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August 14, 2008

Are new bars really better?

Think about it.

A gentrified, revitalized, renovated bar has a bigger selection. Flat screen TVs, too. Everything inside is new, new, new.

But drinks at new bars can cost you more than drinks at old school joints. And, in my experience, the service at most of this city's renovated bars is not that good.

Yes, that's a generalization, but I'd say I get out to my fair share of bars.

And for the most part, service in this city is atrocious ...

When you walk into most old school corner bars, you don't have many beers to choose from. Same goes for wine and liquor.

But you usually get served in less than a minute by a friendly bartender. Now, not all old school bars are welcoming places. I realize that.

But the more I get out to bars around town, the more I dig those old-time joints. The people are friendlier, the beer's cheaper and the service is quicker.

On the other hand, you can't get delicious Brewer's Art Resurrection Ale in a place like Muir's (pictured). And I'm actually not a big fan of Muir's in particular. I just like this picture. But Muir's is an example of the kind of bar I'm talking about.

What do you guys think?

(Photo by Elizabeth Malby/Sun photographer) 


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Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:32 AM | | Comments (11)
Categories: Bars & Clubs


Every once and a while i love going to old school joints. I used to go to Sports Cafe in Canton (across the street from the dog park), and although i was a bit apprehensive the first time i entered, it didn't take long before I was welcomed with open arms (and a free beer from the bar regulars). The bartender went out of her way to make us feel welcome, and another one of the regulars was more than happy to show me how to play the house game of baseball darts.

Last fall me and my friends did a corner bar crawl around fells (friends, Pearls, Bar, leadbetters) and had similar experiences. Each of the bars we walked in with WAY more people than they were used to, or the bartender could handle...and as apposed to "nicer" bars that get annoyed with these types of overwhelming circumstances (god forbid people show up at your bar...isn't that the point?) the lone bartender rolled with the punches and was nice and gracious throughout the night.

So personally, while I don't generally always hang out at these types of places...sometimes it's a great change of pace. plus the beers are usually half the price as the popular bars.

just my take.

Sam-Old time joints and dives are my mainstay also,rarely do i venture into a "shiny,new" bar because that's just my thing. That being said,if i go into a dive where the old timers or locals don't know me i always get the hairy eyeball(until i've proven myself as a barfly,which doesn't take long) So yeah,there's a catch-22 there..

and this is the exact reason why I love Bill's Lighthouse Inn - The Budweiser and Pabst are cold and the bartender always is right away asking you what your poison is. The people are friendly and the one's that don't want to be bothered don't boher you neither.

The Montford Bar (743 S Montford, in Canton) used to be gloriously grungy and tacky and totally authentic feeling. At first, following their recent renovation, things felt a little "off". What IS this super glossy bar? But within a week, it totally felt like home again. Beer selection still [smell]s though.....

See the losers in the best bars, meet the winners in the dives.
-- Neil Young

Nuff said

I agreed with ryan97ou about going to dive bars for a change of pace. Plus, you always have a story from talking with the regulars.

Mum's in Fed Hill and Iampieri's near Catonsville (it's still city!). Hands down my favorite divey bars.

To continue what Drew from Greektown was saying.

The two Marks of Weird NJ/US use Old Man Bars and local diners for research. These are places they often learn of the local history, legends, and rumours to investigate.

Incidentally they sponsored the book, Weird Maryland, as part of their Weird US series:

New Jersey Magazine once had an article on how malls about every seven years need to freshen up to remain competitive with newer malls. I assume the same is true for most businesses that rely on trends and novelty, and who have stagnant or flagging sales. I guess Old Man Bars with a steady clientele, don’t feel the need to be part of that rat race.

how can you not be a fan of Muir's Tavern, Brother is the best! My favorite dive was Wroten's back in the day. All types of people, from the 60 year old blue collar worker from GM to the lovely 19 year old waitress from the Inner Harbor getting drunk for the first time.


I'll take J. Patrick's in Locust Point over Palma/Pur/etc any day.

For me it doesn't usually boil down to new vs. old, but is the crowd at a level that I can tolerate, and is there something I'm excited to drink. No Idea - is that a dive bar, or does it not qualify because it's a younger, professional crowd? Either way, I love it there. Had a drink at the bar at Meli (or Melli, not sure) in Fells, which is brand spankin new, and loved it. One Eyed Mikes, Henningers - places I love to drink, they are kind of old school. I'm rambling with no real point here.

Has anyone ever been to O'Donnell's Pub on South Potomac in Canton? They have shuffleboard and the local folks in there are as nice as can be. Great bar to escape the packed Square spots.

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About Erik Maza
Erik Maza is a features reporter at the Baltimore Sun. He writes for several sections of the Sun paper and contributes weekly columns on music and nightlife. He also writes and edits the Midnight Sun blog. He often covers entertainment, business, and the business of entertainment. Occasionally, he writes about Four Loko, The Block, the liquor board, and those who practice "simulated sex with a potted palm tree." Before The Sun, he was a reporter at the Miami New Times. He's also written for Miami magazine, the Orlando Sentinel, the Sarasota Herald Tribune and the Gainesville Sun. Got tips? Gripes? Pitches? He's reachable at Click here to keep up with the dumb music he's listening to.

Midnight Sun covers Baltimore music, live entertainment, and nightlife news. On the blog, you'll find, among other things, concert announcements, breaking news, bars closings and openings, up-to-date coverage of crime in nightlife, new music, round-the-clock coverage of Virgin Mobile FreeFest, handy guides on bars staying open past 2 a.m. on New Year's Eve and those that carry Natty Boh on draft. Recurring features include seven-day nightlife guides, Concert News, guest reviews of bars and concerts, Wednesday Corkboard, and photo galleries, as well as reader-submitted photos. Thanks for reading.

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