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December 30, 2009

Fells Point DuClaw to close today

Fells Point DuClaw

Don't let the tagline fool you, this is actually from Sam Sessa who is out and about on assignment ....

Today is the last day for DuClaw Brewing Company's Fells Point location.

After roughly five years, the regional chain is closing its restaurant and bar at the corner of Thames and Bond streets, according to company president Dave Benfield.

"It was a little bit like no man's land down there," Benfield said. "It became a seasonal business and we weren't too pleased with that."

Benfield said a disagreement with the building's landlord, dwindling  business in the winter months and the smoking ban contributed to the decision to shutter the business. The company's other locations will remain open, Benfield said.

"We are a suburban concept for the most part," he said.

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Posted by Tim Swift at 12:42 PM | | Comments (67)
Categories: Bars & Clubs


good beer. bad service

no man's land, eh? in fells point? at the base of an office building that has no cafeteria or vending machines? during a year that was ridiculously rainy? what other questions can i ask? who's chris sligh?

seriously though, that location just appeared to be poorly run. if you're going to serve mediocre food at best, at least back it up with semi-decent service

Sam, Sam, Sam.

You and Rob both had the chance to break this story months ago!
Last time I e-mail you a tip!

Bad food. Good riddance.

What does "suburban concept" mean?? They're in a pretty high traffic area of town so it seems unfair to blame the closure on the fact that it's their only City location.

The owner, Dave Benfield, is a real piece of work. No integrity.

This is Karma.

Can't wait to watch their other locations close shortly afterward...

Food was also horrible. Beer wasn't enough to make up for it.

I agree, this place had terrible service each and every time I was there. Sadly, it was was one of the few places in Fells Point where you could sit outside, and near the water on a nice day, as opposed to sitting on the sidewalk in the middle of tourists walking past your plate.

Smoking ban killed your business? Get real.

I went there twice and concur: good beer, bad indifferent service, clueless bartenders, and chain-like food.

It felt really out of place. It felt like it should have been in a suburban strip mall or even a mall.

Never ate at the one in Fells, but the one at Arundel Mills has overpriced, mediocre food and there's always a wait even if the place is only half-full. Good beer cannot make up for those sins, IMO.

You forgot deafening acoustics. The one and only time i was there, it was almost impossible to hear our own conversation over the music and the conversation of three people at the other side of the bar. Beer was decent, didn't particularly find the "cutesy" names for them endearing.

You mean, like the rest of their locations, OMG?

Let's be frank. Although I loved their Serum, most of their beer, despite having an extensive style list, was middling, at best.

It kills me to hear about the bad service,I'm a professional bartender who moved back home from NYC and has been out of work since May.At 49 most places think I'm a little long in the tooth.

That's unfortunate. Now we get to watch a large space sit empty and idle for the forseeable future.

Sam, Sam, Sam.

You and Rob both had the chance to break this story months ago!

I'm going to have to agree with Odie B. This is old news. I suppose the fact that this is now happening brings it to the front, but it comes as no last-minute surpise.

not to pile it on, but as i said over at

"Do we look like a store that sells 'I Just Called to Say I Love You'? Go to the mall!"

I'm sure the thug atmosphere coming from the horse across the street didn't make people want to come back a second time either.

The problem was that their food/service was lackluster and there was too much competition from much better restaurants, like Mezze across the street.

We loved the place. We had many company functions there. Cheap eats and good beer will be missed.

DuClaw is first brewpub I've been to that brews its own version of Corona/Sol/Cheap Mexican beer.

Hopefully, it's also the last.

not to kick a dead horse but good riddance. unimaginative and poorly executed beer was only outdone by barely edible food and missing waitstaff. the location is a bit on the edge, all the way at the end of thames, but location has nothing to do with this closing. i was disappointed to hear this was the only one closing. their stand at octoberfest in timonium was an eyesore and actually served a 22% beer that tasted like a mixture of honey and rubbing alcohol.

The inside space just felt weird – cavernous and hollow, not welcoming. Bad feng shui?. They even had lots of outdoor seating. It should have been a slam dunk success. Service and food, it matters. Seasonal? That tell me that locals didn't like it.

You really think they have good beer? Tastes like they poured a can into a glass and added artificial flavors to it. I didn't try a lot of their rotating seasonal beers because I rarely went to DuClaw, but do you honestly think their beer was good? This place was rotten from day 1, but the bathrooms are pretty cool. Can't wait to see what new business takes over that sweet location.

Your beer was bad anyway. Stay in BelAir where you belong. Fells Point is for whiskey drinkers and coffee officianados.

