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Catholic group calls Fells Point's Ale Mary's bar 'blasphemous'

By Jill Rosen

The Baltimore Sun

4:31 PM EDT, April 5, 2012

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On the eve of Easter, a religious group is coming down hard on the Fells Point bar Ale Mary's.

Why?

Well, its name for starters. And all of the other things the church-themed bar does for kitsch value.

They decorate with photos of nuns. They post their draft list on a hymn board. They offer Father Luies Grilled Wings and Father Tom's Fried Ice Cream Sundae. And, possibly their most serious transgression according to the group: the bar's "chalice" club where people can get their beer served in a chalice.

The group 500,000 Against Ale Mary's isn't amused.

In fact, they're highly offended.

They have started a Facebook campaign railing against the bar and encouraging others to join the protest. It's not clear where the group is based but at least one of the active members lives in Baltimore. With just over 200 supporters online, they've got a ways to 500,000.

"This group has been formed to protest, and make known, the deeply offensive and blasphemous use of sacred objects used in the Catholic Church in Her most profound rituals and liturgies by the bar Ale Mary," organizers say on their Facebook page. "In this establishment Chalices that contain the precious blood of Christ are being used as common drinking cups, and a Monstrance that is to be used to display the Sacred body of Christ for adoration is being used as a kitch decoration sitting on a bar where patrons while their time over drinks. A holy water font is also used as a simple candy dish."

Tom and Mary Rivers, who opened Ale Mary's about seven years ago, say they've gotten about a dozen angry phone calls and about the same number of emails in the last week or so.

And, as both of them were raised Catholic in Baltimore, they still can't believe anyone would have a problem with what they consider fun decor.

"With the exception of these nut balls I've had one person in seven years say this is kind of in bad taste," Tom Rivers said. "And that person still comes in here."

The couple says that all of their religious items were donated by customers, including the monstrance behind the bar.

"I didn't put these things here to offend anyone," says Mary Rivers, who was named after a nun. "They were here because they were kinda cool."

Protesters say they want Ale Mary's to get rid of the church artifacts. They're also considering other actions.

One member of the group suggested performing an exorcism on the sidewalk outside the bar. Another suggested covertly placing "Miraculous Medals" in corners of the bar. Still another told the story of how her sister sprinkled holy water on a porn shop near her home and it closed soon after.

The Rivers have no plans to remove any of the objects from their bar.

jill.rosen@baltsun.com

@BaltInsider