Baltimore bars continue to rebrand, aiming to evolve with the changing wants and needs of the public. This time, it's No Idea Tavern that's taking on a change.
Under new ownership, the South Baltimore sports bar (at 1649 S. Hanover St.) plans to transform with a new name and look, more food options, and a renewed focus on service, said co-owner Jon Ferguson. (He and longtime girlfriend Stacy Lynch, a former bartender at Ropewalk Tavern, took over operations on Feb. 1 from Ryan Cooper.)
“We want to step it up a notch,” said Ferguson, who has worked at No Idea for two years and was most recently general manager. “I feel like the service in here has been neglected for a while.”
Opened in 2005, No Idea will get a new name later this year, and Ferguson is asking customers for suggestions. He expects the rebranding will be completed in August, which is when the bar plans to throw a grand-opening block party.
It's the latest bar in the neighborhood to rebrand. Last year, two popular Federal Hill bars — Cowboys & Rednecks Pub and the first floor of Stalking Horse — became Wayward Southern Bar & Kitchen and Whiskey Hill, respectively.
No Idea — which will maintain the same layout in its new iteration — will remain open as cosmetic changes occur. Regulars will notice a warmer color scheme and oak paneling throughout the bar, Ferguson said. They’re also removing shuffleboard to make room for more dining tables, but Ferguson said he’s looking for video game consoles like “Golden Tee” and “Buck Hunter” to replace the entertainment.
The kitchen, run by Craig Fields, will also diversify its approach. Expect more exotic meats like elk, kangaroo and bison, and healthier options like salads, wraps and a veggie burger.
“Right now, everything is deep fried or fried,” Ferguson said.
No Idea will also no longer be a Buffalo Bills fan bar, he said. Instead, it plans to go local, focusing on the Orioles and Ravens, along with Washington’s hockey and football teams. Ferguson is also considering accommodating Towson University sports fans, and the bar will still host Penn State football groups, he said.
For the bar program, Ferguson plans to maintain the craft-beer selection and is open to adding house cocktails and more wine offerings, he said. The bar will continue to offer its all-you-can-drink special on Friday and host bottomless brunches on Saturday and Sunday.
Even though No Idea closed on Monday for renovations (bathroom doors needed replacing, according to Ferguson), the plan is stay open during the rebranding process. Ferguson said he’s also dedicated to maintaining the “neighborhood” feel of the bar. He believes the rebrand comes at a time when the neighborhood is starting to embrace its corner bars more.
“I think the corner bar is actually making a comeback,” he said. “People are ready … to slow down a bit, and not have the crazy crowds and loud music down there."