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October 24, 2008

Is Kiss Cafe closed?

kiss cafeI'm hearing reports that Kiss Cafe in the Can Company (2400 Boston St.) has closed. Has anyone heard more about this?

I tried calling but the phone kept ringing. That's not a good sign.

Thanks to Mykel for the tip. 

(Photo by Elizabeth Malby/Sun photographer) 

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Posted by Sam Sessa at 7:30 AM | | Comments (36)
Categories: Bars & Clubs


Drove by on Tuesday morning and it looked open to me, with people sitting at the tables outside, drinking coffee. Don't quote me on that though.

Well, since Struever Bros, Eccles & Rouse is officially BROKE (and BROKEN), then that means The Can Company is finished.

(Struever Bros, Eccles & Rouse laid off 50 employees the other day. The Golden Boy recently tried selling his City properties for 40 cents on the dollar.)

Unfortunately, that means many City projects may go under as well, seeing as how the old City administrations bent over backward to give SBER way more leeway that acceptable.

Haven't seen many glowing articles about The Golden Boy for a while, have We?

But, we're all pretty sure that he'll be OK, right?

I also would like to know what's going on with Red Fish right down the street. I saw a faded hiring all positions sign in the front door and brown paper covering the windows (guessing renovations?) Man, everything seems to going up for sale these days.

Earlier this week, I saw people moving tables and chairs (out? in? I couldn't be sure) in front of Kiss Cafe.I thought it was odd, but then I also thought - maybe they are upgrading their furniture and doing renovations? Probably more likely that they are shutting down...but it would be good to know for sure.

They just painted the entire building of Red Fish red a couple of days ago. I liked the way it looked before and has one of the coolest signs in Baltimore, but I guess the red will stand out more. They have to try something to get business I guess.

That's the word on the street, but even living in Canton I haven't been, nor have I wanted to be, close enough to Kiss Cafe or the Can Company any time recently to provide concrete evidence. As for Red Fish, supposedly it's going to be renamed and under the old management that ran it and the Stone Cellar so well in the past. Oh joy

Well it sounds like their track record of horrible food and apathetic service has finally come home to roost. Good Riddance.

The owner has been having some issues for a while. The going rumor was that he was living inside for a while, sleeping in the place with his dog.

I can't comment on the validity of this, but I would be very upset if this is true. Kiss Cafe was a great place for cocktails and the Sunday brunch was really good. I really liked the ambience. It's a shame.

According to a friend, who's company is doing work in Kiss Cafe's space, it's being turned into a "new wave, Asian-fusion concept lounge". This revelation was shared after a full day of drinking, so take it with a grain of barley, malt and/or hops...

have to agree with (wo)manchengo. I know the owner, he came back last year from a year golf vacation or something and re-took over from the couple who were running it. When he came back the isues started. firings and walk outs of people who were actually good.
I was a regular too. the new staff was BEEYOND bad. I mean it was like he was trying to get people not to come in. One waiteress/barista whatev. was on the CELL PHONE while a long queue was forming. can't say I'm sorry to see 'em go. Will miss the Velvet Hammer coffee though, best in the city.

Baltimore Biz Journal says they laid off 20 people, not 50. No mention of them selling any properties, either.

Was the owner still Victor Ganderson?

Just drove by and took a photo of the sign on the front door. It's officially closed. Here's the posted sign:

that's a shame, what a great location for a bar/ restaurant. Ton of parking. What happened to this place Mr. Twain?

Red Fish has been bought by new owners. They are totally changing the place to have more of a Mediterranean feel. I think it is supposed to be opening soon.

I know this thread is about Kiss, but I gotta dish on the red fish. The owners of red fish handed the reins over to a guy who put everything up his nose. That's when the reviews got bad, service got bad and it got shut down. I met one of the owners, who took it back, and was pumping him for info on what he was planning to do with it. I thought he sold it to another big hitter (don't want to drop that name here) in the bar scene, but I guess not. If they did sell it to him, I was always wondering what was going to happen to the sign? Probably end up in some hipsters apartment off of ebay. But I guess it will remain el rojo cerviche.

Forget about the red fish sign. I want the KISS sign for my tribute band! Sidebar - I can't believe the owners of No Idea are selling. I also can't believe the price they are asking. Do they really make 150,000 a year? Me thinks not.


Where did you get your information concerning the owners of No Idea making $150,000 a year? That's not in writing anywhere to my knowledge. If the owners were making that, I doubt they would sell.

As a Canton business owner and resident, I wish the owner of Kiss Cafe much success. I had some wonderful times and hilarous memories there.

Jason, I never said it was in writing. The owners of No Idea tavern are asking $450,000. When you buy a biz, you want your money back in three years or 3 times X, or three years times sellers discretionary cash flow each year, is the rule of thumb for selling any business. Ergo, if they are asking 450, then divide by 3 = 150. Do I think they make that, no. Do they have a right to ask for any number they want, heck yeah. But numbers, being what they are, don't lie about the worth. Besides, who ever he sells it too, he will know them. Smalltiore is so incestuous. Sorry to ramble, stumbled onto the site and love it.

i find this post exchange hilarious


You are right and you are wrong. Usually when you price a business for sale, yes, you price it at 3x the rate of black (presuming that you wouldn't sell in the red to being with).

