baltimoresun.com

« The top 20 Baltimore hip-hop releases of 2008 | Main | I post the photo, you write the caption »

January 7, 2009

The city's most under-utilized bar(s)

13th floorWhen I think about Baltimore bars with the most under-realized potential, two come to mind right off the bat: The Owl Bar and the 13th Floor (pictured).

Both these bars are located in the grand old Belvedere Hotel -- a swanky building with a history of entertaining high-rollers in decades past.

Heck, when you walk through the big glass revolving door into the lobby and see the photos of all those old celebrities who used to frequent the Owl Bar when they were in town, you can't help but be impressed.

Walk back through the Owl Bar's corridor entrance way and you think, "Oh, man, this is going to be awesomely plush and old school."

Then you actually walk into the Owl Bar and think, "Oh, man, what a letdown." ...

The 13th FloorThe Owl Bar looks like just another bar/restaurant with the usual assortment of casually dressed neighborhood regulars. The bar is poorly stocked and poorly run and the drinks are pricey. Instead of giving you the list of drinks they have, the bartenders give you the list of the drinks they're out of.

For years, Amie wanted to go to the Owl Bar. When she finally did, she never wanted to go back. Can't say I blame her.

The 13th Floor is even worse. Think of the idea -- you step into an elevator and take it up to floor 13 -- the top of one of the tallest buildings around. The 13th Floor has some of the best sight lines in the city. This should be a bar you want to take your out-of-town friends to. 

Instead, it's just an OK lounge with a scattered array of live music. Granted, I'm all about having more places for local musicians to play. But it's hard for a lounge to build up a following when one night it's hosting a jazz band and the next night it's a hip-hop act.

Someone needs to take over the 13th Floor, rip up that ratty old carpet, take down the tacky rope lights and replace the rickety wood performance platform with a state-of-the-art stage and sound system. Last I checked, they don't even serve food up there! Come on!

The 13th Floor needs a bigger drink list with more reasonable prices and bartenders who don't take their sweet time making them. It doesn't even have a proper Web site! Come on!

The 13th Floor should be Baltimore's best lounge. I wish someone would make it so.

(Photos by Karl Merton Ferron/Sun photographer)


Follow Midnight Sun on Facebook and Twitter @midnightsunblog
Posted by Sam Sessa at 9:21 AM | | Comments (63)
Categories: Bars & Clubs
        

Comments

Sam Sessa, fired up in 2009!

I couldn't agree more. Put me on any petition you've got.

Agreed 1000%. Though the Owl Bar does have its inherent charms, they DEFINITELY aren't making the most of them. Pizza's not bad there though. The bartenders and wait staff suck bigtime.

13th floor is a joke.

yes, yes, yes, yes, yes --

Drew watch it with the F word around the Sun website!

hahah ... evan i actually panicked there for a second ... nice one.

I've been begging for a lounge. (Somebody buy PUR and turn it back into Goodlove please! Hint- L.G.)
Last time I went to the 13th Floor with friends we left after one round cuz it took FOREVER to get that. The bathrooms suck too!

This would be a great candidate for an elegant cocktail lounge serving expertly crafted drinks, like The Gibson in Washington, D.C.

I totally agree with you. I've even given Owl Bar and 13th floor multiple chances to redeem themselves, and I always leave asking myself why I even bothered to go. BOTH places need complete overhauls!!!

i couldn't agree more. i live a block away from the belvedere, and while i used to go to the 13th floor a couple times a year when i lived in canton, i haven't been there once since i moved to mt. vernon 3+ years ago. having already been there, i knew exactly what to expect (what you just described), and felt no need to go back.

I wish i would have made the same decision about owl bar. For some reason i keep going back there, when every time i leave it ends up the same ok time and an overly priced bill. god forbid if you want food there, the service is usually understaffed and takes forrrrever. i have noticed it's gotten better recently.

I disagree. I like the Owl Bar for its charm -- but not the food. I just don't eat there, and I'm happy. Saturdays are always good people-watching because there's always a wedding reception across the way.

I believe you can get the Owl Bar's brick-oven pizza on the 13th Floor. (But see above re: not eating there.)

There's so much potential at both places. I stop into each once a year of so to see if they've gotten better, and have yet to be convinced. It's a shame, too, as my wife and I were married at the Belvedere and it would be a nice sentimental place to visit, if it were worth it.

There are much better Mount Vernon destinations that treat you much better, such as the Tusk Lounge, upstairs at the Brass Elephant. Like Brewers, they offer both the restaurant menu as well as a lower-priced bar menu.

