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Tragedy at Hops Inn

Over the years, I've written time and again about my love for Hops Inn. It is one of Dundalk's best bars -- a real gem.

So it's with great sorrow that I pass along the news that owner Lee Martin was slain in a shooting outside Hops Inn Saturday morning.

While I never met Martin in person, we spoke over the phone in the past. The bar, which apparently doubled as his house, had been in Martin's family for generations, he once told me.

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Martin's death means the future of this long-standing Dundalk watering hole is uncertain. I called the bar earlier today but no one picked up. As a bar-goer, I hope Hops stays open.

I've only ever been to Hops twice -- both on the same night ...

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It was the first Dundalk Bar Crawl, in the summer of 2008. Walking into Hops, it felt like it could have been 1988. Black-and-white portraits of every president dating back to George Washington hung on the wood-paneled walls. My friends and I put Night Ranger's "Sister Christian" on the box, which got the other guys in the place singing along.

This is part of what I wrote at the time:

It's possibly one of the most random but welcoming bars I've ever been to. Hops sits in the middle of a residential section of Dundalk on Railway Avenue. A list of the buildings on this street would read: house, house, house, Hops, house, house. A big sign out front advertised "Bud On Tap," as if it were some novel thing, and I wondered just how long it had been there.

We had a round of beers, and then left Hops to visit some other Dundalk bars. But none of them compared to Hops, where we found ourselves at the end of the night. The bartender, a biker mama, brought us a round of free shots. Then one of my friends, J.M. Giordano of What's Happening Magazine, spotted a bottle of Johnny Walker Blue behind the bar. This stuff goes for $20 a glass at most Baltimore bars.

At our request, the bartender checked out the bottle, which had a hand-written label on the back of it: $3. Our eyes popped out of their sockets. We quickly ordered a round. Last year, I found out Hops had raised the price to $9 a shot, which is still much cheaper than most places.

Reading the news this morning shocked me. My condolences go out to the Martin family. You're in our hearts and thoughts.

(Photo courtesy of Hops' website)

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