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Baltimore’s Atlas Restaurant Group buys another Fells Point pub

The Atlas Restaurant Group is continuing its blink-and-you-missed-it growth by adding another Fells Point property to its portfolio. This time, it’s the Waterfront Hotel on Thames Street.

The takeover marks a third business for Atlas in Fells Point alone. Last year, the company purchased the nearby Admiral’s Cup. Choptank opened in 2019 in the former Broadway Market.

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A Fells Point institution, Waterfront Hotel was at one point a watering hole for politicians and showplace for local artists. More recently, it’s become known for its live music offerings, something that won’t change under the new ownership, according to a release. However, once Atlas takes over daily operations in mid-December, the pub will get a revamped “gastropub”-style menu.

Atlas CEO Alex Smith said Waterfront Hotel’s previous owners had come to him about the sale. “This was something that was off-market,” he said. “It’s not like we’re looking for bars to buy, necessarily.” Still, Smith said, “it doesn’t rule out us doing more” in the area.

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The three-story building at 1710 Thames St. was constructed in 1771, making it one of the city’s oldest brick structures. The property was converted in 1861 to a hotel to house troops during the Civil War and kept its name long after becoming a bar and restaurant in 1955.

Atlas spokesman Joe Sweeney declined to say the purchase price. According to online records, the building sold in 2005 for $1 million.

The latest acquisition comes in partnership with Fells Point restaurateurs Darin Mislan and Eric Mathias, who were also involved in Atlas’ takeover of the Admiral’s Cup. Mathias also owns The Horse You Came In On Saloon.

Smith described them as “a group of guys that really understand the business through and through.” He added: “We feel like we’re definitely making a difference in the neighborhood and improving the neighborhood.”

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Founded in 2012, Harbor East-headquartered Atlas Restaurant Group has opened or bought more than a dozen restaurants in the city of Baltimore. After sharp revenue declines during the pandemic, Smith said, “I think the town’s bouncing back nicely. We’re busy.” Last year, he said, “I think every restaurant in the state lost money… those that made it over that hump are doing really well.”

Atlas is expanding its footprint around the Baltimore-metro region. This year saw the company’s takeover of Perennial and Cunningham’s Bakery and Cafe in Towson. “We’re really excited about the potential in Baltimore County,” Smith said. “I think there’s going to be more to come there.” Smith also has announced that a second Choptank to open in Annapolis next April.

A whiskey and oyster bar, Parlour Victoria, will open in Washington next summer on the ground floor of the Moxy Hotel at 1011 K Street, Northwest.

Next year, Atlas will open an Italian restaurant in Houston, Texas, part of what Smith calls the company’s strategy of targeting “emerging markets” rather than existing dining hotspots. The Harbor East-headquartered company owns three restaurants in Houston and another in Florida, in addition to properties in the Baltimore area.

Despite its rapid-fire expansion, Atlas has also come under fire in recent years, most notably for its dress codes. Last year, the company faced outcry and a lawsuit after a Black mom and her son were denied service at Ouzo Bay. A federal judge threw out most of the allegations but allowed the case to proceed. Since then, Atlas has revised and even dropped the dress codes at various properties.

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