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March 16, 2009

More details about the potential Pigtown bar

pigtown bar baltimoreFrom the number of comments under the 'If he builds a bar in Pigtown, will you come?' post, it's clear we touched on a nerve.

Could Pigtown support a new bar? There seem to be a lot of people in favor of it, and a lot of people who think it's lunacy. 

Well, I'd like to reveal the potential bar owner.

Some of you have guessed it already: It's Jason Zink, the guy behind No Idea Tavern (1649 S. Hanover St.) and Don't Know Tavern (1453 Light St.) in South Baltimore. 

Here are Jason's ideas for the place, including food, drinks and decor ...

I have to admit, I have been fairly impressed with the amount of posts on this topic.  I asked Sam and Mr. Twain about this a few weeks ago as I consider leasing a spot on Washington Blvd. 

The location of the spot is 803-807 Washington Blvd at the corner of Scott Street. At the present moment, no deal has been signed as I still don't know what I am going to do.  

The concept of the place would be a restaurant with great food at reasonable prices, most entrees under $16 and most apps and sandwiches under $10.  

The restaurant would seat up to 100 people and the bar would be a horseshoe-shaped bar in front of the kitchen that sat up to 30 persons. No outdoor seating but the front would possibly be open but would at least be all glass, I wanted garage doors but Pigtown is still historic. The bar would focus on an extensive draft system, hopefully 20 taps with a decent bottle list. The wine list would be nice but nothing too crazy.

jason zink (in a sham wow snuggie)The one thing that I wouldn't have, is specials, meaning no 1/2 this, 2 for that, all-u-can-this, $1 that. It would be a place that wouldn't rush to open, but open when it is ready to serve. If I don't have the money to open it, then it won't open. Drinks would be moderately priced and would be the same every day and night.  

The draw would of course be the quality of food and (of course) TVs. Nothing too crazy, like an ESPN Zone, but enough to view every game from soccer to football, baseball, to ice hockey and of course basketball for March Madness.  

I am not sure if I would open for lunch, but definitely on the weekend for brunch, no mimosa or bloody mary specials, just an extra egg or slice of cheese to make the food that much better.

No, the place doesn't have a liquor license as of yet, but 1) we would have to apply for it and 2) we would have to go in front of SF and ask his permission and hopefully be granted one, of course a 7 day/ 2am license with food restrictions would be what we would be seeking.

I am concerned about the parking -- not at the present moment, but what will happen is, if I come there will be others that follow. We are doing it to make money, which will raise the property values of everybody's house. I just hope that people recognize this when they can't find a parking spot right away when coming home on a Friday or Saturday night for dinner that at least they will have a great place to go eat that they can walk to.

Ryan-feel free to contact me anytime: I actually live less than 100 yards away from this location at the present moment. I am a big fan of sponsoring teams as they can truly help a business.

I have an idea why the coffee shop, Evelyn's, went out of business as I used to frequent there back in the day.

I have read all of the negatives and I understand what I could possibly be getting myself into and this isn't a done deal just yet. I value Mr. Twain's comments as well as everybody else. I have done it twice so far and I think I can do it a third time, hopefully it isn't my ego thinking that I can do it but my knowledge of bars and restaurants. I have asked every bar owner in the area and they all say 'No,' but I do think that once one place goes in, then others will follow. I will be risking a lot.  

It is not going to be a "megabar" but it will have a big bar where people feel comfortable going to after work or after school. I will not be catering to the kids as they go to Cross Street Market to hang out with the other kids.

The place is huge but by the time you add the kitchen and storage, it will look a lot smaller. I am hoping to have everything on one floor, to be honest with you, I am not even sure if there is a basement.  

Once again, this is just a possibility and I asked Sam what he thought and he wanted to make it a topic. Like I said, I am very surprised about how many postings there are. It's been two years and I am getting that itch again to open something and Mr. Twain, I got to Pier V just a little bit too late, otherwise this would be a non-topic.

