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April 23, 2010

My grand scheme for Broadway Square

When Amie and I went to Buenos Aires in February, we had dinner one Sunday night at a cute Italian restaurant in San Telmo, overlooking Plaza Dorrengo.

The weekly market with hundreds of vendors was over, and the local restaurants and bars had set up tables and chairs in the plaza. Near the far end of the square, dozens of people tangoed, and local musicians set up along the perimeter, playing drums and guitars.

I thought, 'Why doesn't Baltimore have something like this?' ...

Broadway Square in Fells Point would be an ideal location for it. Once a week on Sunday evenings, local restaurants could rent space in the square, set up tables and serve people there. An acoustic or jazz band could set up at the far end, and people could dance.

This could be a temporary thing, until the proposed Fells Point developments start. Anything would be better than the cruddy benches, bums and pigeons that currently litter the square.

I called Jason Sullivan at Fells Point Main Street and asked him what he thought of the idea.

"We think it's a fantastic idea," he said. "We've had discussions, especially with the Spanish businesses up Broadway, but part of it is the man power. If you start to do this stuff outside, businesses need to have staff outside as well as inside."

Baltimore can't get enough outside seating. Here's what I think they should do: Get a beer company to sponsor the tables and chairs and have the local restaurants all chip in a little for them. Then, divvy up the seating to the different bars and restaurants. They could ask a couple servers to pick up an extra Sunday evening shift, and they're all set.


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Posted by Sam Sessa at 8:21 AM | | Comments (22)
Categories: Bars & Clubs


No shout out? WTF!

How could I forget to mention my good friend CJ (of Kupkake fame) who helped me hash out this brilliant scheme? CJ, I hope you can forgive me.

I'm all for it. Stuff like this happens a lot in other countries, but I just don't see it here. In the Beyoglu area of Istanbul restaurants had tables filling the streets, and if there wasn't enough room on their side of the street they would continue on the other side of the street or into a public square. It creates an amazing atmosphere. I wish we had that here.

Sounds like a fabulous idea!!!!! I'll be there if they do!!!

On first Fridays of the month during the summer, the tango dancers hold an outdoor milonga. They used to do it there in the square, but last summer they were holding it further down the foot of Broadway closer to broadway. It'd be wonderful to have tables and chairs, food and drink during the dance.

Sam - i think this is a GREAT idea. Reminds me of when my brother and I backpacked in Europe 2 summers ago - and the streets outside of popular eating / shopping areas were all loaded with tables and chairs for dining. Barcelona, Rome, Paris, etc.

Let me know if you need any help preparing you pitch to these restaurants or illustrating your idea.

The neighbors will get upset at this great idea Sam. First of all it would require live entertainment and from previous posts that's a no-no in Baltimore. Secondly, it would require outdoor seating, this might make too much noise. And it would take up too much parking in Fells Point. It's a shame that something like this couldn't happen due to the city's politics.

As my sainted mother used to say, "...if you had a brain you'd be dangerous."

Great idea, but that would only work in other cities. Baltimore isn't sophisticated enough for something like this. The permits would never be approved. This is the only city that likes to discourage positive growth and change.

Leave us alone, yuppies!

@nimby -- Yes, those Fells Point historical types are really something else. I heard they didn't want the Frank Zappa statue down there because it would have sullied the neighborhood's historic charm. They'd much rather have a statue of William Fell, I hear. Yawn.

@Nik- you are so right, they should shut down one or both side of Cross Street on the weekends as well but that would just lead to more public urination and more visits by politicians. This city needs to give people a reason to come to Baltimore and ideas like that are a fresh. Unfortunately, the heads of neighborhood associations can't see the light.

LOVE THIS IDEA! The last time I went to Fells, I was really bummed (no pun intended) about how much of a ghost town it's become. So many places have closed down, and it seemed like the vacant buildings far outnumbered those with stores and restaurants. Is Harbor East pulling all the money out of Fells? What a shame, as the latter has beaucoup character that the former never will.

