"It's Charles Street, which is the main street of Baltimore," he said. "That's where business needs to happen. … The reason people live down here is because of the bars and restaurants. Without us, it wouldn't be as great a place to live."

Early on, McFaul was at odds with some neighborhood residents such as Bob Kight, who has lived in Federal Hill his whole life. Kight, a 76-year-old who spent 27 years on the liquor board, lives near Ropewalk and said he likes to sit out on his steps and people-watch.

Though Kight was originally opposed to Ropewalk's expansion and seven-day liquor license, when he saw McFaul's commitment to the bar and the rest of the neighborhood, he changed his mind. Federal Hill has come a long way in the past several years, in large part because of the bar owners' investments, Kight said.

"It's a better place now than it was 10-15 years ago, and I think the bars are a little better-managed," he said. "They realize the value of that liquor license and the value of getting along with the neighborhood as long as they possibly can. Of course, there's only so much you can do with the 5 percent of people who, when they drink, forget how to act. But for the most part, I think most of them do a decent job policing themselves."

In early 2008, 18 neighborhood businesses banded together to form the Federal Hill Hospitality Association, led by Brian McComas. Together, the businesses make more than $20 million in sales per year, which generates significant tax revenue for the city, McComas said. Assocation members pay more than $75,000 a year in overtime to hire city police to patrol the blocks surrounding the Cross Street Market on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, as well as during Ravens games, he said, and $25,000 pays to have the trash bins emptied and the streets cleaned twice a week. About $150,000 is donated by members to schools, charities and other organizations. It's part of the bars' efforts to give back to the neighborhood, McComas said.

"We have brought noise and some nuisance issues," McComas said. "There's no doubt about it. … Our primary goal is to help fix the problems in this community."

Bill Romani, vice president of Federal Hill Main Street and a neighborhood resident for more than 10 years, said Federal Hill's transformation reminds him of another city neighborhood across the harbor.

"It's been a very pronounced change," he said. "In the late '80s and early '90s, a lot of these growing pains were going on in Fells Point. Now there's a little bit of stability in Fells Point, and I think we're searching for that stability — that balance — here."

sam.sessa@baltsun.com

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