understand the emotional side of being a transgenered person. If that ever happens you have the full right to talk to the manager and the new managers are 19359432759 time more attentive then the last ones ( you can actually find one now) again I think give central a chance a lot of things have changed.

          4. I really appreciate your response to this, Matt. I really am intrigued to see what new management has done with the place to make it a more inclusive space for the community as a whole. Ann Marie and I are thinking of doing a little Baltimore gay bar crawl some time soon, so I guess we’ll have to swing by and see how it measures up to some of the other places. Thanks!

        3. Central charges a flat $6 on Friday and Saturday (except on special event nights when it’s more). That’s only for the Disco part. The video bar and Sappho’s are free. IMO, the cover is reasonable– the Hippo across the street charges the same. Go down to DC and see what Town charges for a reality check. It’s the drink prices, and the dearth of good specials, that annoys me, but that’s true of Baltimore in general.

          1. Yeah we know about the flat $6 fee for the Disco. But, on weekends at least, we’ve definitely had our male friends charged for entrance to Sappho’s. I don’t recall it ever being specifically because there was an event there (or at least it never looked like it). But it wasn’t $10, it was something more like $5 or $6.

          2. Was still the case when we visited at the end of 2012. Can’t recall any visits to Sappho’s from this year, since our feelings on Grand Central kept us from coming back.

    2. Generally, cover charges suck. That’s what we’re saying. But what sucks even more: establishing a gendered cover charge and then basing that charge off of perceived gender, rather than that person’s actual gender identity.

      1. Cover charges are essential to running a club (not a bar) that has entertainment. Cover charges are how clubs pay for DJ’s, décor, advertising, drag queens, dancers etc. You might think they suck, but they are essential and I think a modest $5 or $7 cover isn’t going to kill anyone unless that someone is cheap in which case they shouldn’t go out in the first place.
        However, everyone should pay. Period. It shouldn’t matter if you are black, white, pink, green, male, female, old, young, cute or ugly.

        1. Honestly, I *am* that cheap, and probably shouldn’t be going out in the first place, haha. But I totally agree with you. They are essential to running a club. I don’t have any issue with the cover charge for the Discotheque area, because it’s applied to everyone. My issue is specifically with Sappho’s.

        2. I understand. I mean, I’m not a business owner, but that makes sense. I’d be much more likely to pay a cover if there is a show going on, rather than just a bar night. (Usually Sappho’s cover charge is just to get into the bar, not for a show.)

  6. Seriously on point. THANK YOU for putting the thoughts in many minds to print. I really hope the community wakes up to what an asshat Don Davis is.

  7. Full disclosure. I am an old fogie at 45. If it does not have a big rainbow flag out front and a buff guy with perfect hair behind the bar, I don’t go in. hehe

    1. And, y’know what, that is totally your right as a customer, and Central does fit that bill. Liz & I are simply stating what WE want from a gay bar (or any bar, really), and that is a more welcoming environment. Thanks for your comments!

  8. when i attempted to share my opinion about this matter the other day, i was attacked by mr. davis on my personal faceook page. i was told to “get a life”, and that i had an ugly personality but that he appreciated my business and after insulting me, offered to take me out to lunch. i would love to share the details with you for the purpose of this article, or any future articles about the situation. (i tried to message you guys via facebook because i don’t use twitter, but now they’re charging a dollar to message people who aren’t on your friendslist. which is dumb).

    1. Feel free to send me (or both of us) a message on Facebook. You can send one without paying $1 (or, at least you should be given the option?), it’ll just got to a separate inbox, and we won’t get any notifications for it. But if we know it’s coming, we can look out for it! 🙂

      Not sure that we’ll be making any changes to this article or writing any others, but I’d personally still like to hear what you have to say.

      1. absolutely! figured some warning that something was coming to your “other” inbox would be a good idea :). great work on the article. i couldn’t agree with it more.

  9. Let’s not forget that folks over a certain age are also sent to the sidelines at most bars in the Gayborhood (Leon’s excepted). At my ADVANCED age of 44 I dont even bother with Central anymore, I would prefer to spend my money somewhere that appreciates my business over some kid’s cute ass (Cuz that is all that will get you a drink at Central these days.) Now, the Hippo is not too bad, but I do feel that I am slipping away from their preferred demographic. Personally, IF I go out, I tend to stick to places near home in Hampden like Hon Bar or Frazier’s. They seem to like all kinds of people in those bars… and the prices are a heck of a lot lower.
    I read Mr Davis’ comments earlier this week, and I am not impressed, nor am I surprised by his lack of concern for the community. Because, he does not care for the community, he cares for the money only. I wish he would sell it to someone that would turn that place around. Have fun in FL, Donnie.