Owl Bar serves food late, which is why it becomes the Destination of Last Resort if you need a classier option than Never on Sunday or if your party isn't interested in Korean at Nam Kang or if you don't want to explain Paper Moon to your mother.

And what Sam described, about the beer list being a better reflection of what Owl Bar *doesn't* have on tap, than what they do? So, so true.

The Belvedere is pretty threadbare as a whole. I can't believe people pay the premium to have events there given the condition of the bathrooms throughout the building, particularly in the lobby. Maybe they just take their good fortune as a historic building for granted.

Lager's is a hugely underutilized space. Or, should I say, misused space. What a prime location for a cozy neighborhood bar. As it is, though, I'd rather eat broken glass that go to Lager's.

every time I go to Owl Bar, it turns into mouse watching instead of people watching. Which, is of course ironic at the OWL bar. I still get excited when I see the taps, but then, inevitably, they are out of everything I want to drink. Or just out of everything. Even when it's not busy, it is so hard to get drinks.

I also totally agree on 13th floor. It should be way cooler than it is. Now it's just kind of a sad joke.

Right on. These two places should be on par with the Brewer's Art, for Mount Vernon spots. But no one I know has any particular love for either. The 13th Floor didn't have draft beer for a while, and maybe they still don't. That was always in my mind when I thought about going there.

complete agreed. what we need are cool bars with outdoor spaces for nice weather days. anyone ever been to Chicago.. its cold there in winter but they have numerous fun indoor/outdoor spaces for summer.. why cant we figure it out.. like Little Havana. except theit outdoor space is still pathetic

Deacon,

Did somebody mention Chicago? Two words.. Pontiac Grill.

Bay Cafe can be pretty annoying but it's the best indoor/outdoor space around... Nick's Fish House is okay, too.

I've always thought that Castaway's on Boston St. was a nice place that no one went to. The place needs an identity though. I don't know what type of bar I would consider it. Opening the kitchen probably wouldn't hurt either. That area in between Fells and Canton has been a no-man's land for a few years with a few exceptions. The Gin Mill has seemed to have rebounded nicely and Bartenders is another spot in that area of note.

T one time the 13th floor was one of the best places in Balto. to go, but Balto . is a low class city and no one wants to go anywhere in Balto. If you compare Balto. to say Atlanta, geographically Balto. is far superior , however Atlanta is light years ahead because they have people running there cithy who care about their city and not there own pockets , unlike the corrupt gov'ts we have in in Balto. for many, many years, case in point, the only reason we still close bars and clubs at 2 is because there are black ministers who have their hand sin the pockets of Balto. politicians and thtay object to closings later than 2!!!!!

Mike B,

Pretty sure the 2 AM closing is a state law... and I'm pretty sure that nationwide, it is fairly common/average to close at 2 AM.

Mike B,

Actually, back in 2005 the Baltimore Downtown Partnership along with Nathan C. Irby Jr (former liquor board director) and various members of city hall, introduced legislation to allow for 4am closing times.

Resistance was met by the Baltimore City Police Department and various neighborhood associations; not ministers.

Mike B., making blog commenters everywhere look bad with each typo and racial undertone. Congrats.

I was wondering what happened with that 4 a.m. bar closing proposal! At the time I was really excited about it, but sadly, now, I am probably too old to even think about staying out that late. It would be nice to at least have the option though.

Hello my name is Patrick Alban and I am the Entertainment Manager at the 13th Floor, a job I took over about 4 months ago.

I would like to address a few points about this review.

We have entertainment 4 times a week (Wed-Saturday), and there is a different music theme for every night we have entertainment. (We can't have jazz 4 nights a week unless you promise to come into the club everynight to hear just jazz).

Wednesday nights are "Open-Mic" nights with an "in house band" because we would like to give an opportunity for all musicians around town to come up and show their talents.

Thursday nights are "College" nights, in which we feature modern rock bands with $2 beers and $3 shooters, which we think is a pretty good price, don't you think?

Friday nights are "Blues, Jazz, R+B, Classic Rock" nights, a night for everyone to enjoy!

Saturday nights are "Salsa/International" nights, which are our most successful night of the week because of the great music that we feature.

I know this because I make the schedule myself, and at no time we did not have any "hip hop" bands. Actually, there hasn't been a "hip hop" or "rap" group in 6 months at the 13th Floor. And the reasoning for this is because there were too many fights and problems when these groups were performing. However, once a month, we have an event that is held by Firefly Entertainment. Firefly Entertainment provides lesbian events (and we would like to think we support all kinds of diverse groups). This is the one and only night that this group brings in a DJ, who plays "hip hop" and other sorts of music.

