Mural on South Baltimore tavern aims to draw attention to 'Free Brooklyn'

The manager of O'Flynn's Crab & Cask House wants to send a new message to passersby in the tavern's South Baltimore neighborhood: "You are now entering Free Brooklyn."

In all-capital black letters, a mural with the phrase appeared a couple weeks ago, painted on a white wall on the side of the bar and restaurant at 3432 S. Hanover St. It's a step O'Flynn's manager Liam Flynn is taking to draw positive attention to a neighborhood he said is often overlooked by the rest of the city.

The painting, done by Flynn's friend Martin Flynn (no relation to Liam), mimics a similar mural in the Bogside neighborhood of Derry, Northern Ireland, that reads "You are now entering Free Derry." The area is a Catholic neighborhood in the largely Protestant region, and became known as Free Derry when it declared itself autonomous in 1969. It was also the site of the Bloody Sunday massacre in 1972, when British soldiers opened fire on a civil rights protest, killing 14 people.

Flynn said he sees parallels between Free Derry and Baltimore's Brooklyn neighborhood.

"We sort of adopted it playfully because in Brooklyn, it’s sort of on its own," Flynn said. "Even though this neighborhood is the actual southern gateway to the city, the city pays no attention to it. ... We tagged on the 'Free Brooklyn' to sort of say, 'We’ve become this autonomous sort of zone because nobody cares for us except ourselves alone.'"

So far the response to the mural has been positive, Flynn said, adding he's been surprised how many people have understood the connection to Derry's mural.

"It’s brought a lot of good attention, and people see it as a positive thing," Flynn said.

Flynn took over the bar and restaurant last May. Creating the mural is one step he's taking to help revitalize the neighborhood, which has struggled with violence. Thirteen of the city's 65 homicides so far this year have occurred in Baltimore's Southern District.

He said he's planning more murals, and working on creating a business association for the area.

Business at O'Flynn's Crab & Cask House was slow to start, he said, but it has picked up since his opening last spring. (Flynn's previous establishment, Liam Flynn's Ale House, closed in January.) 

"People start coming out and seeing that ... there’s positive energy coming into the area, and they start coming out and telling their friends," he said.

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