    1. I am really glad you said that, Eddie! The gay community in general is pretty unwelcoming to “advanced” ages (as you said). I think that is super-unfortunate. Hippo seems to be much more welcoming to older folks, which is great, but I can see how their club nights are not-so-welcoming. I actually love Frazier’s, and I’m glad to see that you mentioned them.

      Your comment – “I wish he would sell it to someone that would turn that place around.” – is really the main reason that Liz and I wrote this article at all. 🙂

      1. Odd, I’ve always found the Hippo very cold and off-putting (and too many tweaked-out types). The only times I’ve had a blast there was when I went with lots of friends. Their theme parties in 20101-11 (Carnival, Masquerade, etc.) were fun though. Wish they’d do some of those again.

    2. Have you been to Jay’s On Read? It’s just a hole in the wall, but the clientele is older, and they make excellent drinks there. I like to dance so I don’t spend all night there, but if I am craving a well-made drink, or an intimate place to talk, Jay’s is great.
      By the way, I’m 46. The young’uns aren’t that friendly at Central, but that’s true in gay bars everywhere except hustler dives like Quest. I’ve always found the staff friendly, the ones that get to know me at Central.

  10. ever thought of the hippo? with a warm welcome to all genders, sexes, colors, ages and sexual orientation. it regularly offers dancing, drag, karaoke, bingo, visiting djs among lots of other things. the staff are some of the friendliest around, cheap cover charges (when there is one), super deals on drinks, discounts for birthdays, wedding party groups etc…you can’t beat it. i loved being a customer so much and being part of the true hippo family so much that i actually applied for a job there.

    1. I’ve been to Hippo many times. It is a lot less pressure to “fit in,” but I will say it is still mostly white men. I have always had a great time at their Drag nights, though!

      1. I just think you have a problem with white men. Sorry you are so bitter. Shitty way to go through life. I pity you.

  11. I guess you haven’t been there on a Monday or Tuesday night for Barcrawler Karaoke recently. It’s a melting pot of sexual orientations, genders, races etc.

    1. Oh, I have not! I’m always willing to check it out though. Maybe I can muster up some energy to check that out on a Monday or Tuesday night some time soon. Ann Marie, what do you think?

        1. Haha, same. And I will say that even if those two nights of the week are welcoming, it doesn’t change the fact that the other 5 nights of the week are not. But, I’m intrigued!

      1. Cool, hope to see ya!
        Yeah, you have to check out each night of the week at a bar to truly see what is going on there. It’s possible that any given bar is crap on the weekends, but awesome during the week, or vice versa. It’s a nearly impossible feat, but if one doesn’t, they end up just stereotyping the bar or club 🙂

  12. I don’t go out to bars in BaltimoreI like my gay bars to be full of gay men, i am tired of going into “gay bars” and being hit on by women HELLO its a gay bar, i move to NYC in a week so i will not have a problem with my choice of bars. i believe the reasoning for cover at sappho’s is because some women feel the same way..

    1. I figure that is EXACTLY why there is a cover at Sappho’s. I totally hear your concern. I think that maybe this reaches a much larger issue that I have with the gay community (much bigger than just GC), and that is that queer folks (bi/pansexual) are not fully accepted or thought of in the gay bar scene. This is not an issue that you or I can fix on our own, but it is one that I think about often.

      1. Really I just wish the gayborhood had a whole block full of all different kinds of gay/queer bars. It kind of seemed like this is what Grand Central was aiming for, at least maybe when it started. A place for the lesbians, a place for the gays, and then a place for them to meet in the middle and dance together. But Ann Marie’s right, that does leave out the other queer folk who don’t feel like they fit perfectly in to either of those categories. Let’s just try to open up as many gay/lesbian/queer bars in Baltimore as possible! They certainly don’t all have to be the same. If they were, things might get boring.

  13. Grand Central fosters an atmosphere that treats queerness more as a commodity and less like a community. Consequently, most of its patrons represent a lifestyle that the people who run the business want associated with their brand, which sadly leaves by the waste side those of us who do not possess the mainstream gay image. As a gay black man I have never felt welcome there any time I have gone by myself, whereas the opposite is generally the case at Leon’s and, to a lesser extent, The Hippo.