I'm sorry if you walked in on that event and were disappointed. However, we've been working with Firefly Entertainment for the past year, and have never had any problems or complaints. We have plans to continue working with Firefly Entertainment in the future.

I know this kind of events and music genre isn't for everyone, but hosting it one night a month isn't such a bad thing.

As far as the sound equipment goes, it has been replaced with brand new gear that includes state of the art speakers, Tascam 24 channel sound board with multiple effects boxes and backline. For more information, please contact me and I can give you more details on the sound equipment.

As far as the website and calendar, we are in the process of designing and hosting a brand new website. In the meantime, check out our page and event schedule at www.myspace.com/13thfloorbaltimore We future and ad and our weekly schedule in The City Paper as well.

We are also working on the customer service aspect of the 13th Floor. I agree with you on the services that are offered at the bar, and again, we are in the process of changing our customer service to making it better than it is currently.

I'm curious to know what night you were at the 13th Floor so I can find out who the staff was that assisted you, and to find out which band was performing.

Looking at your pictures, the club and the view look great. As for the martini on the bar, it looks very appetizing, especially with the Christmas flower decorations in the background. So it seems to me that if the bar was as bad as you stated, you probably wouldn't have taken these pictures. The 13th Floor is a place where people do take their "out of town" guests.

I wanted to also let you know that we do serve food until 10pm-just ask for a menu.

Yes, the drinks are a bit pricey, but then again, we're talking about the 13th Floor, and as you know, we need to pay for the bands, the security and other expenses that the club has.

I know you said that you support music and as a musician myself who has performed at the 13th Floor for the past 10 years, I thank you kindly for your support and love of music.

Please feel free to come in at your convenience to hear any of the great music that is offered at the 13th Floor.

Hope you can give us another chance and let us show you what we're all about.

Patrick Alban
Entertainment Manager, 13th Floor



I like the 13th Floor, it also nice to see that they are listening. It could use some rejuvination. An 18th Street Lounge effect comes to mind.

I like The 18th Street Lounge in DC but that is in DC and those steps they are killer when loading band equipment and there is no sound equipment of any kind. and if you don"t like the drink prices in The 13th Floor you are going to hate them at The 18th Street Lounge not to mention no view.

I completely agree...

Patrick wrote...

"We have entertainment 4 times a week (Wed-Saturday), and there is a different music theme for every night we have entertainment. (We can't have jazz 4 nights a week unless you promise to come into the club every night to hear just jazz).

Wednesday nights are "Open-Mic" nights with an "in house band" because we would like to give an opportunity for all musicians around town to come up and show their talents.

Thursday nights are "College" nights, in which we feature modern rock bands with $2 beers and $3 shooters, which we think is a pretty good price, don't you think?

Friday nights are "Blues, Jazz, R+B, Classic Rock" nights, a night for everyone to enjoy!"

---------
The 13th floor doesn't need to be jazz one night, open mic the next, classic rock after that, then some blues.

That's the problem. The 13th floor has no identity. Patrick, my friend, trying to offer customers a little of everything will get you a lot less business than offering one thing and doing it well and being consistent.

There should never be $2 shooters at the 13th floor. I am so damn frustrated writing this, I'm going to stop. I can't believe this conversation is necessary.

I need to get out of this town. Time for a vacation.

You are right is not necessary.
Can please everyone!
Have a good vacation

The 13th Floor will continue to remain blight on Baltimore until it is sold to a competent owner who assembles a staff with the experience necessary to sustain a venue with such historic significance.

It seems apparently obvious that the owner has lost interest in maintaining both the Owl Bar and the 13th Floor. We can all agree the food and service at the Owl Bar isn't anything to write home about either.

The 13th Floor does not need a smorgasbord of events, genres and styles to make money. In fact, this surely will result in minimizing 13th Floor's potential.

It needs to be what it is. A historic bar with unparalleled views of the city located at a landmark address with quality cocktails, wine and entertainment—NOT themed entertainment.

After proper renovations and staffing, the private rentals of the space alone would be worth more than all the Salsa & International events combined.

Consistency in service, food, decor and entertainment are the -only- ingredients to success. There are no short cuts. Save the $2 shooters.

Just advertising $2 shooters turns in good business for bad business. You don't ever have to give you bar away, and you surely shouldn't do so when you're the 13th Floor.

As someone who has spent years owning bars in various cities throughout the country, it’s frustrating to see a venue such as the 13th Floor running a marketing and promotional strategy that could easily be confused for a Baja Beach Club, or Drifters.