However, if between quarter 1 and 2 of say, the second year of business the black has grown by 15%, and shows an additional growth margin of 10% between quarter 3 and 4, and you can conclusively show negative loss continued growth, then you would reasonably take into consideration a conservative growth margin when pricing the business for sale.

When I sold my Real Estate Company in Chicago I sold it for quite a bit more than 3x what I was making at the time, because I could show sustainable growth model for continued success.

That being said, if growth margins are apparent within the business model of No Idea, than it may be worth much more than what present day take home is, thus explaining the price absent from owner compensation.

Actually the post exchange at Fort Hood is much funnier.

Does anyone else think it is a bad business decision to post that you are selling a business because you think that there is eminent failure due to changes in the community? Not exactly the best sales pitch in my mind.


Not at all. Once the proposed changes regarding parking become law, many bar/tavern owners may have to focus their business model more on food, rather than booze.

This is the entire reason for the parking change.

Many residents of the neighborhood [Federal Hill] are fed up with what they perceive to be an increasingly rowdy crowd venturing into Federal Hill on weekend nights.

By limiting parking, you are going to force a decent percentage of these consumers to Canton and Fells Point. I personally believe Fells Point is going to see a revival in nightlife in the coming two-three years, especially with the recent purchase and renovation of both Broadway markets, and the proposed zoning variances now being weighed. Not to mention Harbor East Development Corp’s proposed approved and current renovation that extends Harbor East directly to Thames St. There is quite a bit of land that is zoned for restaurant, and it looks as if the city may even open the books for a few tavern licenses.

This will leave a void in the consumer marketplace for Federal Hill taverns, thus, forcing them to augment their business model to focus more on food and dining options, and concentrate their marketing efforts more towards neighborhood residents rather than weekend visitors.

The nightlife area of Federal Hill will undoubtedly be relocated along Key Highway within the next 5-10 years.

Many board members and residents plan on using the parking restrictions to force bar/tavern owners to offer more food choices and concentrate their business model more on dining than late night boozing.

So, Don't Know has a full service kitchen. If a prospective buyer plans on focusing their model more towards food service, now would be a great time to start negotiating with licensees in Federal Hill.

Jason isn't the only bar selling. I can think of two on the good side of Cross St and a handful of owners throughout the neighborhood who want out.

Mark Twain,

I agreed with you until you said you sold your real estate company. What year did you sell? One can spin profit/growth numbers all one wants. The bottom line is what did/does your place make. 3x is the jumping off point. As for a bar, well that's where it gets interesting. No institution wants to touch a bar/restaurant to lend. People who have $100,000's of dollars in cash to put down for a bar aren't going to be hurting cause of parking patterns in the city. As for spinning the food aspect, to each his own, every tavern owner I spoke to hates the food aspect. Higher wages, spoilage, un/sanitary conditions, health dept., The only owners that love it are the Chefs/operators.

James - I don't think Don't No and No idea taverns would be on the verge of Imminent failure. Yes they will take a hit at first but if you market and work at it, it'll pay dividends.

I agree that Fells is coming back. Metered parking killed it several years ago and everyone fled to Canton and Fed Hill. Baltimore seriously has to take a look at itself in regards to drunken behavior and adopt a New Orleans type attitude of enforcement. I have seen that up close and personally think it works. Be drunk and nice. No? Off to jail.
But what do I know....

What he said!!!!

If you guys could have a nice tavern/club, what part/section/hood would you have it in and why? Seems like everyplace in Bmore has it's rules and regs. Just wondering

What do I know,

I sold my firm in 2003. We are in complete agreement. Perhaps I should have clarified in my previous post, I was not taking a position on the parking issue; I was trying to explain what the parking issue is actually about.

I completely agree, no bar owner wants to run a restaurant just like no chef wants to run a bar. They are two different animals and require a very different expertise.

The intent behind the proposed legislation is to minimize the bar business in the neighborhood. There are groups whose purpose is to lobby against these businesses.

Some residents envision Cross St to be a couple bars, a few restaurants, retail and gallery space. They see the parking issue as a major step towards that goal.

In the end, these folks plan for the bar/nightlife area to be dissolved, or centered on Key Highway. I don't believe a parking compromise will be reached, because parking isn't what I believe to be the actual issue, but an issue that attracts broader support from residents who are tolerant or indifferent towards the activity on Cross St. After parking will come issues of sanitation, safety, health, proposed zoning changes, etc… All of these issues while not directly targeting the businesses on Cross St, will chip bit-by-bit at their ability to operate successfully.

If I were a bar owner in Federal Hill I would be very active in my fight against this legislation, in fact, I would be surprised if the association (forget name) that was formed to represent Federal Hill licensees isn’t.

