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Ida B’s Table in downtown Baltimore closes permanently

Ida B’s made a splash when it first opened in 2017 under the helm of chef David Thomas, who won praise for bringing innovative twists to staples of soul food.
Ida B’s made a splash when it first opened in 2017 under the helm of chef David Thomas, who won praise for bringing innovative twists to staples of soul food. (Amy Davis / Baltimore Sun)

Calling it an “unpopular decision,” the board of Ida B’s Table has decided to shut the restaurant down for good, according to its social media account.

The downtown restaurant was a partnership with The Real News Network, its neighbor on Holliday Street. The eatery was named after Ida B. Wells, the 19th-century African-American journalist and civil rights activist.

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The news marks another pandemic-era blow for the city’s downtown area, which has seen numerous shutdowns including Chez Hugo, Maisy’s and the Alexander Brown Restaurant. Nevertheless, the Restaurant Association of Maryland says the percentage of permanent closures has been slightly lower than expected.

Ida B’s made a splash when it first opened in 2017 under the helm of chef David Thomas, who won praise for bringing innovative twists to staples of soul food. His “diaspora dinner” series explored the evolution of traditional African food into American soul and Caribbean cuisines.

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Thomas left the restaurant in 2020 and now operates H3irloom Food Group, a specialized catering company, along with wife and business partner Tonya Thomas.

Joe Spinelli, a partner in the restaurant, said Ida B’s had lost money for years and that the pandemic had made things especially tough.

“We just couldn’t sustain ourselves,” he said.

He said the 25 people on staff were each given a one-month severance.

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“It’s been sad,” said Spinelli, who said he worked hard on the restaurant’s launch. “You’re giving birth to a restaurant,” he said.

A spokesman for the Real News Network wrote in a statement: “We’re really sad to see Ida B’s have to make this hard call. The pandemic has been incredibly hard on restaurants that depend on in-person dining.”

The building, which includes 235-239 Holliday Street, is listed for sale by BCV Commercial Realty for $2,750,000. Spinelli said he would consider selling the restaurant brand as well.

“Our mission was all about helping people understand the world and therefore change the world,” he said. “If someone wants to pick that brand up… were open to that.”

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