The comments made by the President of DuClaw are laughable. It should have been a great place to go grab a beer outdoors on a nice afternoon.
But typically there would be one waitress working who would bark at you to get seated by a hostess. No hostess to be found. Then you would wait forever to order. It was poorly managed. Service does matter.

Great outdoor venue, especially for families, but service and food were positively horrible. I never had even an ok meal there.

Their beers were terrible, food was worse, and the service was, to quote another poster, clueless.

I thought the space was very cool though. I think a coffeeshop/bar like City Cafe would work great there.

I have to give it to the imbibers of this city...we are starting to understand that service/beer/food need to be better than "okay" the Darwinism of this place biting it, and frankly, Bennigan's would have made about as much sense in Fells.

I went there once. The beer was decent (but hardly great), the food was weak, and the service was awful. I'm sure that's all due to the "bad location," though.

I suspect Benfield's comment that DuClaw is a "suburban concept" simply means the restaurant can compete against run-of-the-mill chains like TGI Fridays and Applebees, but can't survive in an environment where great food (Mezze) and great beer (Max's) is within walking distance.

chuck nailed it.

filling that space with any kind of viable business - assuming it'll still be a restaurant of some kind - is gonna be an enormous challenge, for sure - unless someone with a LOT of talent comes into it.

x3 on Chuck's comment.
Tried the place for several events, drink ups, fast meals. It should be making a KILLING, but got dragged down by horrible management and service. It was hard to force myself there for freebies when their tasty seasonals come out, so that should tell you something.

Hopefully, someone will come up with a better concept. I bet a Hugh Sisson Heavy Seas pyrate themed restaurant would do much better...

I've tried to eat here multiple times. I wanted to like it. Bottom line was this place was awful!!! Worst service and worst food in the city. Glad its finally going away.

I really only think a chain type place can fill that space. How about Buffalo Wild Wings? They are not so bad.

I agree with Evan and Chuck that whoever takes over the Du Claw space will be in an area of Fells Point that is very competitive. However if they keep it simple...serve good food and drink, have good prices, and friendly and competent wait staff, I think they will be able to compete with other places in the area. I know there is more to it than that in running a bar/restaurant, but if the foundations are there the probability of success increases.

Great idea Herbert! Don't know if Hugh would ever consider the restaurant business again, but maybe a partnership/franchise like the Dogfish Head Alehouses in Gaithersburg and No VA.

Like most people I agree the food, beer and service were the problem not the location. I also agree with the observations about the city vs. suburbs. DuClaw is just as bad in Bel Air and Arundel Mills. However, the competition is so much worse that they survive.

It reminds me of the people who claimed Miss Irene's closed because it was in Fell's Point. It was one of the nicest settings in Baltimore without food, wine/beer and service to match. Properly run it could have been a star. Now this Poe Boys nonsense, add a few taps (next door to John Steven, block from Wharf Rat and Max's) a pool table and oysters will hopefully doom this place to quick closure only to be replaced by a place to match it's potential.

Why do people keep going back to the same restaurant/bar hoping the food/service will change only to disappointed again and again. I can see going twice but that is where the line must be drawn. As for something local and cool going in there, don't hold your breath. That space is reserved for Corporation sized rent. My guess is Hooters. Where the beer is warm and the wings are cold.

As most people here have stated, the LOCATION was the only reason to go there most of the time.

The beer was okay and the service was the worst in Fells. Even if you liked the beer, you couldn't order more then one because a refill took twice as long to get as the food.

HA! I'm so glad everyone commented to tell the REAL story why this place closed. It was just subpar. Went there once. But judging by the rest of the comments, no matter how many times I'd have gone, I would've experienced really bad service and blah food in a strangely uninviting atmosphere. I hope the next occupants succeed just so the DuClaw owner has to admit it was his operation that failed--not the location, or the season, or the smoking ban, etc.

I have to agree with many of the previous posters... that place has THE WORST SERVICE. Too bad, it was a great location, and I liked the beer.

They offered a prime rib wrap when they first opened in Arundel Mills that was great, but the food cost was too high so they took it off the menu before the Fells Point location opened. It was the only good thing I ever ate at any of their locations.
Cool spot in Fells Point and I hope something else takes over there and makes it...How about a Koopers Waterside?

To those who suggested a Heavy Seas restaurant -- that's a pretty darn good idea. But I'm pretty sure (though not 100% positive) that Sisson would have to brew his beer on premises if he wanted to be at all involved in the restaurant. Otherwise, he'd have to license out his brewery's name and hope for the best. That scenario doesn't always work (see Old Dominion Brewhouse in DC - blech).

