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Fells Point bars plan on staying open despite Hurricane Irene; prepare with sandbags, kayaks

The Baltimore Sun

It was around dinnertime September 2003 when Hurricane Isabel wreaked havoc on the Chesapeake Bay, causing some of the worst flooding in 70 years.

Waters reached up to eight feet above normal tides. Thousands had to be evacuated. Property damage reached over $400 million inMaryland alone.

In its aftermath,Fells Point was devastated. "I was up fortysome hours going around the neighborhood helping people move stuff," said Ron Furman, owner of Max's Taphouse. "It was wild. A lot of work. A lot of people had their apartments below water."

As Hurricane Irene steamrolls up the East Coast with wind gusts of over 100 miles per hour, a powerhouse of a storm that is expected to have a significant impact on the Eastern Shore, bars in Fells Point are preparing for the worst.

But, they're also planning on staying open.

"As long as things are not life-threatening, we'll be open," Furman said. "There's no reason to close. We expect a lot of neighbors will come over to pass the time."

During Isabel, Kooper's Tavern was not flooded. And yet, the hurricane caused the restaurant to be closed for 48 hours because of a power outtage and lose over $12,000 in inventory, not counting losses in sales and to servers' incomes, said director of operations Bill Irvin.

The restaurant now has a full emergency plan: it's already switched over to manual generators just in case the power goes out; it's tapped all the drains in the basement; and it's deployed sandbags provided by the city, which were dropped off Thursday.

To preserve merchandise in case of a power outtage, they've employed a 24-foot refrigeration truck. And, "if for some reason everything goes to hell in a hand-basket," Irvin said Kooper's food truck will double as a fully-operating kitchen to serve the restaurant.

The attitude elsewhere in the neighborhood is just as cautious and defiant.

Mary Rivers is accustomed to preparing for hurricanes. The neighborhood's clogged drains means that any time it rains, her bar Ale Mary's is flooded.

For Irene, she said, "we've strapped everything down. We're getting a couple of kayaks and getting a generator." The sandbags, she said, are ready to be dispatched.

At Max's, Furman has pulled out the sump pumps in case the basement is flooded. The bar has also taken out everything off its normally highly decorated roof. And they've stocked up on city-provided sandbags.

He warned residents that because of open potholes they shouldn't walk in the streets if they're flooded.

"There's no reason to be walking around. It's really dangerous," he said.

Baltimore City's Department of Public Works has other tips: Keep trash contained; do not park on top of storm drains; keep a ready supply of drinking water; monitor sump pump in your basement; stay clear of streams and areas prone to flooding; and keep an eye out for emergency updates. 

Furman's extra piece of advice? If you need to get to a bar, kayak.

Bar owners and readers, if you know of any Baltimore bars that will be closing or keeping shorter hours because of the hurricane, e-mail me at We'll keep a running tab.

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