I would like to thank everybody who posted on this topic as I have learned a lot and it does seem to me that people do care in Pigtown. Now it just comes down to, if the price is right. Overhead is everything when it comes to the restaurant/bar business.


(Top photo from the AP. Bottom photo of Jason Zink courtesy of Captain Larry's.)

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Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:14 AM | | Comments (44)
Categories: Bars & Clubs


That was my first guess! Hope Jason gets the deal he needs to make this happen. Would the name for the Pigtown bar be along the same lines? How about Whatever Tavern?

So...what's this one gonna be called? "Haven't a Freaking Clue"?

How about "Off the beaten Path?"

The name of the bar should be "When Pigs Fly". It would fit the neighborhood completely and mock the naysayers when the bar is successful 10 years from now. It even fits the naming convention of the first two bars.

Again, get a good pulled pork recipe from North Carolina as a signature dish. Can't wait.


I assume the absence of specials is limit the clientele to people who are mostly likely to become regulars and deter a weekly offensive of twenty-somethings coming to get hammered on the cheap antagonizing or alienating regulars and the neighbours.

How much latitude in menu offerrings does a 7 day/ 2am license with food restrictions permitt?

In speaking about your other locations, you have mentioned with dissatisfaction the parking restrictions, anything considered as a worthy and do-able solution?

I've experienced user hostile urban parking on Friday/Saturday nights and while in the moment cursed the time and frustration in trying to find parking. The benefits of increased property values and good eateries in walking distance tend to get buried deep in the background during thoses moments of anger.

if there are any pig-themed elements in store for this potential bar to be, I'd like to have a word with you dude :D

Personally, I so want something in Pigtown. Living there the last two years, I have missed places such as this to grab a bit to eat, drink a beer or two, and walk home. I like Patrick's, but it is a long-ish walk and the hours were always the big question mark.

I realize the uncertainty given the neighborhood and the uncertain economic climate, but I think there is a pent-up demand for something like this.

I'd still consider having food specials during the week, especially if you're trying to build up a clientele of regulars. $5 burger Wednesdays or something gives people motivation not only to check out the place, but have a place to meet up with friends every Wednesday. When I used to live downtown, I used to hit Mick O'Shea's twice a week for dinner with a group of friends to get burgers or wings. I doubt I would have been going there every week (or perhaps ever) if it wasn't for the specials, and really it was only a few bucks off, but it was motivation to go on that night. You don't have to go nuts with specials, but most places will have something small on special, and maybe a dollar off drafts or something for happy hour.

If Carroll Station down the street is still there then that should be a good indication of what could or couldn't work.

Maybe he can arrange for his patrons to park in front of the old the Save-a-Lot. Nothing else going on there,

Living immediately near Don't Know, I can attest that it was very nice to have a local spot that wasn't victim to the Cross Street appeal of other Federal Hill bars but offered good food and a nice beer selection. I don't know why Pig Town residents wouldn't enjoy the same convenience. I guess the question is, are there enough Pig Town locals that fit your clientele to keep the place afloat? It would be nice to think people will come from other areas to try out the new place, but it doesn't seem likely.

Mmmmmm. BBQ........ We don't have enough of that in this town, do we?

I'll point something out. I'm looking at the "beer map" of Baltimore, and as far as I can tell there isn't a decent beer bar (not a hoity-toity place with 40 taps and Belgians, just anything more serious than North American industrial lager swill) anywhere west of MLKing Boulevard/the JFX. Seriously, find me a bar anywhere in Southwest where I wouldn't feel like I should expect bullet-proof glass inside.

Do you think there'd be room for a few Clipper City, Wild Goose, Olivers, or similar local or craft beers? (If you go BBQ, I think Brewers Art beers would largely clash with the BBQ.)

Potential patrons--is that what you would want or not? A bit more upscale than Natty Boh or Generic Light, but not the increasingly pretentious $10 mango or Old Bay martinis.......

