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July 8, 2009

Owner: Iguana Cantina will reopen as upscale rum bar

mojitoIguana Cantina isn't going away -- it's just getting a facelift, according to owner Tim Bennett.

Bennett, who closed the large club at 124 Market Place this week, said he plans to turn it into an upscale rum bar in the next three to four months.

Tentatively called Mojito's Rum Bar, the 10,000-square foot building would be split into two spaces, which would give it a more intimate feel. Right now, a crowd smaller than 500 people makes the place look empty, Bennett said.

Five years ago, when Bennett opened Iguana Cantina in the space formerly occupied by the Culture Club, crowds flocked to the spot. But business has died off in the past four to six months, Bennett said. ...

Several weeks ago, he called his landlords and told them of his plans to redo the place. Iguana Cantina had run its course, he said.

"Nightclubs like this don't last forever," he said. "Four to five years is a lifetime for a club."

Bennett cut his teeth at Hammerjack's, which he ran on Howard Street from 1991-1997 and helped reopen on Guilford Avenue in 2000. With Mojito's Rum Bar, he said he plans to drop college night specials and appeal to a 21+ crowd. Bennett said he has a 20-year lease on the spot -- an initial 10-year agreement with two five-year options.

"It's tough for me," he said. "I had my life in [Iguana Cantina]. It's not an easy decision to make, but was the right decision."

(Baltimore Sun photo by Algerina Perna)

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Posted by Sam Sessa at 1:29 PM | | Comments (34)
Categories: Bars & Clubs


Iguana Cantina has closed?? I never even had the opportunity to visit! I guess I will have to wait and see what the new incarnation will be like. My only question to the owner is this--what is YOUR definition of upscale?

I enjoyed hammer jacks it was one of baltimores best clubs. i hated iguana because the crowed was 18 and older and they ack like there 18 we need a up scale club for 21 and older even 25 and older will be nice so good luck with the change

While I do believe Baltimore needs more upscale options for those of us over the age of 25 and employed, I kinda feel like it will be like pulling teeth. Baltimore hasn't proven it will support those types of venues, which by the way, thrive in DC (yes the same clubs with countless numbers of Baltimoreans in them). This is usually due to ownership giving into the majority (18 to 21, lawless and indignant) crowd in order to make a quick buck instead of building a following.

People stopped going because the security and front door people are [expletives], oh and racist. [expletive] that place and the people who work there. I would NEVEr go back whether its new or not.

I've never been to HJ or IC. But we agree Baltimore needs a nice upscale club 21/25 and over. Young kids don't know how to act!

Let's be real, the nightlife scene in this town is terrible. A new club will only last, but for so long. After word gets around that Iguana has revamped, it is going to go back to the way it was, filled with young irratic people that dont know what maturity is. Hopefully, the dress code will be enforced.

Iguana racist??? It was almost all Hispanic and African American, by racist do you mean that they didn't cater to white poeple?

And Sly, by your comment I guess all bars that decide to close, remodel and reopen with the intent of making their establisments better should just close and walk away never to be reopened again... If that were the case we'd have like 8 bars left in Bmore.

I think it's great and the inner harbor could use a nice but fun place that's not corperate. You should support locally owned places that are making changes in the right direction.

When I think rum bar...I imagine a place that has some kind of outdoor seating and tropical feel. I'm interested to see how they can transform this place...given the limo tinted windows and non existant outdoor space.

Zig, I think they should take all of the outdoorsy aspects of a rum shack and bring them inside: Palm trees, sand, sand crabs, tiki torches, the smell of the ocean, a jellyfish petting tank, etc.

This club was one of the best until they started college night and allowing people to wear tennis shoes and white tees. I'm sorry we have no upscale clubs in Baltimore. That's why everyone goes to DC. If this owner believes he can make a difference in the club world. Than I will support it all the way. Please keep the drink specials coming.

This place could be 25+, free parking and I still wouldn't go. Who goes to PowerPlant to hang out with mature crowd? I go for free concerts, Piano Bar (sometimes), and if I am already half in the bag and feel like hitting on each girl in a bacherlorette party from Arbutus.

Wow, I didn't realize Midnight Sun's readership was so ageist! Get that hate out your hearts old people.

Seriously though, what I love about Baltimore is the lack of a pretentious club scene. There's plenty of dancing to be had at Claddaghs and Stalking Horse if that's your thang.

This will be interesting. I think it should be on par with the restaurant row around the corner ie PF Changs and Foga De Chao. It would be a nice alternative to the powerplant area.

I heard it was because of gang violance that iguanas closed down. It was starting to get wack plus the same people all the time.