    1. YES YES YES. I am really sorry that you have experienced that at GC. Leon’s is great & Hippo is okay, too, as you mentioned.

      Also, this sentence is EXACTLY how I feel: “Grand Central fosters an atmosphere that treats queerness more as a commodity and less like a community.”

      1. When is the last time you guys have actually been to GC? If your not aware a lot of things were being done incorrectly so as to fix it the staff has been updated. From what I know sapphos does not charge a cover unless its a special special event in which everyone is charged the same amount.( btw i love sapphos cause umm a couch! yes!) I think that if you guys have had some away time from GC because how you were treated. Maybe giving it a chance with the new changes that have gone on would be something worth doing.

        1. That’s a great point, Matt. I haven’t been in at least 6 months (and I think the last time I went was with Liz?). Although I do agree with you that we should give it another shot, I have actually been there quite a bit before and, if the service is bad (or at least unwelcoming) that many times, why should I, as a customer, keep spending my money to see if a bar has gotten its act together?

          1. Im personally sorry about your past experiences but fyi half the employees are different because they were rude or not acting in a professional manor. We have a whole new management team in general ones that are legit there in 30 seconds or less if you need to talk to one. I would say if you guys are free go to GC friday its dollar drinks 9-11 2 dollar drinks 11-close disco 2 dollar drink pub and sapphos all night.

          2. Thanks for the info, Matt! I am willing to try again. Unfortunately, I think a lot of the issues are coming from ownership as well as from the overall culture of the gay community.

          3. Well if you ever see me in baltimore pull me aside and try to talk to me about what things personally you thing would make baltimore a better community. Im all up for it I love making new friends.. but be warned.. If you have a cat…. and its cute… I might steal it…

        2. This is a totally valid point. Of course, I’m still put off by the comments the owner made, and that makes me wary of giving his bar business. But I’m at least willing to give the place another chance, to see if it’s changed as you say it has.

          1. The comment with the owner i understand your frustration. Not trying to defend anyone because yes i believe what was said was wrong but also maybe held out of context. Imagine the stress he has recently car accident on eager two houses from central last week. Same day someone got tazzered and the police tackles the guy and broke the door handle to GC. Then 4 days later a car runs into the building. He has some stress and at times we all make mistakes and ugly side to use comes out. If you ever meet me which im sure one day you will :p. Im most likely the most odd person you will ever meet. I wear my marvel comics hat like its glued to my head covered in kids style tattoos and have scars only because i run into things.. But my car got broken into last month and they tried to hot wire it….

          2. It’s Baltimore, not Nirvana. Mt Vernon has been OK for as long as we’ve lived here (moved to B’more in 2008), though there were some issues when that godawful bottle club in the Belvedere was open. And yes, there’s some rowdiness in the area. There are four major clubs in a one block radius– two gay, one straight and one catering to African-Americans. People get a little crazy when they let loose.

  14. I find this article disgusting. It is a blatant attack on a business owner who tries to provide a service to the community, while offering nothing in terms of constructive criticism (telling a business owner to close his doors is not constructive). It’s public knowledge that Don has lived in Florida for years, while trusting his staff to run his establishment. Even if he oversaw day-to-day operations, he is not a babysitter and mistakes will continue to happen. How do I know? I’m a business owner myself and it takes an extraordinary amount of trust and compassion to allow your employees to control your business and livelihood. As for the comment about Detroit, it’s not a secret that the city is rampant with crime and filed for bankruptcy. Baltimore is an exact replica of a city that was once regarded with “Charm” and was one of the best cities to live in. However, when major businesses relocated elsewhere and and people were hard on their luck, crime began to rise. This is typical of any city with any kind of population. Do you watch the news? The only thing on is how many people were stabbed / shot in downtown Baltimore, but you will sit there and criticize someone for saying “I don’t feel safe” when they walk down the street. That is absolutely absurd. I, myself, do not feel safe walking down the streets of Baltimore. Does that make me racist? No, it means I don’t want to get robbed, stabbed or shot.

    The problem with being a business owner is that you can never please 100% of your customers 100% of the time. The consumer usually forgets this because they believe they are always right, no matter what the circumstances.