Until ownership and management realize the unique merits and inert value of their real estate, they will continue spinning their wheels on foolish discounts, specials and outside promotions which do more to dilute their brand than increase their business.

Patrick, it's not about pleasing everyone. It's about pleasing enough of the populous to have a consistent clientele that benefits and compliments the brand of the business, and moves the venue forward.

Something that hasn't been done at the 13th Floor since by business partner was in college. He's pushing 40 now.

You keep talking about quality entertainment what kind of entertainment would you suggest?


Patrick,

I will be at the 13th Floor this Tuesday for the Mt. Vernon-Belvedere Association event.

Let me soak in the surroundings and touch base with you then.

Grow up people, when was the last time any of you were on the 13th Floor? If you think they don't serve food, maybe you weren't inteligent enough to as for a menu! And if you think their prices are so expensive, and you can't afford them, go to a local dive for your 75 cent Natty Boh's. I've been there many times never thought I was paying to much, and always had great food, drinks as well as service. And if all you can do is whine about a place, then definately don't there, I prefer to be around people who enjoy a night out, than be around a bunch of cry babies!

Yeah Elizabeth, you definately need to get out of town, I bet Stepford would be a good place for you!!!

To The BLOGGER and writer of this article, were you even inteligent enough to ask if the 13th Floor actually had a menu???

Patrick,

I've not been to either of the two bars commented on and most of the posts leave one with the distinct impressing that neither are worth going out of one's way to visit.

Your defense of the 13th floor has drawn no allies thus far which should you give a moment of reflection and consideration.

My question is, given by all accounts this establishment has such a great view of Baltimore, why is management mucking up with live entertainment drawing a clientele who probably don't give a sh*t about the view? Live entertainment is a great forte if you’re located in a basement somewhere.
I would think that capitalizing on the view by having an ambience that is conducive to leisurely enjoying a drink or meal with company. This type of location should be targeting a modestly upscale clientele, College nights sound like a mistake and a bit desperate in the overall scheme of things to attract patrons, like whoring for customers.

Make the drinks competively priced, merely being the 13th floor isn’t reason enough, at least not at this moment. If you’re going to have to pay for having live entertainment and security charge a cover charge on those nights.

It sounds like the 13th needs an identity of some sort, something that typifies the kind of place it is, to make it stand out and be able to build a marketing strategy around, beyond merely it’s location, to catch the targeted clientele's attention.

Patrick

my previous post was submitted before P.O'd Person's post/sound off appearred, ergo was unaware you garnered a defender.

The last time I set foot in the Owl Bar or the 13th Floor I was best buddies with one of the former owners, it was the place to be and have a very upscale fun time, and I wasn't even old enough to do it yet (legally). But it was a blast! I don't know what happen to these places, but I sure wish it was still around. I would love to relive those good old days of luxe without breaking my bank too much!

The 13th floor has a unique ambiance that sadly no other place in Baltimore offers. Not only can you find the best views of the city while enjoying great music but it has something for everyone. Currently, living in Miami but having family and friends in Baltimore I can honestly say that I appreciate that.

When I visited the 13th floor two weeks ago I loved the live bands that were playing. It’s unfortunate that Baltimore is not the most acculturated of cities that embrace all types of music but believe me it’s worth going out and hearing it for yourself! After visiting Baltimore on a regular basis and searching for other places that offer good live music I was disappointed by the lack of variety that such a great city had to offer. At the 13th floor I found that the drinks were more than your average prices at the Green Turtle to name a few but it was for good reason. Higher drinking prices have shown to deter unwanted guests who may bring violence. I don’t mind paying extra money when having a great time, has anyone ever asked for discounted food or drink prices at Tio Pepe? There’s obviously a give and take among nice places, it’s like the old saying, you get what you pay for. I took my friends up there with me who were visiting from Miami and they loved it too. Several of my friends even said that the music and environment made them feel like they were back home. The problem is not that the thirteen floor hasn’t found its identity, it’s that many locals are comfortable with the same. After living in Miami for almost 10 years now I can tell you that offering more than one type of music in a prime location is a recipe for a successful business! The 13th floor manages to have eclectic genres of music while maintaining a classy environment. Dress code is strictly enforced every time I’ve gone and I have NEVER heard hip hop. Excellent job management and I look forward to visiting again!

Patrick:
After reading all the comments posted by everyone (good and not so good) It seems everyone have their own opinion, but 13th Flr is very much have the best of the view & live entertainment.

When I compare many bar & clubs in B-more, you can't please everyone. 13th Flr club have great entertainment compared to clubs in DC but you don't pay the expensive cover charge plus the cost for parking like in DC and distance to get there. Blogger who wrote their comment don't realize that if you want cheap drinks and food, they should go to their neighborhood bar and get drunk for a cheap price.

