Kevin Butler and Andy Hotchkiss hear it all the time: “When’s Hammerjacks reopening? Is it really happening?”
“I get it, dude. There’s nobody who wants to open this thing more so than Kevin and I,” Hotchkiss said with a laugh inside a Federal Hill bar on Wednesday. “Sometimes things take longer than anybody ever expected.”
On Wednesday, the business partners said the process finally begins in earnest next month, when they raze Paradox, a former nightclub, and a neighboring property. It’s the first step in turning the spaces at 1300-1320 Russell St. into the single, 60,000-square-foot entertainment complex that will become the new Hammerjacks.
Construction, which will be handled by the Frederick firm Morgan Keller, is expected to take 10 to 11 months, Butler said, though he called the time frame “a moving target.” The estimated cost for the project is $16.5 million, he said.
“We’ll be fully open in 2019,” said Butler, who lives in Anne Arundel County.
Though it shares its name with the former concert hall, this Hammerjacks will consist of three distinct areas, Hotchkiss said. Aside from a music venue with the capacity to hold 2,000 people, Hammerjacks will feature a sports bar with an attached beer garden and a rentable 400-person space that will host smaller shows like comedy nights, Hotchkiss said. Each area will have its own, still-to-be-determined name. The entire complex could hold approximately 3,900 people.
Though they plan to nod to the venue namesake’s past through its design and decor, Butler and Hotchkiss made it clear Hammerjacks won’t resemble the hair-metal venue from its heyday.
“People ask me all the time, ‘Are you opening an ’80s club?’ ” said Hotchkiss, a 40-year-old Bethesda resident. “No, of course not.”
Instead, they plan to book “top-tier” music acts from genres like country, rock, blues and electronic dance music, Butler said. “We’re open to booking all types of music.”
Opened in 1977, Hammerjacks became known for its hard-rock concerts in the mid-1980s and ’90s, when acts like Guns N Roses and the Ramones took to its stage. Its most famous location, 1101 S. Howard St., closed in 1997. A more DJ-driven version of Hammerjacks was open on Guilford Avenue from 2000 to 2006.
Since then, Butler, a 53-year-old former Hammerjacks regular, has purchased the trademark and has been working with Hotchkiss to open a new version of the former Baltimore music landmark. Neither were involved with the original venue.
Last May, they cleared the final hurdle with the city, gaining approval for a stadium liquor license (which covers a venue with a capacity of at least 1,000 people). Around that time, Butler told The Baltimore Sun he expected to be open in early 2018. On Thursday, he said the delays have come with “the process of development.”
“When you talk about permitting, entitlements, design, consulting, engineering — it just takes longer,” Butler said.
Butler and Hotchkiss said a project like this — with a name Marylanders know and many love — comes with pressure to deliver.
“There’s an expectation with this brand,” Butler said. “The bar is high, and we have to make sure that we clear it.”
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