    I’ve never read this blog before but I followed a link here to see two people, of the LBGT community, bashing another member of the LGBT community. In my opinion, this is hateful and it is the exact behavior that these “authors” are accusing of Don and Central of portraying in their business practice. All I saw in this article is two people taking free stabs at a business owner because they were unhappy with the service and clientele. Grow up.

    1. As a member of the LGBTQ community and as a paying customer, our thoughts, feelings, and – yes – blog posts about service in Baltimore are valid. I am sorry that you think that they are not.

      I actually feel very safe walking around Mt Vernon (I believe it to be one of the safer neighborhoods in Baltimore, for sure) and I think that his comment, while maybe not meant to be racist, uses terms that are commonly euphemisms for racism, which is – at best – ignorant.

      I am sorry to hear that you think we are bashing Mr. Davis. Instead, we are saying that Central is not what the Baltimore queer community is looking for or needs, as it is exclusive to so many populations.

      Constructive tips for Central: don’t have gender-based cover charges, host more community events (no, fraternity & sorority night is not what I’m talking about), invite the Queer Black community in (instead of ostracizing them, as many folks in these comments have mentioned), don’t base your service quality on my gender, race, sexual orientation, age, or general attractiveness.

  15. Have you been into club bunns ? As a white male i did not feel welcomed there and was even told by a patron i should go to the “white gay bar” , “Gay pride / Black gay pride ” you are just asking for trouble, Not being a native Baltimorean i just see racism gone ramped by all races in this city, led by the politicians and fallowed like sheep by residence. people just need to grow up if you don’t like a business don’t go, its not just GC “this city needs an enema”

    1. I have not been to Club Bunns, but I have heard of it. I am sorry that you felt ostracized based on your race there. That sucks no matter where you are.

      I think that Black Gay Pride does have an important place in Baltimore’s gay community (but let’s be honest, that is an entirely other conversation, one that a Queer person of color might be better off explaining).

      And yes, generally, Baltimore’s gayborhood needs a renaissance (as I stated in comments earlier).

  16. when was the last time either of you went to central? this is a completely inaccurate outdated representation of this bar.within the last 2-3 months A LOT has changed, including the entire staff (management also) and drink prices. this is absolutely hands down my favorite bar in Baltimore and the ONLY one I feel comfortable frequenting.

    1. True, we haven’t been here within the past 2-3 months. We’ve already mentioned in previous comments that we’re willing to come check it out and see some of these changes that you and Matt have mentioned. But I also feel like some people might be missing the point when it comes to stating that they feel comfortable and safe and welcome in the bar. The majority of people who don’t feel like Grand Central meets these needs are people of color, queer people, and trans* folk. If you are not one of these things, chances are you will feel safe and welcome at Grand Central. And that’s good for you. However, in the past, there have been complaints from POC, queer, and trans* patrons about their treatment there, both by staff, and by other patrons. It really is great to hear that changes have been made in order to improve Grand Central. We just hope that the concerns of these groups of people are taken seriously, and that they too can come to see Grand Central as the safe, welcoming place that you do.

  17. i have been a loyal Grand Central patron for over 10 years. i stopped going in 2011, mostly due to the fact that i don’t live in Baltimore anymore. but i remember GC in what i like to call it’s “golden age”. i may be a “cisgender” but i do not, nor have i ever, fit the “rich white male” demographic these authors have dreamt up. like i said, i haven’t been going for the past 2 years and it’s possible some of these things they allege have occurred in that time. but i’ve never felt discriminated or unwelcome in GC.

  18. hey ladies… you’re uhappy about a bar in Baltimore? feeling left out? stop your bitchin’ and start your own business! make a better bar!

    1. That was actually my first thought when I read the line about Don saying he should just sell the place and move on. Unfortunately, even with all of my privilege, I don’t have the money to open a bar. And aside from that, I don’t think the onus is on me to open up a new business every time I disagree with someone else’s business practices. I mean, every time you have a bad meal or deal with a shitty mechanic, do you run out to open up a new restaurant or garage?

      In the end, this is an opinion piece, which states what we think of Grand Central. Do we want to open up our own bar? Sure. But that is not a viable or realistic solution for us. So instead, we wish to see changes made to a place that already exists. If the changes are made, we will visit Grand Central again. If they’re not, we won’t. It’s as simple as that.

      Though I will note that some other people who were unhappy with Grand Central and were feeling left out /did/ start a monthly dance party in Baltimore, and it is pretty rad. So at least we know there’s a market for it, if either of us end up winning the lottery.