Not everybody loves Jason or his places. You'll have that in the restaurant and bar business. However, I think that the majority of people that have patronized his establishments would agree that he provides a well kept atmosphere with good quality products at a reasonable price. If you can do that consistently whereever you are and the overhead is right, I think that you are generally going to be succesful.

Good luck.

We'll support you. This end of town is crying out for somewhere like that.

If you build it, they will come. I promise!

Honestly, from what you've wrote, I wouldn't do it. It sounds too generic, which I'm sure works fine for South Baltimore, given the clientele, but it's not going to get people out on "The Bleeding Edge" (as Microsoft calls it). The Bleeding Edge is where you get so out in front of the pack that you end up paying for it - "bleeding". Something like this is going to require more imagination and pizazz then what you're talking about here.

I agree with many of the comments above in that we desperately need the type and quality of your establishments here in Pigtown. This area of town is screaming for a high quality restaurant/bar within walking distance of Scott and Washington Blvd. At the moment the only alternative is a short drive to Federal Hill or a longer one to Fells Point. The way to really hike up the desirability of this area is to provide real amenities to the residents and this includes a really nice neighborhood restaurant/bar. I applaud your thinking in these terms and possibly paving the way for future entrepreneurs to be successful in turning around the nightlife of Pigtown. I am only one person and I would be a big supporter but I do feel there would be huge groundswell of support for this if you follow through.

If everything goes through-

I have the name of the place already but I will worry about that when and if the deal gets done.

GDA- As far as the specials are concerned and creating regulars, I am trying to work out something now with my computer company that will let me track how much money everybody spends and once they spend "x" amount of money a gift certificate will be created, kind of like Best Buy's Reward Program where the customer gets rewarded on how much money they spend. And of course I would discount any athletic teams that I might sponsor.
If I receive a liquor license it would probably state that I need to have 40% of sales in food.

I like the Sav-A-Lot parking lot, hopefully that will be developed one of these days with a nice grocery store.

Evan-Bacon Vodka??? I really like the cucumber vodka, you're onto something with that.

Mr. Mitchell- I like your ideas about the beers on draft. I am not too fond of BBQ. With BBQ you go after a niche clientelle. And you don't have to worry about Mango Martinis.

-jaw I couldn't agree with you more, you hit the nail on the head. I have always said, love the bar, not the owner. It is still a business when it comes down to it. I am sure my employees would agree with you. thank you for the comment.

Patapsco- There's nothing generic about quality food and quality draft beer and a good place to go to watch the game. There are a lot of average places to go out there with subpar food. Having a decent menu is very important too me. I don't enjoy crowded places but I will go to Mother's or Magerk's anytime because they have great food, the same with Ryleigh's and I don't want to leave out the Abbey (bistro burger!)

I hope you decide to do it and as someone living in the area promise to patronize. The only thing we need more then more quality restaurant/bars is a descent grocery store.

Jason, did you really post that comment at 5:12 a.m.? When do you sleep?

Jason, in a few years you will hailed as the hero who actually had the commonsense and foresight to bring a quality bar (and, more importantly, restaurant) to Pigtown when others balked. Notice that none of the naysayers lives in the neighborhood. If I had the means, knowledge, and experience to do so, I would do it. The community will support you if you ask us to.

I need another good bar on my bus route home from work.

Dear Pigtown Residents,

If you want some like Jason to put everything he has worked for on the line to open an establishment in Pigtown it may be time to share some hard data to assist him with his decision.

"If you build it, we will come." "There are plenty of people waiting for such an establishment." etc, aren't worth the time to write.

How about some real, verifiable numbers. Daytime population, homeowner percentage, real estate transaction data, student population, commuter population, etc.

Just about every neighborhood in Baltimore has these numbers at the ready.

Perhaps Pigtown can support such an establishment. However, the neighborhood is going to have a tough time establishing demand without a little more neighborhood organization on their part.

It seems to me that Jason, being the successful businessman that he is, should take it upon himself to research population data etc.If I want Jason to open a bar I'm going to say "Go for it" I don't have a statisical analisys of the neighborhood.
I'm just sayin'.