Yet another stupid MD alcohol law, IMO.

i'm sure this far from likely, but woody's rum bar to move here would be kick ass. if there were decent cocktails and food to match.

"Suburban concept" is double-speak for 'We'd prefer to operate in places like Bel Air and Bowie where there is a dearth of choice dining and entertainment options'.

Too much competition in Fells Point - business is better when you're stiffest competition comes from the TGIFriday's down the road a mile or two.

I don't understand the anger/hatred that is spewing from these posts. Why would anyone ever want a location of anything to close? If you haven't noticed bars/restaurants/stores are closing left and right. Has anyone here ever taken the time to point out these deficiencies to someone that matters, like a manager? I doubt it judging by the made up handles you all use, you are hiding behind your keyboards and kicking someone when they are down. Fact is, the food and service were subpar, but that's no reason to wish ill will on any business. Maybe instead, take the time to praise a business you love or better let one you have a problem with know before they too are forced to close.

Maybe now that DuClaw's has closed you will all be happy to hear the 7-11 is open just 30 yards away. They won't let you down! I mean really people. If you have a better way to operate a restaurant/bar then do it. Stop sitting there and do it! Otherwise Fells Point will be taken over by well capitalized chains and conglomerates that have the ability to go into a neighborhood, trade on it's history and reputation and take as much as they can from it. Do you think all of the coffee shops in Fells Point should close too? The majority have mediocre service, so if 7-11 can out serve them, is that what you want? Get up from behind your desks and you put yourselves out there and see just how hard it is to survive as a small business, then on top of that try operating throught the worst economy in 80years!

Not sure where all this hating on Duclaw is coming from? I've never had any problems and always get great service at the Arundel Mills Location. Never been to the fells point one, maybe once but it did seem to be in a bad spot. While most of their staples are good, where they really shine is with their seasonals. Some top notch stuff there.

I live in Fells Point now but used to live by the DuClaw in Bel Air. On one hand, I was really glad there was one in Fells when I moved because I do have fond memories of the Bel Air location. On the other hand (service and food aside), it did feel completely out of place on Thames St.

I was shocked at how bad the service (and food) was compared to Bel Air. Not saying it was the best in the world up there, but it was miles ahead of the Fells Point establishment. That was a few years ago so maybe it's gotten worse up there too, I don't know. But I did notice a distinct difference between the two locations when I first moved.

I'll admit, I still go to the one in Fells Point once or twice a month, but I think it has more to do with the fact that I keep hoping it gets better. Maybe my judgment is clouded because of the good experiences I had in Bel Air, but I do think that DuClaw, as a whole, could be a great place. I didn't care for all of their beers but they definitely had a few above average ones, Venom and Bad Moon Porter coming to mind at the moment.

At the very least I'll miss having a fallback place to go when every other bar in Fells Point is packed and I just want a low key place to park on a barstool for an hour. It's just unfortunate that the reason I was always able to get a seat had nothing to do with its location.

It's never good for the city when a business closes. It's been a rough year and i hate to think how many may have to close over the coming harsher months. I agree that the service was consistently poor at the Fells Point Du Claw. My friends and I took advantage of their beer flight deal regularly...only reason we went. If Fells Point Festival was a weekly occurance, I'd rent it in a heartbeat, but it's not and Fells in general has fallen off a I can't blame an owner for picking his battles wisely.

Wow LL, you seem to think the owner did you wrong. Guess what, doubt the other locations are closing anytime soon. any idea what rent costs in that building?

not sure what you think Dave did to you in the past, but I think he and Duclaw will be just fine.


Good riddance. Now we can get a place with some character in there. Anybody who thinks running a chain with a "suburban concept" is a good thing has no place in Fells Point or any other civilized area.

nick - are you saying that small businesses should be protected from criticism because the economy stinks? Yes, lots of restaurants are closing, but others are surviving just fine, despite the economy. Most people just want decent food and service, and fair prices. Not a difficult concept and DuClaw missed the mark badly. Are you saying that those of us that aren't in the restaurant business don't know how tough it is out there?

Oh, and I love Joe Squared, Claddagh Pub, Regi's and Brewer's Art, so there!

so where am i going to fill my growler at?

i always excused the lousy service because a) i didn't eat there very often and b) it was a good excuse to be late back to the office. just say "i went to duclaw" and most people understood.

I would give anything for a Primanti Bros. restaurant (Pittsburgh-based chain that is famous for fries and coleslaw on its sandwhiches, in additional other bar favorites.)

With the amount of Pittsburgh natives in this area, this company would be a fortune off from this location!

DuClaw's had the worst food and service in the area, in addition to bartenders that were downright rude. Good riddance.