      1. no, you’re right. if a mechanic does a shitty job, then i just go find another mechanic, or i do it myself. but i don’t write comments blasting them on the internet. i have been involved both personally and professionally with Don Davis for over a decade and i know he has done a lot of good work for the community.

  19. While I respect your opinion on the matter it saddens me to read this. As a bartender at grand central, I go out of my way to treat everyone with respect and kindness. I do not serve people in any specific order, only by who has been waiting the longest. It doesn’t matter who the person is, what they look like, or what race or gender they are. I would also say that many of the bartenders that work there now have the same mentality. I personally enjoy serving the lesbian community and think it’s a shame that this is your mentality about the establishment.

    1. Unfortunately, it’s not necessarily our mentality so much as it is a reflection of our past experiences. I don’t know how long you or your coworkers have been working there, but from what I hear, there’s been an overhaul in staff recently. Obviously it could be that the racist/sexist/transphobic staff that we’ve either personally experienced or heard others have experienced have all been fired. And really, I’m interested in checking out the changes if that is the case, because they’re a big part of what kept me from coming back. But that doesn’t change our experiences (and the experience of other ex-GC patrons), and how they’ve affected our views of the establishment. I mean, how were any of us supposed to even know these changes took place? There was no acknowledgement of these issues when they were still going on, and there’s been no acknowledgement of them even after they’ve supposedly been resolved.

  20. I’ve thought for years that a huge wall ought to be built around Baltimore, then burn the suck hole city to the ground. It is a dangerous apathetic over taxed underrepresented dump. Glad I moved. And before anyone says they’re glad I moved as well I’ll beat you to the punch, in glad I moved.

    1. I actually love Baltimore and those of us that do love it, are willing to work on it and change it, rather than burning it to the ground.

  21. Just some deep thoughts by a disenchanted bar-goer: me. Dislclaimer: This comment is meant as commentary only and is posted for the purpose of encouraging dialogue on the article. It is not meant to inflict any harm or libel any person or group included but not limited to the prorpietor of Grand Central, its staff and bar-patrons
    The Beginning

    As a native to Maryland, Grand Central was the first gay establishment I visited and I would be remiss if didn’t say I was thoroughly impressed those
    8 years ago when I walked in alone. I remember walking in on a cold December night; the fireplace roaring and the smell of cedar and other Christmassy things while nice people celebrated the night and un-begrudgingly welcomed me to their circles and conversations. The warm quarter-light of the bar seemed to match the glow of the men, and women at the bar and I felt entirely welcome. With a time like this who couldn’t go back?

    The Honeymoon

    As the weekends went on and the months passed by, changes however took
    place. It wasn’t changes in the scenery; it wasn’t changes in the cocktails but changes in the patrons and staff. Many people became worn out, burned out and coked out, bitter and self-hating, prude and improper – the crowds that once welcomed people into their circles now drew these invisible salt-lines, the
    kind one sprinkles on to the floor to protect himself from an evil spirit. The smell of cedar and good times morphed into the smell of vomit and damp wood flooring; the billiards tables with their pink felt to match the cranberry vodka stains of sloppy drunk patrons and the bathrooms with their rusted over steel plate walling from piss and more vomit; men getting assaulted in the bathroom and piles of paper trash on the floor. The bar which welcomed me so
    warmly now hated me. Still however I never complained to the proprietor or manager….I just assumed the honeymoon was over.

    The Paradox

    Grand Central has the greatest of potential. It could be a cornerstone of the community and it even sits on the corner along one of the great boulevards
    of Baltimore, Charles Street in a wonderfully aesthetic part of town. The bar which appeals to our senses however manages to fail us nightly. If Mr.
    Davies decides to keep this bar radical changes must be made on his part not
    limited to the price, the staff, the clientele and that gawd-awful stench that
    creeps out of the doors these days – but let us not also forget that Mr. Davies
    has an uphill battle on his hands. He’s 100% right when he alludes to the lack of police protection in Mount Vernon and the muggings that occur almost weekly if not nightly; the vagrants (to use the term politely) who prey on the generosity of GLBT patrons.

