Pickles Pub, located across the street from Oriole Park at Camden Yards, has long been synonymous with opening day. Thousands of orange-drenched fans make it their first stop (usually of many) on one of Baltimore's most lively days.
But at 10 a.m. on April 5, hours before the Orioles host the Minnesota Twins for the first home series of the season, the Deck at Camden Yards — a new, outdoor beer garden at the Hampton Inn — will open next to Pickles.
Deck partner Fritz Brogan says the latest addition to Washington Boulevard will open for Orioles home games, Ravens home games and special events such as the Grand Prix. He says the Deck, which has no affiliation with the Orioles, is not in direct competition with Pickles or Sliders, another bar that shares the street.
"We think we're offering a service for the people that can't get into Pickles or Sliders," Brogan said. "I think there's plenty of business for everybody."
At first glance, the Hampton Inn looks like an odd choice for an outdoor bar. But Brogan says the patio, combined with a cleared-out parking lot and valet area, will make the Deck the largest outdoor space of any bar on the street. He says the staff, led by former Mex general manager Rob Napier, is expecting at least 1,000 people next Friday.
"No matter what way you're walking to the stadium, you're going to have to pass us," Brogan said. "You're going to smell good barbecue. You're going to see a good atmosphere. I think we'll get a lot of walk-by traffic."
Brogan, who owns two bars in Washington (Mason Inn, a Ravens bar, and George in Georgetown), says there will be a DJ and 25 bartenders serving mixed drinks, shots and cans of beer (Miller Lite, Coors Light, Blue Moon, Leinenkugel and more standards) on opening day. The Deck has partnered with Carnivore BBQ, a D.C.-based food truck that recently opened a brick-and-mortar store in Hollins Market, to provide food.
But what about the hotel's customers?
Brogan says the Deck will be "very sensitive" to Hampton Inn's guests. Normally, the Deck will open three hours before game-time and close 90 minutes after a game ends. For night games (say a 7 p.m. Orioles game or a primetime Ravens game), the Deck will do most of its business before the games begin. He added that the bar likely wouldn't stay open past 11 p.m. or midnight, but that no plans have been made definite.
"We don't plan on being a late-night place. It will be a daytime bar," Brogan said. "I don't think people sleeping at the hotel at night will have any problems."
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The cars of Hampton Inn customers will be moved to a second, auxiliary parking lot three blocks away to accommodate the Deck, Brogan said.
The idea for the bar came from MCR Development, the New York/Dallas-based hotel investment firm and management company that also owns the downtown Hampton Inn.
Tyler Morse, MCR's chief executive officer and a self-proclaimed "big Orioles fan," says the recent successes of the Ravens and Orioles inspired the initial idea for the Deck.
"We wanted to be a part of Baltimore sports because they've really been on a tear these days," Morse said. "We've seen what happens for Opening Day and opening weekend, Yankees games, Red Sox games. It's a big part of the fabric downtown. We have a great space and wanted to participate with the community."
Morse reiterated the Deck does not view Pickles as a competitor, adding Pickles' management has been friendly and supportive of the Deck.
"Pickles has built an amazing franchise and has an amazing following, so we're working off the great business they get," Morse said. "There's plenty of business to go around. Fifty-thousand people going into the ballpark — we can all happily co-exist."