Any loss of business in Baltimore....hurts. This compny may have had some challenges, but made an investment in the city. We have no ideas on what the costs of running this location, but as an outsider... 9K sf is a big place, with big bills. The next one in line will need to be sharp nd focused to mke it work. Not an easy business.

smoking ban? give me a break

The unanimity of the criticism is amazing. Of all the closings noted here (and on EL's blog), none this year has aroused this level of vitriol.

I had been 3 or 4 times, and the last time, the service was slow. At the beginning of our meal, we were told that the kitchen was short staffed. I understand that happens, but we were a 4-top, and there was only one other occupied table in the dining room. I'm sure the bar had customers, but for the kitchen to be "short" with maybe 20 customers signals bad management.

I want to be clear that I'm not piling on the servers. I think the DuClaw management thought that their beer brand, combined with a solid location, with good outdoor seating, would alone generate a strong business. The unanimity of the criticism implies that the service was almost always poor, which is a sign that upper management didn't focus on improving it.

Thanks again to the O'Malley crowd for helping to put another business "out of business". I am a bar owner and my business has never rebounded from the smoking ban, yet my taxes and expenses continue to rise in the "crap city of Balto." When my lease is up I am out of business also because I can no longer make a living in Balto. Thank you O'Malley & Dixon!!!

Maybe a chain like Gordon Biersch might make it there. Better beer, better food and better service could make a difference. For me it brews comes closest to the old Baltimore Brewing Company.

Mike B if you are actually serious and not just trying to get a rise out of people, then please don't let the door hit you on the way out. (congrats on getting a rise out of me).

If you don't think other industries have to deal with regulatory BS (financial institutions to start), then you are wildly delusional. Further, if you can't modify your business model to capitalize on the 30, 40, 50% markups you make on booze, then you have bigger problems.

Just to let you know, I quit smoking immediately after the smoking ban went into effect and have not had a cigarette since. This has not changed my socializing habits in the least, and I still patronize all the same bars that I did when one could smoke and blow just as much of my income on "fun rental".

Oddly, I actually agree with your view on government's involvement with certain liberties (like smoking in a bar). IMHO, if you own a bar and want to have a sign on the front that says, "We are smoking in here, if you don't like it, don't come in", I am totally cool with that. The reality, however, is that government at all levels is increasingly sticking their nose into private industry, and we have to deal with it, or vote people out.

I'm sorry about your business closing, but God knows that there are enough people in this town with mild to strong alcoholism off of whom you could easily profit.

BTW, VA just stopped allowing smoking, so it looks like you're headed further south.

C'mon, MikeB. That's a bit of a stretch isn't it? While they may be (a lot) less than perfect, you can't blame O'M and Shoe-la for everything.

Sorry about your business, but the smoking ban was followed closely by the economy going into the tank, and people just aren't spending as much in bars and restaurants as they did before. I know that I don't.

Accoerding to today's Daily Record, DuClaw has other problems, too.

The DuClaw company is a joke. It starts from the ownership and the upper management. Their director of operations is a scumbag, who treats the employees at the stores like dirt. That is why they could not keep any good employees to have good service. The food is dirt too, but its because the company is too cheap to pay any good cooks to come in. (they refuse to pay anyone in the kitchen over $10/hour).
The reason why they closed is because they structured their rent assuming they would do double the sales that they were doing, and its no longer feasable to keep losing money. Im so glad they closed and i hope nothing but the worst for that scum bag company

Interestingingly Duclaw is being sued for discrimination. The full article can be read

21224, everyone knows chris sligh is the old adam lambert.

ttburrell, your link results in this
"Oops! You've tried accessing a page that doesn't exist."

Went there once, the food was decent, beer was pretty good, and the service was so-so, maybe a little below that to be honest. The location was prime though, such a great view!

DuClaw is opening a new location at BWI Airport soon. I guess this is another BAD DECISION by BAA whose inept management of the concession contract continues. Passenger ratings for the airport restaurants and stores (see Maryland StateStat MAA Report) are very low and, in fact, some of the worst in the nation.

I live in Fell's Point and initially thought that it was great that DuClaw opened in the area. However, I've been there twice and both times had terrible service and terrible food. Everytime I walked by it I would think to myself that I wish the food was good so I could go there since the location was so prime! But since it wasn't I never went back. Sorry to see it go but I hope that a better restaurant replaces it because the location is perfect. It's definitely a "suburban" restaurant in that it can get away with subpar food for more cookie-cutter clientele.

Hey Doe, tell us what you really think......

He can't...he's working his $9.99/hr job flippin burgers and being hateful.......................LOSER! P.S. Good luck DuClaw, only the losers hate you.

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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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