    Mr. Davies you do not only have all of those problems with the city and your establishment but also a big PR deficit too: your bar welcomes gays from all over the world when they reach Baltimore – a bar like yours should be a pillar of the community and take a wider interest in the welfare of those who live in your community. When is the last benefit you had to support a worthy cause? Instead of $2 rails from 11 to 2am how about 5 dollar call drinks to support a worthy endeavor, like Chase-Brexton who gives free HIV screenings? Or a charity to support young gays who are abandoned by their families? Maybe
    you do these things and they simply are not known? I hope you’re a silent

    Our Responsibility

    Let us not forget that we merrymakers have responsibilities too. Mr.Davies can still only do so much to make his bar welcoming to the crowds. Much of the blame for the sad and pretentious state of Grand Central falls directly on our shoulders. When we scowl at newcomers standing alone when we judge our neighbors and act uncivil to our brothers and sisters we become the very people we despise. Many gays need to re-adjust their attitudes toward people, themselves and toward sex and relationships in the bar. Ill news is ill guest so spread the good news and say welcome, it’s good to see you. Lay off the coke breathe the fresh air. Keep your drink limit to 3. At the end of the day we’re all vulnerable people in search of friends and fun so just be decent and respectful and I’m sure much of our weariness toward Grand Central can change. When you see injustice, confrontit. When your friends make snide comments or treat others without equality – call it out by name and don’t settle of rancor and the general fear that comes with walking through those automobile-wrecked French doors.

  22. My best friend (who is transgender) and I used to frequent Central all the time, but we stopped going awhile ago because we felt the same way you ladies did.
    It was not a welcoming place and I often felt my friend and I were being judged. I heard through the grape vine about 2 months ago that they cleaned house and hired basically an entire new staff, so my friend and I decided to give it one last chance a few weeks ago. To my surprise I was pleased with the changes. We went around 7 on a Friday, as soon as we stepped through the door we were greeted with a warm “Hello ladies!!” ( I was shocked!!) from nice woman behind the bar. The crowd seemed different also we didnt feel as out of place as we had in the past. We sat in the corner at the bar, after getting our drinks the bartender went back to a previous conversation, with what I’m assuming we’re two regulars, I really enjoyed that she pulled us into the conversation. Unlike previous experiences it seemed this young woman wanted to chat and get to know everyone and not just the regulars. After chatting for awhile she informed us that every Friday in Septemebr they have $2 and $1 drink specials all night and the cover for the disco was only $2 for “customer appreciation.” Naturally with those kinds of deals our happy hour turned into an all night party ( we actually partied most of the night with the couple we met at the bar through the conversation with the bartender) We were just as pleased with the staff in the Disco and Zapphos. My friend and I have put Central back in our rotation!! You ladies might want to give it one more chance we were happy we did!!

    1. Thank you SO MUCH for your comments! Especially this one: “2 months ago that they cleaned house and hired basically an entire new
      staff, so my friend and I decided to give it one last chance a few weeks
      ago. To my surprise I was pleased with the changes.” This gives me hope!

      I’m glad you had that experience last time!

  23. Two things. One: Don is really a terrible guy. I know him. (business, social from many years ago, community service. Would not be in the same room with him if it came down to it.) However, as he is being pilloried by you and others, there are folks in our community asking him for money, time, resources and support for GLBTQ non-profits & causes and he is giving money, time resources and support. (Perhaps out of guilt. Maybe because that is what good business folks do when they have made tons of money selling booze to folks that may or may not have needed it. Or he just thinks he should share the wealth.) Two: The complaint that Central is not what you want or configured in a way that does not suit you is just wrong. It is the typical urban gay men’s bar with some add-ons. If you want a lesbian bar, open one. If you want a bar that appeals to everyone in this enormously diverse group, open one. (Good luck! And haha!) If you want a bar that sells cheaper drinks, open one. Your desire for a space that can accommodate all is like saying that your favorite lesbian vegetarian joint should have burgers just in case your meat-eating friend dines with you or that the lesbian music festival needs and all male heavy metal band set in case you want to invite your old boyfriend from highschool. Lesbians have complained about the gender gap in gay bars for decades. Stop complaining and do something about it. It would be welcomed and you could move on to complaining about something else.

  24. I was wondering if the paint was cleaned up and the building was fixed? I saw on the news that the bar opened the next day after the crash? I have not been down to Mt Vernon lately but wanted to know what happened with the building and cleanup. Thanks. Nice article by the way.

  25. In typical “my mind is more open than yours…AND…I can read it” fashion….
    If the world doesn’t look to you as if you were looking in the mirror, all those that don’t fit YOUR mold are racist and phobic this or that, or wrong, shallow, and obtuse; or any of the other predictable insult stops on the spectrum of hate railroad.