I have been there numerous times and it got way too crowded and had too many fights which is why I stopped going altogether. What I liked about Iguana was the open bar on Saturday night's and the good music. I went there one last time back in May and I could tell that it wasn't nearly as crowded as it used to be and I had a feeling that it wasn't going to be long before it was closed. I just can't believe it's been five years since it opened. With Baja Beach Club out (I hope it's not a repeat of Baja), I am sure that this owner will pull off a nice Rum bar. It only makes sense since there is a Tequila bar (Mex) in Powerplant.

Yes you are right to the comments above iguana cantina WAS RACIST!! they have 3 diffrent club nights and on fridays and saturdays you would never see a security kicking a person out the way they did on sundays because they knew that any african american would knock them out!... they really did some messed up stuff like kick a spanish person out and on top of that throw them down the steps! the white securities were VERY rasict as of a matter oR FACT! i got pepperd sprayed meanwhile one of the securites said laughin "slap that [expletive]" thinking it was funny...

hooked on phonics worked for me!

I kinda like the concept, but it's a really stupid name for a bar.


I am so mad Iguana closed!! and that is so a LIE! i was a regular at the Cantina, and let me tell you Sunday nights were PACKED you could barely move!!! and Saturdays too! the just needed to be a little more selective of who they let in because you let in the wrong people and of course there would be a bunch of fights. I'm very sad that this club closed... and I'm sorry, Bourbon ST, Bennets other night club, doesn't even compare to the cantina!!!! Iguana Cantina... YOU WILL BE MISSED!!!!

Wow i cant believe Iguana is gone. Me and my girls used to go there every Saturday night and party. Iguana was like the only 18 and older spot that was ard 4real. The dj was bull shit but we still had fun. Well time to find a new club lol. Goin to miss u Iguana!

Wow i cant believe Iguana is gone. Me and my girls used to go there every Saturday night and party. Iguana was like the only 18 and older spot that was ard 4real. The dj was bull shit but we still had fun. Well time to find a new club lol. Goin to miss u Iguana!

So where all the Catina people go now?....

back to drinking in their parents basements. winecooler, anyone?

Well it is about time this garbage dump closed and about time the owner used the 1/2 brain he was given and finally will stop allowing and serving alcohol to under 21. Maybe now he won't need to park an ambulance outside every night that he is open. Pitiful man he is.

My friends and I went to Iguana every Saturday faithfully. This was the only spot in town that was good for the 18 and older crowd. Theres no way that business dropped off because until they made it 21 and up the club was ALWAYS fully packed. I miss all my fun times at Iguana and they really should reopen it as 18 and up still because the only club we have on Saturdays is club one and that club is wack.

I agree with allan. under 21 should never be allowed. because of that my brother left there that night with a brain injury and will suffer the rest of his life. That place got way to crowded and to many drunk kids wanting to fight. im glad it's gone but my family's memory of that place has a lasting effect!!!

We went only three times, but we had an awesome time. We actually showed up on Sept the 27th and thought we were in a ghost town because we weren't aware the joint closed down!! LOL............We are going to MISSSSSSS you my favorite lizzard.

I think iguana was a great club..i started going there when i was 18 (2005).i had just moved from nyc and it was a sunday night and the first time i was at a latin spot (ps im black) and it was i started going on fridays and saturdays aso for the hip hop nights...everything was going great untill about 2008..alot of college kids just started gettin a little to drunk and the place would be so packed you couldnt even move. so i guess its like the owner said every club has like a 4 to 5 year life...but it has reopened...its much smaller and much more apealing to a older crowd of friends went about a week ago and gave the club high check it out

I loved Iguana!!! and my fav bar tender Chris!!! But you gotta do what you gotta do to make a living and if shutting it down to make it better is what has to be done so be it

I am very glad this garbage dump is closed. Like another family that wrote on this post, our family will have a horrific forever memory of the night our family member was severely beat up and sent to the hosp in the ambulance. Kids under 21 get served and act stupid. Kids under 18 get in the door. Shame on the owner, he must not have any children of his own. We have to live with this horrible tragedy that happen to us, thanks to him making a living off of our young. Shame on you.

I loved Iguana. Some of my best nights happened at Iguana. I will definantely miss it. And enough with the 25 plus people complaining about places to go. Your over 21 you can go where you want. The younger crowd needs a place to have fun and let loose too.


I liked iguana to an extent I usually went sat nights. That was crazy they should not alow drinks on the dance floor. People were spilling them everywhere. I went once on a sun night and it was the sun of memorial weekend that day was packed but people were better behaved. Guess that is why i like to go to latin clubs "i'm less likely to get shot " lol

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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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