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August 3, 2009

Illusions Magic Bar recognized by CNN

magician spencer horsman

I thought I'd blogged about this already, but when I went back and looked, I realized I hadn't.

Illusions Magic Bar (1025 S. Charles St.), the swanky South Baltimore lounge with regular live magic shows by Spencer Horsman (pictured), was recently recognized by

The news Web site listed Illusions as one of nine  places to "party like it's 1929."

Here's a link to the list. And here's the blurb CNN did on Illusions:

With custom-made chandeliers above the cherry wood bar and jazz and swing played on the piano, Illusions gives the impression of being like any other roaring '20s-themed jazz club. Not so on Friday and Saturday evenings, when the stage -- cut into the middle of the bar -- hosts a one-hour vaudeville-style magic show ($5 cover). House magician Spencer Horsman escapes from a straitjacket while hanging upside down from the ceiling, a feat best appreciated while sipping a multilayered "magic" martini of Hpnotiq liqueur, Stoli raspberry vodka, pineapple juice and Chambord ($12). The low-key second-floor lounge has leather sofas and retro magician posters that go nicely with Magic Hat beers ($3).

I must confess, I haven't been back to Illusions since I first reviewed it in April 2007 ...

Back then, I marveled at the giant, cherry wood bar, iron chandeliers, burgundy carpet, high-backed leather chairs and glass-topped tables. I also wondered how such an elegant place -- which obviously represented a huge investment from owner Ken Horsman -- could sustain itself in Baltimore.

Well here we are, two years later, and Illusions seems to be still going strong.

Congrats, Ken and Spencer!

(Baltimore Sun archive photo)

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Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:50 AM | | Comments (13)
Categories: Bars & Clubs


Illusions is probably the best 'first date' bar in the city. Congrats guys, you've earned it.

I've been once and thought the show was good, but the drinks are small and overpriced.

It's definitely worth it for special occasions, and on good people-watching nights—former Roommate Garrett and I spent the night before Halloween there in '08.

Just about every time I walk by Illusions, it is practically empty. That includes last Friday night around 8pm. I believe there were 3 people at the bar. Not the liveliest scene.

My two experiences at Illusions:

1) Denied because I was wearing flip flops on a summer evening.

2) Fed Hill Fall Festival 08: 95 degrees, walk in, no air conditioning

If you are looking to party like its 1929, then no flip flops and no AC are right up your alley.

Illusions needs new acts.... Kenzo and Spence should step aside and let better/diverse acts perform. Its medieval times, only need to go once!

You need to diversify yo' bonds

really? how have i never heard of this place? seems like a ridiculous amount of fun.

Spencer's a good guy and I couldn't believe he was opening his own bar before he even turned 21! Hopefully the CNN story got them some more traffic. I need to get back there.

"I thought I'd blogged about this already, but when I went back and looked, I realized I hadn't."

Actually Sam, I posted the link over a week ago on A chill lounge for the mature set?

Snap! Ok, so at least it was on Midnight Sun, and I'm not totally hallucinating. Thanks, T.H.

"1) Denied because I was wearing flip flops on a summer evening."

What the hell are you doing going to a nightclub in flipflops for? FLIPFLOPS??? I would have told you to go back to your trailer too. Whaddya think you're at the beach? NEWSFLASH: FLIP FLOPS ARE BEACH SHOES--PERIOD. Illusions is a HIGHER END NIGHTCLUB. Why would you have even for a moment thought you should be able to get in? Jesus H. See, there my gentle readers is the problem with Baltimore. The people are classless, self-important and think everything is owed to them. When people say "Why doesn't Baltimore have anything nice?", think about the patrons pool Baltimore has to pick from. Yes sir, there is your answer right there.

Johnncat let me clarify some things for you.

Illusions is far from a nightclub. Go to the website and you see it says Illusions Bar and Lounge. Educate yourself. Ask Kenzo and see if he considers his "Bar" a nightclub.

Flip Flops: Go out on a Friday night in Fed Hill and see how many people are wearing flip flops. Some nice, some not so nice. Worn with a nice outfit, there's no excuse not to be let into a "BAR".

Baltimore: I've was born, raised, and currently live in Baltimore. The people in this city are real, down to earth, and welcoming. Yeah we have a ton of issues but classless and self-importance are way down on the list. If you don't like Baltimore, I-95 is calling your name. I suggest Philadelphia to the north or south to DC where self-importance is at an all-time low.

Stay classy Baltimore!

Illusions is a great place to go if you really like card tricks. Thats all the show really is. And one of the tricks you can even see from your seat, you just have to take his word that hes doing what he says. He has a flat platform on stage where he spreads out the cards, but no one can see from audience... Very boring part of the show. The best part of the show is where someone comes on stage and pretends to be in slow motion, pretty funny. Is it bad that the best part of SPENCER'S show, doesnt even involve him??

Everyone was friendly, but I dont quite understand how you have seating but you have to get your own drinks from the bar?

I am a frequent customer at Illusions, only because I don't like the "college crowd." Spencer and Ken say that Illusions is his "home base" and that he travels all the time, but I always see him there on the weekends. I guess he travels during the week? Who Knows.

Basically, the above post is right. One time is enough for here. I started hanging out at the bar a few months after it had opened and that show is basically the same. Still no food, althought they claim they will be doing it soon, with that date getting pushed back more and more....? Still no people to bring drinks to the tables.

I hope they can survive in Fed Hill, I like them and like hanging out there!!

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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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