    As an ignorant, white, straight man, it’s refreshing to see that all the petty, racist, sexist, -phobic, shallow, human-nature type stuff isn’t just my creation.

    People in general need to get the fuck over themselves.

  26. As a former employee who can personally attest to racist and inappropriate behavior from Mr. Davis and management I would like to put a stop to their behavior by protesting this establishment.

    1. With me reading all of the above there is so much truth. However I am not the perfect person and with all this social media. I have since 1986 with opening the Allegro and then 1991 the opening of Central Station. Then in 2003 expanded and changed the name to Grand Central. I have always taken so much pride with our community and always have made so many great changes through the years. Anyone who has known me through the years can contest to this. I will be 63 years old. I had a partner of 26 years who passed away from throat cancer and HIV in 2000. Last week we would have been together 40 years. Troy my lifetime partner now and just recently got married have known each other almost 28 years and rented our third floor of my past partner townhouse in Union Square. Troy met all of our friends and after a year and a half he had met someone and moved to Virginia. Troy and his new partner were together for about 3 1/2 years. After Vernon passed away Troy came over to Baltimore to share his condolences. After the 3rd day. Troy and I got pretty intoxicated and I started crying. Troy held me and we have been together for almost 14 years. I have made a lot of mistakes through the years and still make mistakes. But I have always been very grateful for the support our community has given me. I sometimes have a hard surface but a good heart. I have been in and out of the nightclub business for almost 47 years. In 2007 I was burnt out and needed to step down. I put my trust with a General Manager for 6 1/2 years only to find out that my club got destroyed. I put my trust and can only blame myself. I am far from being wealthy as so many people think. I once made a decent living but those days are gone. With the cost of everything going up in price, it sure is not like the old days, It takes Grand Central a lot of money just to keep the doors open. When I had come to Baltimore unannounced last year, my heart was broken for how my club looked. It was filthy and so many of the bartenders had attitude and stealing from me. And a manager who was never here. I had to make a lot of changes. My lifetime partner who came back to Baltimore on September 3rd. 3 weeks before I arrived . I was still in Florida getting our condo on the market and making arrangements for my move back to Baltimore. My General Managers last day of employment was September 11th. Then while still in Florida dealing with our sick Schnauzer and trying to make arrangements for the move back to Baltimore. Then we had the accident with the stolen car on September 16th Then when I arrived on September 28th. I received a letter from the City certified mail that I had 30 days to get all the paint and place repaired or I would get a $500. day fine. With trying to deal with the insurance company it took forever to get the money for the repairs. I had to pay $4,000 out of my pocket to have the sidewalks cleaned from all of the paint. It’s not the City’s problem and was not covered by my insurance. If I had not come back unannounced when I did. Another 6 months I would have lost Grand Central. I had to borrow $90,000 from a friend to bail me out of debt. With the hopes of our condo selling so I could pay them back. I borrowed $100,000 from a bank to do a lot of renovations to revamp my club that had turned into a nightmare. On October 16th a little over three weeks of being back in Baltimore I received a telephone call form our condo building telling us that our condo had a pipe break in our unit. Now I am dealing with our insurance company there and as well as here. And then dealing with bidding the work out with contractors in both States. I have always loved Mount Vernon and always will. I lived in Mount Vernon for many years. I have always taken a lot of pride for the way I have taken care of my business and my neighborhood and the safety of our customers. I have been called the biggest racist. I can assure everyone that this is not true. And for all of my customers will support me with this. One thing about me, I do not like trash and trash comes in all colors. I again have made many mistakes but I have always been very grateful for those who have supported me over the years. I now have the best staff and a new manager who is smart and has hands on. I will never leave my business and put 100% trust in someone. I have always taken a lot of pride with my business and staff. I am extremely anal when it comes to keeping the place clean and updated. I have been putting about 12 to 19 hours a day to bring back the Grand Central for the place that everyone once knew. I am trying to learn to hold my breath on social media. I am not use to being called down for I do know the person I really am. But I am learning to let folks vent for whatever their belief is. Come in and get to know me. I am not the monster that so many people project me to be. I run a tight ship and make sure everyone here says a big thank you and makes the customer feel welcomed. I am glad to be back. And again I thank each and everyone for your support and business. Don Davis

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *