Towson's Charles Village Pub reopens

Fifteen months after a kitchen fire spread through the building and burned Charles Village Pub to the ground, the newly rebuilt bar in Towson reopened to the public Monday.

Co-owner Melony Wagner said the Towson mainstay on West Pennsylvania Avenue had a week of soft openings and training before the official grand opening.

"We're going to be open in under 15 months," Wagner said. "From what everyone says, that's a miracle."

It's been a long time coming for Wagner, who co-owns the bar with her husband, Eric, and Rick Bielski.

She and Eric met while they were working as bartenders at the Charles Village Pub, and they eventually married and started a family.

Though the physical building they're opening next week will be different from the previous one, that "family-oriented feel" Melony remembers seems to have never left.

On Monday, April 16, many of the 20 pre-fire employees who are back to work at Charles Village Pub – affectionately known as CVP -- were lending a hand preparing the bar for a day they've long awaited.

Rick Byrd, 30, of Anneslie, will be back bartending at the pub when the opening finally comes. While the bar's customers missed it since last January, Byrd was among those severely affected by the fire.

"I lost my entire yearly salary," he said.

Both Byrd and former head doorman Kurt Batten, 35 of Rodgers Forge, worked at and patronized other Towson bars during the rebuilding.

But at every location, the Charles Village Pub regulars — displaced themselves — would approach them with a familiar refrain.

"It seems like everywhere we're working, all of our regular customers we used to see here are asking about it," Byrd said.

When the customers return next week, many employees believe it will be for more than just the drinks served up by Byrd, Batten, and fellow bartender Josh Nagel, 28, of Towson.

"We're really going after the lunch, happy hour and dinner crowds this time around," Wagner said. ""We'll still get the college kids. They don't come out until 11 o'clock, so there's no overlap."

Nowhere in the rebuilt bar is the ambition to cater to both the daytime and college crowd more apparent than on the new second floor.

The upstairs bar has event capabilities that Wagner hopes lures in business functions during the day, including a large projection screen that spans the entire far wall and can be utilized for Powerpoint presentations.

But that same space can transform into a late-night destination for college students as the midnight hour approaches. The upstairs features a small VIP booth, a DJ booth, and thousands of dollars in lighting and sound equipment.

The rest of the bar isn't aimed at a specific demographic, but it has features that the owners hope will appeal to many.

In addition to a larger kitchen and new menu, the 600-person-capacity building is stocked with 26 big-screen (51-inch) televisions. There are 20 beers on tap and the familiar selection of mixed drinks.

Both the first and second floor — which is accessible by elevator — have back patio areas to enjoy the weather. And the CVP also boasts what it calls Towson's only rooftop deck.

The construction is all but complete. On Friday, a crew was putting the finishing touches on the interior staircase. Late Monday afternoon, a painter was applying a coat of black paint to the wood trim out front.

But inside, plenty was left to do. Two women lugged boxes of T-shirts from the temporary office on the other side of the road across Pennsylvania Avenue into the new bar. Boxes of pint glasses lined the walls, waiting to be unpacked.

"Now, it's just the little things," General Manager Chris Mussen said. "Getting the games delivered, putting the finishing touches on everything."

But no matter the reception — not that anyone expects a bad one — the fact that the bar is built and will soon be open for business is reason enough for Wagner, her husband, and Bielski to celebrate.

"To be back up and running in under 15 months is very good," Melony Wagner said. "It's been very stressful, I know that."

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