Hammerjacks, Baltimore's shrine to big hair, loud dresses and heavy metal, is plotting a comeback.
An Anne Arundel County man has bought the trademark to sell Hammerjacks-related merchandise. And, he said he's negotiating with developers for a new branded club near the planned Baltimore slots casino off Russell Street.
His plans are the second time a revival of the iconic megaclub has been attempted since it closed in 1997; a 2000 reincarnation failed to win over the original's legions of fans, which included, over the years, the likes of Bret Michaels and the classy lady pictured above.
Kevin Butler, a 47-year-old mortgage executive from Anne Arundel County, was a regular at the Howard Street location of Hammerjacks; the club originally opened in 1977 on South Charles Street, but it was the club under an Interstate 395 overpass that became iconic.
Over two decades, it hosted some of the most popular acts in live entertainment: Donna Summer, the Ramones, Guns 'n' Roses, Ozzy.
In 1997, the Maryland Stadium Authority paid the owners, the Principio family, $3.1 million for three tracts of land to make way for parking near Camden Yards.
The demolitions of Hammerjacks, and sister clubs Louie Louies and Gridlock, drew scores of people looking to walk away with bricks and other mementos from a club that some called legendary.
"It was the Studio 54 of rock 'n' roll," Butler said.
A new Hammerjacks opened on Guilford Avenue in 2000. But while it booked major acts - Baltimore club DJs Rod Lee and K-Swift; Tupac, Queen Latifah - it never regained the popularity of the Howard Street club and closed in 2006. Bourbon Street, which recently closed, took over in 2008.
Butler started looking for Hammerjacks merchandise several years ago and couldn't find anything besides vintage. It seems that when the club closed in 2006, the owners of the trademark neglected to renew it.
Much like the new owner of the National Premium trademark, Butler believed the Hammerjacks brand still had equity in the market and he secured it in 2009 for $1,000, he said. His attorney, Lawrence E. Laubscher, is listed on the trademark.
"For people between the ages of 35 and 55, it's a place everybody has a story about," Butler said.
The trademark gives him ownership of the Hammerjacks logo - which consists of the name underneath a hammer and two lightning bolts above the letter 'j' - and its use on clothing and the promotion of concerts or nightclubs.
For now, he's used it to sell clothes, coolies and other knick knacks on his website, Hammerjacksonline.com. He said he's sold thousands of items.
His more ambitious goal is to open a brand new club and concert hall, either for him or someone else to run, near the planned slots parlor in Baltimore. He claims he's negotiating with developers and investors - he declined to say who - but has not secured a partner so far.
Even though the first Hammerjacks revival failed, Butler said there's still a demand for the club that goes beyond kitsch or nostalgia.
When he hosted a Hammerjacks-themed party three weeks ago at the club's former location on Charles Street - which is now Nobles Bar & Grill - he said at least a hundred people turned up.
The party was held on Halloween night.