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April 27, 2011

Life in Federal Hill

fedhillSam Sessa has a story in today's paper about the Federal Hill Neighborhood Association's stepped-up efforts to clamp down on boorish nightlife behaviors.

Are these vigilant citizens doing the unpopular work of representing the best interests of the neighborhood, or just a vindictive bunch of petty harassers?

Two facts theories worth considering:

There is no drunk worse than an entitled drunk.

The blocks on Light Street just south of Cross Street Market compose one the most hideous and degrading urban street-scapes in the city.

Lots of comments under the story. Join in. There or here.

Baltimore Sun photo/Colby ware

Posted by Richard Gorelick at 11:43 AM | | Comments (5)


The blocks on Light Street just south of Cross Street Market compose one the most hideous and degrading urban street-scapes in the city.


feel truly sorry for anyone who lives in Federal Hill. The last time I was there with friends (about a year ago) we left a restaurant/bar around 11 p.m. and encountered a group of drunk young yuppie men harassing an older woman who was trying to walk her dog (they kept surrounding her trying to urinate on Fido) and a completely trashed woman vomiting in someone's flowerpots. We all refer to Federal Hill as BaltiMordor now.

I have spent much of my decade in Baltimore living in Mount Vernon as a renter, property owner and landlord, so I have realistic expectations regarding my property and city crime levels, (although I personally dealt with more serious crime issues when I lived in Roland Park and Hamden). Mount Vernon recently dealt with the violence and harassment issues caused by the opening of a bottle club in the basement of the Belvedere. Our neighborhood succeeded in convincing the city to shut it down, but it really took much longer than it should have.

A large part of Federal Hill has become a nightmare akin to a frat-house toilet. I hope they can get it under control and restore the charm of the neighborhood before their property values plummet even further.

the neighborhood association should go spend one night in hoboken. then they'll be happy about the state of federal hill.

time to revive the comment of the week!

I live just above Fort Avenue, and am actually very happy I am not closer to Cross St. In my early 20's I spent a lot of time in those bars, and most weekends.

I cannot really remember the last time I hung out in any of the Cross St. bars on a weekend night. Sobo has great spots that have a much better feel, and are much more my scene. Though I am happy that owners are making investment in places away from Cross St., such as the Reserve, it really is bringing a fratty element that I could do without. I don't really remember the last time I went in there either.

For the bars in Federal Hill proper, it really is a catch-22, and I think Sessa did a great job of presenting both sides of the conflict. In many respects, the bars/nightlife are WHY people want to live in the area, along with proximity to downtown/stadiums, etc. Further, when you have a neighborhood asscn president harrassing places like Illusions (I have been in there several times, and there haven't been as many people in there as Magerk's bathroom), it is a little ridiculous.

However, when it starts getting turned into the County's playground, and people trying to take their dogs for a walk are getting harrassed by alcohol amateurs, it becomes a public policy issue. The bar owners are paying for additional police presence, and closing off of Charles @ Cross St. (though I'm not sure this is the best idea, as said alcohol amateurs begin to think they are on bourbon st.-- may a few traffic officers would work better), but these officers can only do so much. Throwing these idiots into a wagon, then to central booking, sobriety checkpoints, etc. will still miss plenty of first-time-partiers who manage to screw up a resident's evening.

When I was in college (graduated 2002), Loyola and Towson emptied out on Friday nights and headed to Fells. It became pretty ridiculous, and I remember classmates and people my age doing some stuff that I would definitely not be pleased with as a resident almost ten years later. How did Fells deal with the problem? Its a little nuts on Friday nights, but nothing like it used to be.

I really do dig living where I live...but I stay the hell away from Cross St. on Friday/Saturday nights unless there is a compelling reason to patronize one of those places.

As a resident of Federal Hill I can tell you that the vibe of the neighborhood has completely changed over the past 5 years or so. There were always bars in Federal Hill, there were always drunks in Federal Hill, there were always idiots in Federal Hill, there were always taxis picking up and dropping people off in Federal Hill, but there was a balance that you could live with.


...the big difference over the past few years is volume. The bars have been expanding (I think Mothers has expanded twice during this period and doesn't even operate under a tavern license - strictly speaking it is a restaurant, but go there after 9pm and see who is eating in this Mega Bar), and these bars are in turn attracting much bigger crowds and are generally catering to a younger audience. Now taxis line Charles and Light Street and honk their horns at all hours of the morning as they try to attract customers (don't get me wrong - I'm a huge advocate of not drinking and driving, but the incessant honking of horns is a real impediment to sleep).

There are some great bars and restaurants here that are very respectful of the surrounding neighborhood and are a credit to their owners, but the Cross Street area is just out of control. This is definitely forcing home owners to decide whether this new neighborhood is really for them. In the meantime short term renters are moving in to take advantage of the party scene and many home owners are opting to move out.

Admittedly, these problems may seem trivial compared to the drug and gang violence that exists elsewhere in the City, but these are important quality of life factors for residents in this neighborhood. Given that Baltimore generates most of its income from residential property taxes (not from businesses) it would seem to benefit the City to give serious consideration to these issues. You have to give Jack Young credit for looking into this and asking questions. It doesn't seem like the Mayor is even interested!

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About this blog

You are reading the archives. For updated blog posts about the Maryland food scene, see Richard Gorelick's new Baltimore Diner blog.
Richard Gorelick was appointed The Baltimore Sun's restaurant critic in September 2010. Before joining the paper staff fulltime, he contributed freelance criticism and features articles about food to area and regional publications. Along the way, he dispatched for short-distance trucking companies, shilled for cultural non-profits, and assisted in cognitive neurology research – never the subject, always the control.

He takes restaurants seriously but not himself, and his favorite restaurant is the one you love, too.

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