Mark T,

All good, I have no vested interest in the parking issue. I do hope something can be worked out because I do feel those bars are what makes Federal Hill. You say there are groups that lobby against these businesses. What are they? Adam's Morgan in DC is having the same problem. It was a cr@p hole before the bars came, then the bars came, then the yuppies, then it became a dump with trash, fights, blah, blah, blah, now they're revoking restaurant licenses that are running as bars even though they have been that way (read generating huge tax money for DC) from the beginning. Now DC is targeting them after turning a blind eye for a generation. Also what part of key highway do you see as being the new nightlife zone?

What Do I Know,

You are speaking of Janet Lugo and the Main Street Association that is trying to change Adams Morgan, and yes, the mindset of that organization is quite similar to the associations and groups that are working in Federal Hill.

I owned a place on 18th st in Adams Mogan and had many dealings with Janet and her underlings. They have quite a bit more power and ability due to their close relationship with local government, and a more supportive voice from neighborhood residents.

The example of Adams Morgan that you gave is perfect. When I was there a few years ago, the neighborhood residents were divided on the bar/restaurant issue. Now, after successfully talking such issues as parking and sanitation, these groups have managed to increase the support they receive from the neighborhood, and moreover, target that support directly towards new legislation tackling bars and restaurants, which can easily be sold as the root cause of a lot of these problems; justified or not.

The Adams Morgan situation should be a warning of things to come for Federal Hill bar owners if they do not respond to these plans for legislation with a uniform voice.

I almost got suckered into a place in AD. When I asked if it was a CT license or a CR license, the owner said it didn't matter. I always operated just as a bar in the past. I'm thinking it didn't matter to you but that 45% 55% ratio matters to me cause I'm the one who's gonna take in arears. I did my homework and everyone rushed to get CT license (for those of you reading, CT=tavern license, no food CR restaurant and you have to have ratios in food vs. liquor sales.) before the moratorium. From what I'm seeing, whichever community (AD/Fed hill) makes more money from taxes will win the battle. Is it home owners taxes or revenue from businesses. period. Neither area wants to kill the golden goose that made them what they are today, but that is what's happening. But what do I know. Keep up the fight

What Do I Know,

That's the same as what's going on in Federal Hill.

With the exception of a few licensees, the majority is licensed as restaurants, yet operate (for the most part) as taverns. Most of the time regulators don't care.

Federal Hill Tavern was licensed as a restaurant, even though it lacked a kitchen. So it operated as a tavern.

However, when enough residents get together who are peeved, and their short-goal of limiting the bars, matches with a city's long-goal of rezoning the area; watch out. The city is going to wait and see what HDC does with Fells Point. They want to see Fells Point transform the way Center City has in Philly.

If their vision becomes reality, then it will be used as a case study to change other city neighborhoods.

If the bar owners in Federal Hill don't closely monitor the Fells Point situation over the next couple years and adapt their model accordingly, they may wake up and find themselves in a no-win situation with the city, and a handful of corporate outfits ready to make substantial investments into these neighborhoods to become primary operators. Take a stroll through the major entertainment districts of Philadelphia, Washington DC or a handful of other cities and compare what you see today, from what you saw just 3-5 years ago. Everything has changed. I don’t believe it will benefit anyone if we see more corporate outfits in Baltimore (operating these establishments), but what I see does indicate that we are headed in this direction.

This has even been tried in New York, but the New York Nightlife Association has strong lobbying power and has fought the city and its residents every step of the way; and they’re winning. It would be beneficial, although entirely self-serving, if bar and restaurant owners in Baltimore organized on a more professional level to fight some of these changes that will undoubtedly encumber not only these existing businesses, but the potential for future owner/operators to open up a mom & pop bar/restaurant in these neighborhoods.

This isn't my fight, I’m actually quite indifferent. In the end, the current bars will lose; they always do, unless they reinvent themselves.

(for disclosure, I owned a nightclub in Penn Quarter. The spot I owned on 18th St in Adams Morgan was retail, not food and beverage).

well no loss there I had a party there and the owner was so unfriendly at the end of the night the birthday boy wanted to use the bathroom and he said no it is almost 2 am you had all nigh WTF I will never step foot in there again and neither will anybody I know

Hey, I'm the owner "was" of Kiss Cafe and yes after 7 years of Kiss, I closed. It was a nice run thanks to all the people who had great times there. As far as the haters, oh well. With sber charging 15k a month for rent and bge at 5k it became too hard to make a profit. To jmgiordano if people were fired or walked out and they were good why do you think they would walk out or be fired? and to "cheese" I slept at Kiss on and off for a couple of weeks in 2004 after someone broke in 3 times in a month. they didn't take enough to warrant using my insurance so I waited with my pitbulls praying they would come while i was there. I just found out 2 weeks ago the guy who broke in was a friend of a girl who opened for me for 2 years. he was an addict. and lastly to Kay it was after 2am and birthday boy was wasted. It was a liq lis. thing not personal. thx again to the peeps that had fond memories Victor Ganderson

thanks again,

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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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