More than a dozen Fells Point businesses will shut their doors early Tuesday night in an attempt to distance themselves from the Halloween festivities that have been marred by violence in recent years.
The historic waterfront neighborhood — home to a plethora of bars and restaurants — has long been known to attract rambunctious crowds of partygoers in costume. But business owners say the Halloween revelry has gotten out of hand, at a cost to their establishments.
Last year, three people in the bar district were stabbed in a street fight. In a separate incident, a 22-year-old woman was shot in the foot, just north of the main hub of bars. Shots were fired in the 600 block of S. Broadway around 1 a.m. on Halloween night the year before.
“For the safety of our employees and our customers, it’s better to just close down,” said Charlie Gjerde, who owns both Alexander’s Tavern and Papi’s Tacos.
On a night like Halloween, Gjerde’s two establishments would usually stay open until 2 a.m. On Tuesday, he said they will instead shut down at 9:30 p.m.
Halloween used to be the big money maker for Fells Point bars, he said, but the crowds that have shown up recently are more interested in throwing a street party than supporting businesses. Last year, he recalled that the bars themselves were nearly empty while throngs of people descended onto the streets outside in an informal event.
“10 years ago, Halloween was the biggest night of the year for us,” Gjerde said. “We’d have every staff member on duty. Now, it’s the exact opposite.”
Other restaurants are in a similar situation. Bond Street Social will close about two hours early. Dogwatch Tavern usually stays open until around 2 a.m. — this Halloween, it’ll be around 9 p.m. Barcocina is also shutting its doors at 10 p.m.
“I do think this is bars coming together to say we can’t handle what Halloween has become in Fells Point,” said Sticky Rice owner Ronnie Pasztor. His restaurant will likely take its last table around 9 or 9:30 p.m.
At Sticky Rice last year, someone tried to a flush a costume wig down the toilet. The ensuing repairs resulted in a $500 bill and forced the restaurant to open late the next day.
“We love the neighborhood. We think it’s a great neighborhood to come down to,” Pasztor said. “364 days a year it’s a good experience — Halloween is just nearly too much.”
The Baltimore Police Department deployed additional officers last year, and conducted foot patrols and issued commands from a helicopter to clear the area after 1 a.m. Liquor Board inspectors were also on the scene.
Baltimore Police spokesman T.J. Smith said in a statement that the police department is aware businesses plan to close early, but “that certainly was not a recommendation from the police department.”
“We are also aware of the large crowds that descend upon Fells Point for Halloween festivities. We want people to enjoy the festivities, but responsibly,” he said. “We will have a large deployment of officers in place in and around the area as well as the entire city. We are also hopeful for personal responsibility and accountability. We urge people who observe behavior that could be construed as dangerous to call us.”
According to a list circulating among business owners that was shared with The Baltimore Sun, the following establishments will also close by around 10 p.m.: Greene Turtle, Kooper's Tavern, Lil Phil's, Max's Taphouse, Points South Latin Kitchen, Slainte Irish Pub & Restaurant, Thames Street Oyster House, Todd Conner's, V-NO Wine Bar, Woody's Cantina, Dudas Tavern, 8 Ball Meatball and Rodos Bar.