March 1, 2012
Nineteen years ago, back in 1993, a restauranteur named Dion Dorizas bought The Owl Bar in the Belvedere Hotel.
Mr. Dorizas took down the owl statues and hung up cattle skulls,
Draped desert-colored ponchos across the German brick walls,
And offered to sell the stained glass windows and other ‘owl artifacts’ to The Walters Art Museum.
Then, he added tortillas and quesadillas to the menu,
And renamed it the Taos Cafe.
Stunned Baltimoreans (their expressions not unlike the owl’s at right) couldn’t believe what happened.
More than a hundred people asked Mr. Doritzas where the owls went, the Baltimore Sun reported. He realized he had made a huge mistake and promised to bring the owls back.
“We’ll be back when the owls are,” the patrons replied, and business fell 90%.
The Taos Cafe closed its doors after just three months.
“There’s a love affair between Baltimore and this building with the owls in it.” Mr. Doritzas later admitted. “The Owl Bar belongs to Baltimore. It’s not mine. I’m just renting it.”
All About the Owls
Now we Baltimoreans love our Southwestern food, make no mistake about that. But as Mr. Doritzas learned, you just can’t change the Owl Bar and expect no one to notice.
Located in the Belvedere Hotel, it has served celebrities, presidents and heads of state, more than a few ghosts and thousands of visitors since opening in 1903.
It was originally known as “The Bar at The Belvedere,” and had a lively reputation as early as 1910, when a fight was documented involving several society men, a few waiters and even a ‘brindle dog.’
Here’s how it looked back then:
“Nobody seems to know when the now famous owls took up residence in the Bar,” writes Kristin Helberg in her book, The Belvedere and the Man Who Saved It.
But during Prohibition, they served a useful purpose: the bar’s owner, Colonel Consolvo, kept barrels of whiskey in the basement, and if you saw the owls’ eyes blinking, you knew it was safe to order a beverage.
The owls disappeared when the Belvedere Hotel closed in 1971. But five years later, when Victor Frenkil bought the hotel, the first thing he did was try to get the owls back – he knew they were that important!
So he asked his good friend, publicist Ed Hanrahan, for help. “Hanrahan followed up every clue, searching in Richmond, New York, and Washington with secret phone calls and clandestine meetings in darkened alleys.”
One night, the two owls arrived back in the bar, looking no worse for the wear. And while they haven’t uttered a word about their whereabouts, this note alludes to a very long (and hot) journey.
Here’s how The Owl Bar looks today:
Not much has changed since 1910!
So you see, the more things change, the more they stay the same.
And that’s just how we want it, says Averil Christens-Barry, their Sales and Marketing Manager. The German brick walls, heavy wooden benches and lead glass windows have all been lovingly preserved. “We want to maintain the standard we set over 100 years ago,” she says.
Chef Jonathan Tucker’s tastefully changing menu does just that – offering comfort foods like crab cakes, pizza and burgers year-round while fresh salads and seafood selections change with each season.
They have a great beer selection, too, and a long list of $3 Happy Hour Specials, which makes The Owl Bar one of the best after-4 spots in Mount Vernon.
So if you haven’t been to there lately, be sure to make a trip back. It’ll be exactly like you remembered, which is the highest compliment from a Baltimorean!
The Owl Bar is open 7 days a week for lunch and dinner and is located at 1 E Chase Street. Phone 410-347-0888. Website: http://theowlbar.com/.
How Can THIS Machine
Bring Customers Into Your Store?
You may be surprised when I tell you this, but according to research by The Kelsey Group, 74% of Internet users perform local searches.
Of that group, 82% of local searchers follow up ‘offline’ by making a phone call or in-store visit.
And of all of the people who performed an online search, 61% end up making a purchase!
So you see, the Internet is an extremely powerful sales vehicle. Every business should have a website and be actively using Social Media to build ‘buzz’ about their products or services.
But getting started can seem like a daunting task.
Well, not to worry, my friends!
Starting next week, I’m putting together seminars on the nuts and bolts of online marketing – from two easy ways to get people to visit your website, to techniques on finding potential customers and capturing their attention.
Later, I’ll introduce you to some of my friends – we’re talking the best in their fields – who will speak on more advanced topics like Facebook and Twitter Advertising, setting up online marketplaces and easy ways to start using Google Adwords’ Paid Search.
This is the kind of stuff companies pay top-dollar for (and I should know; I have my own marketing business!) But I’m willing to offer it to all of our Historic Charles Street Association Members for free.
(You can thank me later.)
The reason is simple: it’s vitally important to know how to grow your business in the Internet Age.
