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February 18, 2011

Dubai, Velvet Rope, Palma, Redwood Trust: a brief, 100-year history of 200 E. Redwood

The Velvet Rope re-opened in late January under a new name, Dubai. It's the latest name for 200 E. Redwood, a building that has had many tenants in over 100 years and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

Here's a brief history:

1885: opens as Mercantile-Safe Deposit and Trust Co. branch, featuring the highly ornamental design of Baltimore firm Wyatt and Sperry.

 1904: survives the Great Fire

1960: undergoes renovation that damages original plasterwork. 

1993: Mercantile branch closes, leaving building vacant for seven years. 

2000: Baltimore developer Nicholas Piscatelli sinks $2.5 million on a renovation, one of the most significant in the city's history. Opens Redwood Trust, a megaclub. Cover was $10. VIP Access? Anywhere from $250-500.


2003: five times a week during the day, Redwood functions as tapas restaurant, Red Tapas. 

2004: Piscatelli closes Redwood - boo hoo - tries to sell building and its license for $3 million.

July 2008: Jon Han bites, opens Palma, the sister club to D.C. megaclub Ibiza. Han also installs the first Dubai, a sister lounge across the street at 10 South Calvert, where Club X Ultra Lounge had been.

September 2008: Palma padlocked. Dubai closes; few tears shed.


December 2008: Lux takes over 10 S. Calvert. It's still there.

 May 2009: the Velvet Rope replaces Palma, run by, among others, hip-hop promoter Tracye Stafford.

February 2010: promoter oversells Yo Gotti concert, hundreds of ticket-holders storm the venue, attracting some 50 cops and a helicopter to the scene. Police ask liquor board to revoke club's license.

March 2010: club pleads guilty to security breaches and pays $3.500 fine to Baltimore Liquor Board. Meanwhile, police said two men who had been involved in a fight inside the club were shot and wounded at the Inner Harbor. Video footage later showed bouncers had ejected the men from the club.

April 2010: club keeps liquor license, despite appeal by three neighboring hotels that license be revoked, in deal with police and liquor board to beef up security.

December 2010: owners close Velvet Rope to re-tool. 

January 2011: the club re-opens as Dubai, owners hope name change will erase memories of old club. Midnight Sun reviews it.

Photo: outside the new Dubai (Colby Ware/Special to the Sun); a party at Redwood Trust in 2003 (John Makely/Baltimore Sun); Jon Han at his club Palma in 2008 (Julie Ferguson/Baltimore Sun)

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Posted by Erik Maza at 1:18 PM | | Comments (11)
Categories: Bars & Clubs


This is a real question and I apologize if it comes off as offensive for any reason.
Does the demographic this club aims to serve really exist in Baltimore?
I think you can do upscale in Baltimore. A place like the Prime Rib does very well. But they aren't telling their customers "No Jerseys" either.
It seems like these places are catering to an idea of a young customer base with wealth and disposable income. When in reality they end up serving a group that pretends to be in that demographic, that in turn causes problems and probably drives away the actual demographic (if they do exist) they are trying to attract. Am I completely off the mark on this?

Dave, I totally agree with you. I have yet to see an "upscale" club done right in Baltimore. It has been attempted, but always fails.

@Dave I agree, I think I know at least 50% of the demographic they are looking for and you roll in the other 50% and we can party in my living room (I have a very small row home).

@Maza where in your timeline is when the reported drug dealer kid (less than 25 I believe) went in and bought the club with actual cash, and then realized he didn't actually own it and alledgedly ran up on the guy that sold them the club with guns?

For a place that big, you have to almost do a restaurant during the evening, something like Paso, and combine that with the marketing of a good promoter, i.e. Heidi Klotzman, and then it could work. I worked at Rumjungle back in the day (1999) and they did the restaurant/ club really well, but then again that was in Vegas.
Its just so big and there isn't much to feed off over their, to my knowledge.

Jason I once ran a zero gravity club, but then again that was on the moon. I'm sure I can get it to work here.

@jason z: Klotzman did work Palma at one point; she quit after a week

@Tif...ahh, Mr. Piscatelli. I worked for a development company back during good times that had deals with him. An "interesting" character to say the least.

But really, the nightclub issue here speaks to a lot of elements in Baltimore from race to economics to comfort zones. I came across this thread in a blog Erik mentioned in his Dubai review and thought it summed up the issue and people's thoughts pretty succinctly. The comments are very telling.

Wait, Maza linked a blog post that Sessa says that he does not think a club will last six months.
Why was there no uproar about that? I figure that this would have evoked the same hate that was put forth in the Alewife post but it did not.
Maybe the reaction has more to do with who the author is rather than someones perseption of how it will effect business. Or maybe it has to do with the fact it was a club that most posters here will not go to vs. a rest./bar that they may want to go to.

The first problem that promoters and club owners in Baltimore have is that they don’t realized Baltimore is historically blue collar, especially when it comes to the black community. I don’t recall any H. L. Jackson socialites in folklore. The second problem is- Baltimore is not D.C. A janitor can make >60K in D.C. and afford to hit the town every night. Show a graph of per capita income from DC to Bmore and none of those folks would drive up 295 applying for a liquor license ever again. Here in Bmore for those of us that do fit the desired clientele- I hear it said over and over and over again- who wants to go out to a high end club and see the same people over and over and over again, hear the same music and end the night the same way. I know it’s Smalltimore but the “pseudo-socialite” crowd is even smaller, so cut Smalltimore into 1/8 and then try to get that portion of the pie to spend $100 a night a few times a week, it is virtually impossible. We’d much rather 4 square the folks in our circles and head to a local spot and bar hop until it’s someone’s birthday and then the bottles start popping.

Nightlife is at a near certain death in Baltimore, period. There is nothing else I can say about this unfortunate truth.

Had to weigh in here, though I have decided not to comment on this blog anymore.
1) ANYTHING can work.
2) If i were the city, I would try to attract something like a Dave and Busters of some other family type place to redwood trust. OR cut a deal with a chef and make it an upscale restaurant.
Look at the area around the Verizon center in DC. say, 10 years ago it was pretty rundown.
Things can change.

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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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