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July 31, 2009

The Reserve looks great

The ReserveIf you ever went to Charlotte's or The Royal, you'd barely recognize the space now.

The new owners of The Reserve have made a ton of improvements to the building at 1542 Light St. -- inside and out.

They opened up the bricked-in windows, added a new sign (pictured) out front, and built a wood facade on the front of the corner building.

But the most striking renovations happened inside. From the looks of it, everything except the floor, rafters and a couple walls is new.

There are two cement-topped bars inside The Reserve -- one long one as you walk in, and another at the back of the building ...

The taps at the main bar are built into the stone wall. 13.5%, the new wine bar in Hampden, has a similar stone wall, and I wonder if that's the new trend in bar interiors. It's a tasteful nod to the Formstone you (still) see on so many of the nearby rowhouses.

Last night, when my buddy CJ and I went, we ordered one of the specials -- a pitcher of Yuengling for $10. Since you get four beers in a pitcher, give or take, that's $2.50 for a draft Yuengling. Not bad.

The service wasn't bad, either -- there were a bunch of bartenders on duty, and they were pretty attentive. 

The one aspect of the decor I didn't like was the floor plan. There is a raised platform by the front bar -- a carryover from the Charlotte's days, I believe -- and if you aren't careful, you will trip on it. There are only a couple pillars at the corners to mark the platform, which is a few inches higher than the floor around it. If people haven't tripped and eaten floor just yet, I'm sure they will.

Back when I first blogged about The Reserve, co-owner Andrew Dunlap said even though the building has a live entertainment license, they weren't going to go crazy with it. Live music has long been a contention with the building's neighbors.

While there wasn't any live music last night, the addition of a DJ booth makes me wonder if they're going to do the Stalking Horse/Nobles thing and hold mini-dance parties on Friday and Saturday nights.

All in all, I'm really impressed with the turnaround. Dunlap and the other owners did a thorough rehab, and I think The Reserve is going to fare much better than Charlotte's.

(Photo by sobojosie)

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Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:57 AM | | Comments (14)
Categories: Bars & Clubs


Did anyone have sex there? Were any drugs on the menu? What was the racial breakdown of the clients, and were they from different economic classes?

This blog post is missing all the important information.

Please, no mini-dance parties! They should be banned from all Baltimore bars!

I believe that they are going to put some nice iron railings between the pillars. They wouldn't want Sam to get hurt;)


From what I can tell based on conversations with the owners and the look of it, it's basically going to be "Stalking Horse South." They didn't coin that phrase or anything but it's a fairly accurate assessment I think.

My one complaint - that we voiced to the guys there - is that there's a picture of Times Square in the rear in one of the old window sills. Baaaaaaad

Did anyone have sex there? - JD
Everyone did when it was The Copa.

We visited the Reserve the other night and had a few observations:
- Agree with Sam about the layout and the raised area with several pillars around it. We speculated that the pillars would be connected with railings to kind of set it off as the bar area from the rest of the place once they get food service.
- There is an air conditioning duct that runs across the ceiling directly above the barstools. The night we were there it was humid enough that condensation was dripping from the duct right on whoever was sitting at the bar...
- While they have quite a few taps, it's disappointing to see the limited selection of local and craft beers (BaltoMarzHon and Dogfish Head were good to see, but several "lites" and ho-hum macros not so much). Didn't check out the bottle list.
- I may be a bit ageist, but it seemed like a pretty young crowd, and I got the feeling that if you were over 30 you were kind of invisible.
- There were at least 5 people working behind the bar, which was nice, but it seemed like no one was actually in charge or that they had divvied up the responsibilities. We were asked by three separate servers what we wanted to drink - after we had already ordered... then got someone else's bill when we settled up. Probably something that will sort itself out soon, and I hesitate to complain about too much service.
Overall, it is definitely an improvement and great to see the effort put into it. I'll look forward to future visits and see how it's settling in and developing it's own personality.

Its good to finally have a great bar on the other side of fort avenue. The decor is sleek and the atmosphere is unpretentious. Like a good neighborhood bar, you can walk in off the street and have a cold beer & friendly conversation with any one of the owners\bartenders. Or, if you choose, you can sit off to the side at one the many hightops and enjoy watching your choice of sport from the flat screens. Descriptions aside, The Reserve is a welcome addition to the east side of FedHill.

Actually, The Reserve is south of Federal Hill. So far south, in fact, that it could be considered North Cherry Hill.

Evan, I agree with you on the city scape portraits. The least they could have done is had ones of the Baltimore skyline made. Unless they're trying to bring New York to Baltimore ...

I visited The Reserve this past weekend and myself and friends thoroughly enjoyed the experience. The staff was welcoming and quick to tend to our needs. I spoke with one of the owners and they were more than willing to fill us in on what was in store for the future and noted some things that were still yet to be dividers in mens room, kitchen with outdoor food service, and some decor. The rails were complete which were much needed, and the ac problem was cured. They were well aware that some kinks needed to be smoothed out, but as with any new business this is expected. All-in-all, great place and will definitely be spreading the word.

Word on S. William Street is The Reserve is the perfect neighborhood bar. A bunch of the girls and our neighborhood guys went there this weekend and loved it.

I personally wouldnt go back there again. A lot of ... drinkers with big attitudes. My take on a neighborhood bar is a place you can go and relax...not feel like people are trying to pick a fight every other minute. If I wanted that I would go to Mothers or Mad River. The "owner" throws his name around and treats his customers with zero respect. The bartenders were nothing special either. It wasn't that busy and it was like they were just hanging out and doing shots while customers were waiting for drinks. The bouncers had big egos just like the "owner". I use the word "owner" loosely because as most people know that in Baltimore there are 15 owners to one bar and the one that hangs out there the most has the least pull. Thorougly unimpressed with The Reserve and will knock it every chance I get. Very unfortunate because my friends and I were looking for a new hangout place.

Could Unhappy Customer possibly have stumbled into another locale and mistaken it for some other establishment? His comments do not resemble The Reserve I have visited and wonder if his strange fixation on bar "owners" is effecting his ability to judge a pub.

The "drinkers with big attitudes" observance sounds like what he saw when staring at the big glass window over the sinks in the Men's room...and they were dressed like him too.

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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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