Compare the high prices and slow service at the bars at Power Plant Live and they cost the same and yet no Live entertainment & no awesome city night view. I have been to L.A, San Diego, San Fran, West Coast, Miami, N.Y, D.C and etc. and 13th Flr makes me feel like I am in South Beach, Miami. 13th Flr. may not be for everybody but they are much better that any bar or clubs in B-more. 13th Flr club have been there for quite a long time and many bars & clubs have long been gone, it just needs a new touch? I love the Saturday night salsa dance classes, live music, the friendly bartender and the people you meet and dance! Looking forward for a great night at the 13th Flr. next time I will be in town from L.A.

The 13th Flr is NO Howard's. That's for sure.
The most underutilized bars in my opinion are ( in no particular order)
Bill's Cafe.
JD Saloon
Gattus's
Howard's
Bar
Chubbies (which can never be accused of false advertising)
and Bills' Stag Bar (yes it's a real place)

as a former employee of the 13th floor i can't agree more with the posts that criticize management.

patrick, the manager, is IN the band (that he loves) that performs every saturday night. i worked there for almost a year. we never really got too busy.

the 13th floor barely makes profit. it's a disaster, and that's why its for sale.

i also question the existence of adrian jo lopez and david collora, they write very similar to the way patrick talks.,

I have to nominate Illusions Magic Bar in Federal Hill. Illusions is such a nice bar that I don't hear much about. Unfortunately they don't have food there, but it is in a great location and it has a lot of space. I would like them to be able to make customers appear there.

13 Floor Employee wrote:???
patrick, the manager, is IN the band (that he loves) that performs every saturday night. i worked there for almost a year. we never really got too busy.

My band performs at the 13th Floor every 1st Saturday of the month (not every Saturday). We MUST be doing something right if we have been there for the past 10 years-but you should know this since you worked there, right?

I have been the Entertainment Manager for the past 5 months (not the full-time manager), but all of that aside, I don't have to explain that to you, I do have to explain only to my boss, your former boss that fired you.

This will be my last comment. I find it that this is turning ugly and non-important, and this is NOT what the 13th Floor is all about. (I love the club, love it's customers, and love my job).

I am still not sure when Sam Sessa was at the 13th Floor. The photos look like they were taken in 2007, not this past month. I know this because we used the "reindeer" decorations in 2007.

Anyone is welcome at the 13th Floor, including ex-employees. Again, sorry we can't please everyone. We do please the majority of our customers, and I thank all of you for your continued support.

Special thanks to all of the people with all of the positive feedback. Please make sure to introduce yourselves if you're ever at the 13th Floor, or send me an email. Next time you're at the club, I'll be happy to buy you a drink.

Patrick

Oh man, this thread is getting entertaining. I love the fake reviews by "Dave Collora" and "Adrian Jo Lopez". I truly feel bad for Patrick and how completely oblivious he is.

Patrick...listen to the sound advice given by Mark Twain...no need to get defensive...be open to help. Worst case scenario...you give people the impression that you're trying to fix things after years of being a total joke.

Rotating music is a bad idea for the 13th floor. They should target one audience and cater to it. This will never be the place you take your out of town guests because depending on the day you have no idea what to expect. I'm not saying it needs to be an Applebee's or Chili's but look at why people go to those places — consistency. Why did Sessa write this article, because he didn't get what he expected. You have to pick your market, find what they like that you can offer, and then do it well over and over again.

Greg and Justin make great points. Sometimes I get tired of hearing what I should do to make a place better and 99% of the time, people have no clue what they are talking about, however you still have to listen. Just by reading this blog I have gotten a lot of great ideas from other people and it definitely has made my places better. Consistency is the second most important thing in the bar/ restaurant business, number 1 being location. The 13th floor is a great place and every place can always be better no matter how great it already is. BTW is 13th Floor for sale?

Eutaw Street Historian,

You something awhile back that caught my eye. I would like to discuss it with you and hear your advice.

Please get my info from Sam if you get the chance.

Sorry Sam.

Patrick Alban,

Face it, if this is a representative sampling of people who have gone to the 13th Floor, the place needs to upgrade it's image.

By the way your link to the MySpace page dosn't work, very curious.

Well, I spent last night a the 13th Floor. It was a very interesting experience and I plan on writing my take on last night's experience at some point today.

Very surreal.

January 14, 2009

Patrick,

Here's my review regaridng my experience at the 13th Floor as per your request.