And I want all of our Charles Street businesses to benefit. After all, a rising tide lifts all boats. So email me if you’re interested, and I’ll make time to show you what I know. It will be fun!
Caribou Coffee’s ‘High Five’ Fridays!
Good times are rolling over at Caribou Coffee, especially on Fridays. When you walk in and place your order – make sure you give the barista a ‘high five,’ and they’ll take 10 cents off the price of your drink!
“People tell me they look forward to Fridays just so they can come in here!” Manager Jennifer Stiles said.
And they should. Jennifer does a great job injecting high-octane energy into her store. In fact, she’s made it the happening coffee shop on Charles Street!
Jennifer credits her friendly and knowledgeable staff for their success, but I can’t help but think she’s one of the biggest reasons, too.
I had tons of fun in there last Friday, and so I wholeheartedly encourage you to sneak away from your desk to do the same – even just for a few minutes (I can send you a hall pass). Fun times.
Caribou Coffee is located at 1 North Charles Street. Website: http://www.cariboucoffee.com/page/1/home.jsp
Fun Things To Do The Rest of This Week
Fiction 20 Down
On Friday, March 2nd from 12-1pm, join Peabody composer John Belkot in a concert at The Walters Art Museum’s Sculpture Court. Mr. Belkot will be accompanied by set instrumentation (strings, winds, guitar, lute, or voice) and canonical works. Free. 600 N Charles St. Phone 410-547-9000. http://thewalters.org/
Later that night, at 9:30pm, take in the great roots, rock and reggae sound of Fiction 20 Down as they play at Mick O’Sheas! And get a beer while you’re at it – they have great Saturday specials. No cover. 328 N Charles Street.
On Saturday, March 3rd at 8:30am: rise and shine with our Friends of Mt. Vernon Place as they host a free Yoga class! Bring your own mat and water. Located in the Charles Room of the Belvedere. 1 East Chase Street.
Then from 10am-1pm, check out the Job Fair at The Enoch Pratt Free Library! Come dressed for success and bring copies of your resume – you could even have an interview. 400 Cathedral Street. Phone 410-396-5430. http://www.prattlibrary.org/calendar/atpratt.aspx?id=71603
At 8pm, check out An Die Musik’s resident Jazz Artist, Eric Kennedy as he presents a monthly session with other esteemed musicians! Tickets $12. 409 N Charles Street. Phone 410-385-2638. http://andiemusiklive.com/
On Sunday, March 4, Old Saint Paul’s Church is hosting a lecture on The Search for the Historical Jesus at 10am in the Tremont Grand. The Rev. Mark Stanley will examine the modern scholarly quest for the historical Jesus, searching for clues about what Jesus really said and did. 225 North Charles Street. Phone 410-685-3404. http://www.temp.osp1692.org/?p=206
At 1pm at The Walters Art Museum, join David Linden, Ph.D., Professor in the Department of Neuroscience at the Johns Hopkins University School in a fascinating discussion all about Pleasure!
“Pleasure has made us who we are today!” they write, “We wouldn’t have survived as a species if the circuitry in our brains didn’t make activities like eating food and having sex pleasurable. But what about other activities? How has the brain reacted to ‘tactile’ stimuli for the enjoyment of art? Dr Linden talks about how we activate this pleasure circuitry through a range of activities like exercising, meditation, caring for others, or enjoying art. What do they have in common?” Free. 600 N Charles St. Phone 410-547-9000. http://thewalters.org/eventscalendar/eventdetails.aspx?e=2410
At 3pm, join the Peabody Preparatory Faculty as they play works by Bach, Brahms, Schubert and more. Free. In the Leith Symington Griswold Hall. 1 East Mt. Vernon Place. Phone 410-234-4500. http://www.peabody.jhu.edu/
Thanks everyone – we were flooded with responses to last week’s trivia question! Redwood Street used to be called German Street but its name was changed during WWI.
Here’s one more interesting tidbit about that street – the name “Redwood” comes form George Redwood, the first French officer killed in the Great War.
Ready for this week’s question? It comes from our friend Linda Newcomb:
What did the area where Charles and Baltimore Streets cross used to be called, and why was it called that?
Until next week,
Executive Director, The Historic Charles Street Association
The Historic Charles Street Association (HCSA) is a non-profit organization, 501 (c)(3),whose mission is to support and promote the businesses, cultural attractions, entertainment venues, restaurants and retail establishments along the Charles Street corridor. HCSA serves as a problem solving and information resource for its members, as well as provides a forum for networking, communication and collaboration.