The controversial and popular Tiki Barge may have a sister barge this Spring.
The people behind the Tiki Barge - including Harborview developer and liquor license holder Richard Swirnow and general manager Bud Craven - asked the Baltimore Liquor Board Thursday to add a seafood restaurant and sushi bar aboard another barge to their existing liquor license. That license covers Tabrizi's Restaurant, Sorso Cafe and the Tiki Barge.
After what chairman Stephan Fogleman desribed as a "vibrant discussion," the Liquor Board said it will have a decision on the expansion in two weeks.
If they're successful, Craven said he's considering expanding the Tiki Barge's hours of operation to close at midnight on weekdays and 1 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.
He hopes to open for business on April 15, along with the Tiki Barge, if the liquor board gives him the go-ahead.
To be called the Raw Barge Seafood Restaurant and Sushi Bar, the new venue would be built on a second, 94-foot-long, 29-foot-wide barge that's been sitting mainly unused. It would be anchored steps away from the Tiki Barge, enclosed by the marina rather than outside of it, like the Tiki.
The venue would be two stories, with a restaurant on the first floor and a bar and lounge on the second that would be open April to October, said Craven in an interview before the hearing. Construction is expected to cost $300,000.
The restaurant's trademark would be a 30-foot-plus line of raw bars selling seafood; Craven said Anne Arundel Seafood restaurant in Pasadena has a similar concept.
It would also have a sushi bar operated by Sticky Rice, the sushi restaurant in Fells Point.
Craven said the idea for a raw barge first came up last summer, and they began meeting with neighbors in September.
He said Tiki's last season was healthy, though somewhat softer than the first year because of the weather. The Raw Barge isn't meant to shore up attendance.
"It's a great concept for the city and the community," he said.
The hearing on Thursday was short of the four-hour blockbuster in March where the Tiki Barge's own inclusion in the liquor license was contested. On Thursday, only a couple neighbors - Michael Sisk and David Wallace, familiar to those who followed the original ordeal - spoke against the new project.
Wallace expressed concern that if approved this time, barges might become a ritual for the affluent Harborview community, with a new concept launching every year. (Aside: anyone wanna start taking bets on future barges?)
Matthew Klaiber, another resident who spoke out against the Tiki Barge last Spring, appeared at the hearing to express concern about the new hours and the possibility that the new barge would become just a second bar, and not a restaurant. He said he hadn't reached a decision on whether to support the new project.