If you haven't already maybe contact these folks for raw data:
Washington Village/Pigtown Neighborhood Planning Council

Also, give the councilwoman's office a call:
District 6: Sharon Green Middleton
410-244-5343 (fax)
Room 516, City Hall

Who gives a crap? This neighborhood is only filled with people who are stupid


You can pick up the $envelope$ whenever you get a chance. Or is this my potential landlord blowing smoke... Anyway, happy St. Patty's Day to all, I am going to go stumble around.


I personally think it's a great idea!! As long as you keep things in stock, have friendly employees , good food and beer (as you do at your other bars) I beleive you will do well!!
as others have said, if I had the means and knowledge to open a bar I would be all over it!!
I think you'll realize that people in pigtown will come!! So please, build it!!!

As pigtown residents, my husband and I would love to have a local place to eat out on weekdays/weekends. We would also appreciate having somewhere to go in the neighborhood where we could spend some time.

Tomato head... i am pretty sure that the council person for Pigtown is Bill Cole. He's been working closely with us on some neighbourhood issues.

C Hills... Talk about sweeping generalization. Clearly, your mother didn't teach you very well.

We also encourage Jason to work with the Pigtown Main Street organization who will be an asset to him as he moves forward with his plans.

Thanks for the heads up. I grabbed the councilmanic info from the WV/PNPC website. Maybe someone should tell them they've hot linked the wrong politician and might want to change it if they want a more responsive local government. lol

Looks like Pigtown is served by Agnes Welch on the west end and Billy Cole closer to where jason wants to do business.

Btw, nice looking blog.

Jason - save the envelope, you can reward me with free beer. And no, I am not a land baron of Pigtown, just a resident homeowner whose been waiting for many years for a respectable restaurant/bar to arrive as promised. We will make sure you succeed.

Okay, back to beer: if you're not doing BBQ (okay, we understand) but more down-home food instead, there's a reason Brewer's Art Resurrection keeps winning all the "Best Beer in Baltimore" awards. The question is, are the folks that read and agree with the publications that dole out such awards (City Paper, Baltimore Magazine, etc.) your potential clientele? If I believed all the comments here, I'd think Pigtown is full of Cleetus the Slack-Jawed Yokels or knuckle-draggers. I know that isn't the case. However, I also live in a neighborhood where, no matter how well-to-do folks are, they just don't go out in the neighborhood unless they have to. And that's a whole chicken-or-egg question that makes or breaks establishments and even entire neighborhoods (Canton? Hollins? who'da thunk it?).

I actually live in Pigtown and think this would be a horrible idea. This neighborhood will never be fixed. Too many people who don't care.

To C Hills-

WOW may be you should move out of Pigtown?!?!? Pigtown has been recognized as one of the most resident involved neighborhoods in the city by the city. Also, I'm sorry but the comment that only stupid people live in Pigtown just shows how ignorant you are. There are medical doctors, PhD's, Engineers, govt agents, managers, sales reps, nurses, students, scientists, teachers, chefs, etc that live in Pigtown and who all see potential.

I'm finding it increasingly funny that people continuously cheerlead living in Pigtown and keep trumpeting its potential mostly because they a) moved there because it was a cheap place to buy property and b) expected the wave of gentrification to gently wash away all the less desirable aspects of the area back in 2004 when it was "up and coming".

Sucks to be on the frontier I guess, but hopefully if Jason decides to open a bar there at least some part of everyone's real estate speculation will come true! That $250k 1000 SF house will be totally worth it!

C Hills - stupid people, takes one to know one. not a clever bugger to say so about your own kind you twit.

I am seeing an awful lot of people who claim to live in that neighborhood and swear they will come out to such a new place and how supportive they are of new businesses and all.

But the bottom line to me is year after year, business after business has failed in the Pigtown area, on both sides of MLK. I've lived in the area for many years now and know business owners and landlords all around, and the situation is pretty ugly.