Last night was the annual Mt. Vernon-Belvedere Association holiday party. It was held at the 13th Floor in the Belvedere.

My business partner and I arrived around 7pm and there was a decent crowd already enjoying drinks and appetizers. The music was good. There was a background band, and while you could hear and enjoy the music, you could also hold a conversation with the person next to you.

If you don’t want to hear anything negative, you should probably stop reading now. This review goes downhill from here…


I like all kinds of bars. I do dive bars, I do clubs (rarely and reluctantly), I do upscale lounges, etc. I like the industry as a whole, not certain concepts and types of establishments. Please don’t feel that I am judging the 13th Floor as a pretentious jerk in an unfair manner. Before I get started, I want to share a few quotes from Patrick Alban in defense of the 13th Floor.

So, while I hold the 13th Floor to a certain standard, I do so because the Entertainment Manager, Patrick Alban vigorously defended the venue, as he stated…

“Looking at your pictures, the club and the view look great. As for the martini on the bar, it looks very appetizing, especially with the Christmas flower decorations in the background. So it seems to me that if the bar was as bad as you stated, you probably wouldn't have taken these pictures. The 13th Floor is a place where people do take their "out of town" guests.”

“Yes, the drinks are a bit pricey, but then again, we're talking about the 13th Floor…”

Well, let’s talk about the 13th Floor. I was actually shocked to see the disarray and condition this venue is in. I cannot believe this venue considers itself upscale. I know this is going to sound extremely harsh. Trust me, had you been there last night with the purpose of looking for ways to improve the venue, your list would probably be longer than mine.

When you get off the elevator you can’t help but notice the dirty stained carpet below your feet. Large stains that look as if they’ve been there for years. When your eyes glance up, you see the red walls, and then you see the countless scratches and patches of peeling paint and the white walls beneath peeking at you.

It was around thirty degrees last night. The 13th Floor has a coat check, but it was closed. Actually, it was blocked by old furniture and some amps. People held their coats throughout the evening. At one point, somebody provided something to hang coats on. They setup this old piece of furniture, right there, in the middle of the venue for all to pile their coats on.


This is 100% true. I scooted up to the bar on the side that faces the rear of the establishment. As I grabbed a stool, I couldn’t help but notice large, and I mean really large tears in the top of my pleather seat. Fortunately for me, I wasn’t alone. The girl at the stool next to me showed me hers; her stool! Dirty minds… Many of the stools throughout the venue are badly ripped and torn.

I’ve cleaned my fair share of bars. I know it will be denied, but the bottles behind the bar have not been removed and the bar cleaned for some time. If they have, they need to fire their cleaning service. You can actually see the dust where the bottles rest. Next to the register there is an assortment of daily register tabs and folders for the world to review. They would probably be better stored in an office than on the bar.

One thing that caught my eye was the small, white, oscillating fan behind the bar to keep the bartenders cool. Maybe they couldn’t check their coats either and were getting warm. It was a bit tacky, especially for the crowd that was in attendance.


So, I head to the bathroom and enter another world. Rusted bathroom stalls, where the rust has been painted over. Graffiti in the stalls. Chipped and cracked mirror on the wall. The bathroom was clean, well sort of. After 20+ years of commercial use, without improvement, no matter how much bleach you pour, it’s still going to appear unclean. The white tile grout has long gone dark grey. Now, I know some people are saying, “The Bathroom?” Really, aren’t there better things to critique? Yeah, there are. But, the 13th Floor has chosen to bill itself as an upscale destination spot for a discerning clientele. Please, give me a break.

So, this brings us to customer service. I had no complaints about the staff that was actually there (we’ll get to that). The bartenders, caterers (it was a catered event), bussers were friendly and courteous.

There was no manager on the premises between the time of 7:47pm and 10:23pm, when we left. At 7:47 on the dot, I asked for Mr. Patrick Alban and informed he wasn’t working. Bill, Patrick’s boss is managing. I asked to see Bill, but there was a problem. Bill had gone downstairs to one of the condos to “smoke.” He had left his cell phone upstairs and they had no means of contacting him. I was told as soon as he returned he would be sent to my table. Around an hour later, close to nine o’clock, a friend from Legg Mason came over and asked if I had seen the manager. I noted his “smoke” break was now nearing an hour in duration.

Now, I want you to put yourself in this position. You own/manage a venue which you consider an upscale destination lounge. Then, by nature, you’ll want to attract and retain this [upscale] crowd. Well, last night this crowd was in attendance. Among the guests, a President of a very prominent Maryland university, the publisher of one of Baltimore’s largest newspapers, multiple principals of Baltimore business world, as well as the Baltimore City Council President and an array of her associates. No doubt these people will talk to their friends about their experience. Since this is your target demographic, it would probably be beneficial to put your best put forward.

