Church Bar started out with lofty goals. When it opened last fall, the bar’s mission was nothing short of shaking up the way the hospitality industry treats its employees.
Founder Chelsea Gregoire, a former student of theology known around Baltimore for crafting the beverage programs at stylish spots like Topside, True Chesapeake Oyster Co. and Ida B’s Table, envisioned a bar-as-community-gathering-space, with higher hourly wages for staff, educational enrichment opportunities and a tip pool system that took into account both front and back of house workers, among other perks.
Gregoire, who was already establishing a presence on the national scene as a 2018 Eater Young Gun and Esquire’s Beverage Director of the Year in 2019, earned another high-profile nod in June when Esquire included Church on its 2023 list of the best bars in America. But by the time the feature ran, Gregoire had left the bar behind, citing burnout and illness.
Following in their wake was a summer of recriminations and uncertainty for a space that had once sought to unify. On social media, former employees alleged they were frequently paid late and experienced microaggressions and racism at the hands of management. A new ownership group stepped in and swiftly received backlash from some former staff who said they were still owed money.
Last week, Church’s highflying aspirations finally fell down to earth. On Sept. 3 — a Sunday — the bar’s new owners, Kristin and Devon Potler, announced that Church had closed for good.
“We did not know the depths of pain that existed at Church Bar before we took over and we pray those who are hurting can find healing,” the Potlers wrote. They also sought to “set the record straight,” saying they paid $15,000 in back wages before reopening the bar in June, “and more after.”
What’s next for the space remains to be seen. Kelly Cross, the president of the Old Goucher Community Association, said he hopes to bring a new tenant in soon. In recent years, the Old Goucher neighborhood has become a hot spot for trendy bars and restaurants, including gin bar Dutch Courage, board game bar No Land Beyond and Lane Harlan’s natural wine bar and biergarten, Fadensonnen.
“Something will go there,” Cross said. “We’re very particular about cultivating amazing talent.”
Cypriana heads to Howard County
Cypriana, the Mediterranean restaurant that started as a Baltimore City street cart, will venture out to Howard County with a second location in the works.
The eatery’s owners, Vassos Yiannouris and Maria Kaimakis, said last week that they have signed a lease on restaurant space at 8171 Maple Lawn Boulevard in Fulton. They plan to open there this fall.
The Howard County restaurant is the latest step for Cypriana, which launched in 1990 as a cart on the sidewalk. The Mediterranean concept then moved to a downtown food court before establishing itself as Cypriana Café, a restaurant at the corner of Baltimore and Light streets that has since closed. In 2017, Yiannouris and Kaimakis opened a full-service, sit-down dining room for Cypriana in the Tuscany-Canterbury neighborhood, near the Johns Hopkins University.
Known for its hummus, falafel and dishes like octopus or slow-cooked vegetables, the restaurant takes culinary cues from Cyprus, a Mediterranean island where French, Middle Eastern and Byzantine cuisine meld together. Pita bread, falafel and hummus are made on-site, and the restaurant eschews preservatives in favor of fresh ingredients, per Yiannouris.
“These little differences are noticed and appreciated by our customers,” he said. “You simply cannot be authentic if you do not use pure ingredients.”
More growth may be on the way for Cypriana: The new Howard County location counts ITA Group, the parent company of sports bar chain The Greene Turtle, as an investor. ITA’s Founder Growth Platform incubator is aimed at expanding existing restaurant concepts, including Neo Pizza and RegionAle.
Clarksville Korean restaurant is back on a roll
Let’s Roll, the Korean eatery inside Clarksville’s Common Kitchen, is back under new ownership.
Howard County Executive Calvin Ball will stop by Saturday for a grand reopening ribbon-cutting at the restaurant, which serves Korean favorites like bibimbap and bulgogi beef. New owner Ayub Sabir also plans to serve gluten-free, vegan and halal options.
Deviled eggs for a cause
This weekend marks the 10th edition of one of the city’s most devilishly fun culinary events.
The annual Baltimore Deviled Egg Pageant returns Sunday for a taste-test of more than 20 different deviled egg creations from amateur chefs. This year’s event is set to take place at Charm City Meadworks and will also feature raffles and a silent auction.
Contestants will be judged in categories like “best tasting,” “best presentation,” “most creative” and “best not-an-egg” (we’re not quite sure what this one means). Among the judges this year is city Comptroller Bill Henry.
The “Best Egg in Show” will take home a deviled egg sash and tiara. Proceeds from the pageant will head to the Baltimore Abortion Fund, which offers support to people who live in or travel to Maryland for an abortion.
Unfortunately, tickets to this year’s pageant are sold out. How bedeviling!