"It wound up being a neighborhood bar, with local people but also a lot of cops and firemen, Navy and Marines, CIA and DEA guys, and a lot of unmentionables we can't talk about," said Gross, who bought the bar, previously Pete's American Cafe, in 1991
Captain Larry's was like a club, with its own rituals and customs, including New Year's Eve parties in which the 200-pound captain appeared in a diaper; head shavings for anyone entering the armed services; and ear-piercings conducted on the premises.
"We had gold earrings made up in a skull and crossbones," Gross said. "You'd take the earring and put it in a shot of vodka, and the customer would drink the vodka and spit the earring back into the glass. That was to sterilize it. Then we'd take a dart, and sterilize it with vodka and pierce the ear."
After 10 years, the captain called it quits, weary of 17-hour days and aware that the neighborhood was becoming a different place. He sold the bar, which he had bought for $125,000, for $325,000.
"The crowd was changing - stockbrokers and insurance guys, things like that. You'd have 30 people in there, and 20 of them would be drinking water. I was feeling like a dinosaur in the business, and I saw that the old way wasn't going to work anymore."
When he visits from Florida, he doesn't go to the bar that bears his name. It looks nice, he said, but seeing the change is painful. "It's like someone killing one of your family members."
There was a time, Elizabeth Hartlove recalls, when it went pretty much like clockwork - she and her husband could wait until factory shifts ended, then watch their bar fill up.
The customers came from working on the railroad or in the shipyards. They came from the grain elevator or the sugar plant. They came from Procter & Gamble, Bethlehem Steel, Allied Signal Chemical, Coca-Cola and Chesapeake Paperboard - none of which remain in the area today.
By the mid-1990s, with the decline of heavy industry in Locust Point, working-class bar crowds weren't what they used to be. Last year, "just worn out from worrying every day," Hartlove, 61, put the bar up for sale. "It's a younger person's business."
Hartlove's is now Rafters, a bar with younger ownership and a younger clientele. Hartlove's old regulars - deeming the music too loud and prices too high - migrated to the few other bars that still cater to the old crowd.
The old interior Formstone is still there, but painted over. It goes back to the days the bar was Leone's, famous for its semi-pro baseball team, which starred a local teenager named Al Kaline.
From 1950 to 1988, the bar was owned by Vince Leone, who opened it with his brother Dominick, a one-time Baltimore City councilman who was shot and killed at the courthouse in 1976. It was Vince Leone, now legally blind and living in Glen Burnie, who opted for the interior Formstone, about the same time he had it put on the exterior.