I learned something last night about the makeup of the Mt. Vernon Association that I hadn’t realized before. Most are not originally from Baltimore, they are transplants like me. A few of us started talking, and very quickly, and perhaps due to a little push by me, our topic of conversation turned to the 13th Floor and the horrific condition it is in today. It didn’t take long for our group to reach the consensus that under current management this place is a lost cause. In fact, we decided to nominate the 13th Floor for “Dive Bar with Best View” We think it’s a shoe in.

And, when I say dive bar, I don’t mean a cool place to chill with friends and enjoy drinks, I mean Knights of Columbus Hall with a view. It got me thinking, is the view from the 13th floor really that good, or all we all just afraid to turn around and see where we are.

We left around 10ish because that’s when the uncensored, explicit rap music started playing. Perhaps this wouldn’t have happened had an entertainment manager been present. I have to admit, it was entertaining to see a crowd of middle aged professionals react as smooth live jazz turned into hardcore rap. The crowd cleared the place, I sh*t you not, in less than 30 min. When we left there were at most twelve people left in the bar.

It was a disappointing evening. I never was able to speak to the manager; he may still be on his smoke break.

Mark - I've sent Sam an email, but haven't heard back from him.

If we can't connect by the weekend, I'll bare all and give you a way to get to my facebook page.

Careful 13th fl, I can see Buddha's palms flying everywhere (If you didn't see Kung Fu Hustle, google then rent.) I agree with the assessment that an upscale lounge should not have patched walls, torn chairs and the tie goes to piled up chairs and equipment in view of patrons and/or patrons using the equipment when there's no where else to put your coats.

Mark Twain,

Sorry I couldn't attend. I had to go back to LA for three days. It was hysterical talking to you. You think that Flips up in Hampden is for sale? I met the great Zed Moses of LA. He owns the Golden Gopher, The Doheny, The Grand Avenue Bar. Same concept as your, same sizes too. My friend invested in the Doheny and he's getting pennies and thank you cigars as a return.

Bravo Mark Twain, let's see if Patrick comments on this. Probably not though.

Eutaw Street Historian,

Sorry for the delay. I sent you an email early this morning. I am very curious to hear your thoughts.

I would like to address all those who commented on the subject of the 13th floor/Owl Bar, and especially the anon. hospitality "experts"/"owners" with fancy friends. Mark Twain and Eutaw St. I hope you folks are smarter than you seem and are not looking into buying into the Belvedere. The physical plant is a total mess, I'm talking basement here a literal nightmare, have a look when you're not dealing with the obvious. Then you have the disastrous relations with the condo owners/board.

Yes you dolts everything in that place is a condo w/fees. Sound like fun navigating those problems? The current owners have lied and misrepresented themselves and their businesses so often I don't think anybody living at the Belvedere can actually stand them.

Stuehler was instrumental in allowing that bottle club in the basement to operate. Mostly because he did not want to pay additional condo fees, should that space be vacant. That worked out pretty well, I mean with the shootings/stabbings and all.That brings me to the owners themselves, unreasonable, read as nutty. Boorish, rude, classless and and greedy, not to mention dishonest and crooked. Just look at his plans for La Fontaine Bleue in Glen Burnie. In his case it's too much, too late. Wasteful gambling in terrible economic times, good job Stuehler. Not to mention the entrenched joke of a management staff there.

Bill is just the tip of the iceberg, believe me. I hope if you are considering buying in, which I gathered from your not so sly online tittering, you better have a ton of money, for purchase AND repair/refurb. TONS. I also hope you can provide more of a plan than your pedestrian and frankly annoying posts suggest. Bar know it alls that you are. Whew I feel better now. Thanks. I'm open to discussion.

In The Know (Patrick and Friends),

"Yes you dolts everything in that place is a condo w/fees. Sound like fun navigating those problems? The current owners have lied and misrepresented themselves and their businesses so often I don't think anybody living at the Belvedere can actually stand them. "

Yes, Patrick, I am aware that when you own property in a condo building, regardless of its use (residential, commercial, retail) you are responsible for the applicable condo fees, assessments and special assessments when applicable.

Perhaps you are unaware, but the Belvedere condo association and the Mt Vernon Belvedere Association have both, for some time, solicited a new concept for this location. Not only are they in support of a sale, they would welcome it with open arms.