Nice idea but it would never compare to Argentina or any outdoor space in Europe. Why?? Because all of the drunk idiots who would converge out there on the square to pound beers, yell and scream, and generally piss off all of the normal people trying to enjoy the outdoor atmosphere.

The decent people would be scared off by this so in order to attract anyone they would have to pull up one of the beer trucks and hire a loud rock band. This of course would lead to noise complaints and fights and extra police presence. Eventually the whole thing would be shutdown and that would be that.

Like I said, nice idea but it would never work in this city, or this country. Another thing ruined for the mature and upstanding citizens by the spoiled brats who look for any reason to get obliterated and act like morons.

First of all, Sam, I think the idea is a great one. I really do, so don't think that I'm trying to poo on your parade with some of my comments to follow.

Though I, like many of the other folks who've commented, doubt the ability of this to work, it's for a different reason. Those who say that Baltimore "isn't sophisticated enough" are blatant snobs. There's really nothing "sophisticated" about this idea. EVERYONE likes to eat and drink outside on a nice evening.

The reason this would have a hard time being successful in Baltimore has little to do with Baltimore in particular. In general, the American public is all about "where's the food I ordered 10 minutes ago; why's my drink taking so long." In the public squares in South America and throughout Europe, that can be an issue that most of the whiners wouldn't put up with here.

From the perspective of someone who has run several restaurants and bars, the logistics of making this work while providing the service that the folks outside want, and keeping that of those INSIDE from diminishing, would be near impossible.

We're too uptight. Plain and simple.

OK...let the flames begin.

Yup, I'm a blatant snob. But I've lived here long enough to know this city fairly well and I stand by my statement. I've lived in other cities (DC, NYC) where this type of thing has worked successfully. And while you're right, there is nothing particularly sophisticated about this idea, that's exactly what I mean about it not being right for this area.

As others have pointed out, it would be ruined by those who can't act like mature adults. So it's not only the city or the politicians, it's the residents themselves that would ruin in.

That said, I'd love to see an attempt at something like this. And I'll go before it gets shut down.

Of course, I'd love to be proven wrong.

Charlottesville, VA does this along the "Downtown Mall" on what used to be East Main Street. The public right-of-way between the shops on either side is wide enough that the center is reserved for tables & chairs for the flanking restaurants. Each outdoor space has it own host/hostess stand, so the patrons need not even enter the physical restaurant. It's a fantastic way to dine in warm weather months.

Great Idea. In reviewing the comments; like anything that has "positive potential" for business growth some folks don't like to live, work, play outside of their bubble.

I have traveled to Europe, NYC, San Diego etc... and have enjoyed great food and drink in great outdoor spaces. Music was done well and the experience was great.

I can understand the reluctance of some in that " Noise, bums, loud rock-n-roll, drunken fools"could be a challenge. The answer is to provide the right environment with quality food, drink and music that would not attract the "rowdies". It has to be managed correctly and could be a great evening once a week for not just visitors but for Fell's Point residents.

Anyway, negativity never wins. Providing the right element and atmosphere wins.



C'mon you read Sam's blog regularly? The negative crowd always seems to win around here.

If you think you could do it and make it work, I'd have your back on it...maybe even let you talk me into picking up a shift or two ;)

Broadway square definitely needs an enema, and something like this (maybe not exactly, but something) could definitely help. Broadway market needs an enema too. I never, ever go there.

I remember going to a happy hour at Belvedere Square on the first Friday of the month and they had outdoor seating, food vendors and live bands. This was right in the parking lot of the market, shops and restaurants. I thought it was a great time. I can't see why they couldn't pull this off in Fells Point.

Broadway? It would be too difficult to have to clean up all the drunks and their pee from the streets to set up the tables. I think they should build a large INS headquarters in Fells Point to rid the area of all the illegals. Maybe it could be built across from the 7/11 on Broadway and Lombard Steets. Ever try to go in there to get a newspaper or coffee? Takes you an hour just to get past all the riff raff hanging in the parking lot.

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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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