You can blame individual intracacies of Evelyn's, Porter's, Sheherazade's, Yabba Pot, etc..."the owner" "too vegetarian" yada yada.

I'll even throw out the Ethiopian place, which I don't think was mentioned but has excellent food - I go there regularly and have yet to see a non-Ethiopian face there.

Anyway, when you look at the macro picture, it seems like there a lot of excuses from most of the people on this blog.

If you 'support local businesses' then you find a way to do it - Yabba Pot for instance has some of the best food in Baltimore, meat or not.

This area has been 'up and coming' and the 'next big area' for like a decade or more, and THAT was in the mostly good economic times.

People are cutting back now and creating new habits to go with the economy...and those new habits, to go with their decreased home equity lines, will be lasting for awhile.

I'm not saying this new idea can't work, but there is an awful big problem with the customer base to begin with, and, as said, for years now their actions speak a lot louder than words.

When I bought this place, I remember going inside and sitting next to a guy sleeping at the bar. When I bought my first place, I remember finding maggots in the freezer in the kitchen and all I could think of was, at least I don't have to pay full price. If you surround yourself with good people, then they will come. It's just not the bartender, it's the cleaning guy in the morning, to the dishwasher at 2am in the morning. Having a great accountant and a very good, but expensive lawyer doesn't hurt either. The food and the drinks have to be great and have to be consistent. Sometimes even neighborhood restaurants can make good money, i.e. Mahaffey's and Growlers in Canton. Anything can work as long as you have a good team. The location just helps with how much more money you can make.,0,1522631.story

I say welcome to the neighborhood. Anything right now would be better than nothing. As a resident of Union Square, I was very angry at Patrick's on Pratt for leaving us. Yes, I love Zella's and Pho but to leave a neighborhood still struggling to right itself to and shut down your bar, doesn't make sense. We need more foot traffic in PT and WV but the good kind. Remember this area is still riddled with muggings and crime. Not the safest area but maybe a few new businesses is what we need.

Beware of the locals. Some are not so welcoming. Good luck!

According to their website, Patricks closed temporarily so Pat and Anne could open another location in Frederick. They are scheduled to reopen in April

2am in the morning?

Half my block had this conversation over superbowl chili.. we would love a local bar that we could easly walk to! I need a decent bar for drinks/dinner after work.

I have a 'middle aged' friend....well, in her 50's so she better not get [angry] at me....who moved to Pigtown about 5 years ago. Sure she liked the price of the real estate but she also wanted a 'fixer-upper for fun. (And she ain't scared by riff raff easily) A physician she worked with also purchased two houses on her block. She was not naive about some of the unsavory characters roaming the streets at night, lots of drug sales and she played Columbo soon having their whole operation figured out......and i TOLD her that taking flash pictures of them in the middle of the night was a bit unwise. her 4 tires were slashed 3 times. Her neighbors son was stabbed to death. The dump of a bar across the street brought crime, open drug sales and another murder to the street. Enough was enough for her and other of the residents. they met with the local police district, got flashing blue lights installed on poles, and banded together in a neighborhood watch which resulted in multiple raids on drug houses, the closure of the bar, arrests, convictions, charges against absentee owners and evictions of tenants of absentee owners who were charged with running drug houses..

this is how urban renewal starts. There was a time not so long ago when no one would be caught dead down at the inner harbor (well, caught dead was easy really). . Patterson park was a war zone, Fells Point is not the quaint fun neighborhood it was 10 years ago......Pigtown? Worth the investment if ya ask me, hon. (There is always Dundalk...or offense).scared of pigtown? shock trauma is within dragging distance. One tried and true method for identifying the 'next big thing' is follow the gays....when they start buying you have about 5 years before they show ya how it's done and prices take off. (PS the clock is ticking on Pigtown) Don't want to live with some nice gay neighbors? GOOD! Ya don't deserve the neighborhood then...or the tip.

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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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