The 13th Floor and Owl Bar, and associated liquor businesses in the Belvedere have significantly lowered property values for condo owners in the building, mostly for how they’ve been run and the crowds they've chosen to solicit and attract. Most of their [condo owners] resentment stems from this issue.

"Bill is just the tip of the iceberg, believe me. I hope if you are considering buying in, which I gathered from your not so sly online tittering, you better have a ton of money, for purchase AND repair/refurb. TONS. I also hope you can provide more of a plan than your pedestrian and frankly annoying posts suggest. Bar know it alls that you are. Whew I feel better now. Thanks. I'm open to discussion."

Patrick, I don't think anyone on this forum intends on purchasing the 13th Floor. It's also a bit discourteous to expect owners and managers of bars who have their own marketing and operational procedures to work on, to spend time volunteering their services to fix the 13th Floor.

This forum has provided an abstract, but strong outline on what to change at the 13th Floor when it comes to decor, renovation, service and entertainment. Heeding the advice herein will only increase the ever-so-shrinking pool of customers the 13th Floor attracts.

Businesses need to reinvent themselves from time-to-time. The 13th Floor still has yet to do so.

Patrick,
First I’ll repeat myself from an earlier post with slight amendment,
“I've not been to either of the two bars commented on and most of the posts leave one with the distinct impressing that neither are worth going out of one's way to visit.
Your defense of the 13th floor has drawn few allies thus far which should you give a moment of reflection and consideration.”

You really should try to read these posts without judgment and try to avoid being defensive.
Be mindful that as an employee you are habituated to the 13th Floor’s shortcomings, and grown immune to recognizing them. You really should make a list of the negative criticisms previously posted and really scrutinize the place to see where it has become faded, threadbare, and how the stopgap repairs to casual customers who come it once in a while.
Reading the previous posts clear indicates that to a large number of people it doesn’t make the optimum first impress that inspires any special impulse to go out of their way to return there, not make a return visit all. If fact most give the impression that it’s attractions are ungraciously fading away to the point a degree of seediness has set in, not good for an establishment that thinks it is courting an upscale clientele.
So really go back with the list of comments, maybe with someone has spent little time there to critically look it over before you make your next post.

I left Brewer's on Saturday and drove past the 13th floor. There were three police cars out front and a police van. The cop in the van was walking crime scene tape into the Belvedere.

The 13th Floor had a very young, urban gangster crowd. Lots of timberlands if you know what I mean.

Did something go down? A lot of us in Mt Vernon would like to see the 13th Floor close down, there have been more and more problems with the crowd, and it's getting worse every month.

I have a friend that lives in the building, and every once and awhile we'll go to 13 for a drink... believe me the 13th Floor does not have "an urban gangster crowd"! LOL... It does not have a crowd AT ALL! The "crowd" that Mt.Vernon Guy is referring to is coming from the basement of the Belvedere, Club Krush and the Suite Lounge. Google it and you will see, they have a heavy presence on Myspace. They are BYOB clubs, and they throw heavily promoted teen parties, and other "events". The 13th Floor and Owl Bar have nothing to do with the basement "clubs"...but I bet they wish they did. The basement is always packed!

ha what a great thread. Ive been there a few times on thursday nights to watch my friends band (i guess this would be college night, which i never saw advertised till i read this thread) I do agree the place is very run down and could use some TLC. A lot of it is minor redecorating details that could be done in a day or two without to much cost (except for the bathroom which needs remodeling). It takes money to make money and until someone takes the time to fix this place up it will remain a lackluster bar with a great location. My sister came and visited me in bmore and i thought of taking her there for the view but i decided to pass on it because of the fact that on a given night you dont know what you are going to expect (atmosphere, crowd, etc). people like consistency so they can come every night instead of only once a week, this place is suited for jazz and blues. This place has some serious potential to be something great

Post a comment

All comments must be approved by the blog author. Please do not resubmit comments if they do not immediately appear. You are not required to use your full name when posting, but you should use a real e-mail address. Comments may be republished in print, but we will not publish your e-mail address. Our full Terms of Service are available here.

Please enter the letter "i" in the field below:
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 erik.maza@baltsun.com. 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.
-- ADVERTISEMENT --

Most Recent Comments
Recent tweets
Sign up for FREE nightlife alerts*
Get free Baltimore Sun mobile alerts
Sign up for nightlife text alerts

Returning user? Update preferences.
Sign up for more Sun text alerts
*Standard message and data rates apply. Click here for Frequently Asked Questions.
  • Weekend Watch newsletter
Plan your weekend with baltimoresun.com's best events, restaurant and movie reviews, TV picks and more delivered to you every Thursday for free.
See a sample | Sign up

Photo galleries
Stay connected