Monday, December 19, 2016

Westside restaurant woes

Baltimore Equitable Insurance 1889
The building lasted 159 years, 114 years of which it was a rock of stability as the home of the Baltimore Equitable Insurance Society which remained in business and unflappably paid out fire insurance through Baltimore's Great Fire and the 1968 riots. 

In 2003 it joined the ranks of vacant structures on the Westside. True to Baltimore's ingenuity in finding new uses for old shells, Irish immigrant John Moore had a vision and a dream. He began turning what was long a sleepy insurance office into a hopping Irish pub with Irish brews Harp and Guinness stout. He put a lot of his own labor into the project to make it as authentic Irish and as authentic to its history as he could. He named the bar after his wife Maggie.

Located at Eutaw and Fayette streets the 200 seats venue operated on two levels, had original wood paneling, a gas fireplace, 20-foot ceilings and a pair of mahogany bank counters reborn as bars as well as a vault turned into a private reception room. An old bank safe was placed on the sidewalk next to the building as a symbol of the buildings steady past. The location was uncharted territory at the time, but sits across from the Hippodrome and was one of the structures in the orbit of Baltimore's new entertainment venue seeking to capitalize on the show audiences and the new vibe in the area.
Current condition: Alewife beer pub

The fate of Maggie More's was not lack of success but a silent partner that liked the success so much that he bought out and forced out John More.

The pub's next incarnation as Lucy's lasted only a year or so. Then it was Alewife's that opened there and now the Baltimore Business Journal reports that Alewife's owner Palombo also considers selling his joint, true to the SUN's assessment of 2010:
Over the past five years, the west side of downtown has been one of the city's most unforgiving neighborhoods for new bars.
They open and close here as quickly as it takes 8.9 percent alcohol to slip into your bloodstream. Alewife, the new beer hall at Eutaw and Fayette streets, is hoping to turn the trend on its head with sheer size and suds selection.
The Equitable building in the early seventies
The addition of the Everyman and a constant flow of investment in the area that brought record numbers of new residents to downtown and the Westside has not yet transformed the area into a safe spot for restaurants. Next to Maggie Moore's/Lucy/Alewife sits what is now the El Forno Italian restaurant, also only the most recent of many attempts to fill the ground floor of the CenterPoint development with lasting businesses. (The most stable tenant there seems to be a Starbucks that has lasted since the opening of CenterPoint).

The rehabilitation of a large part of the 400 block of West Baltimore Street brought some chain restaurants and food places such as Panera Bread which provide useful services to the community and the nearby University of Maryland but did little for establishing the Westside as a restaurant destination.
The bar interior during its run as Lucy's

With so many hot-spots for eating out in Baltimore, it isn't easy to create a new destination, even though the Bromo Arts District would certainly benefit. After the Station North Arts District managed to make even North Avenue a successful place of a cluster of food places (Joe Square Pizza, Liam Flynn's Irish Bar and Red Emma's Cafe) one should think that Eutaw Street could replicate the success.

Klaus Philipsen, FAIA




Baltimore Magazine 2010 (Alewife opening)
Maggie Morre's becomes Lucys (SUN 2008)
Baltimore Heritage