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'It's like a Cinderella story': Longtime Ottobar bartender to purchase venue

Bartender Tecla Tesnau said she is purchasing the famed Baltimore bar where acts including the White Stripes, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Wiz Khalifa, Beach House, Future Islands and Animal Collective have performed.
Bartender Tecla Tesnau said she is purchasing the famed Baltimore bar where acts including the White Stripes, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Wiz Khalifa, Beach House, Future Islands and Animal Collective have performed. (Algerina Perna / Baltimore Sun)

The Ottobar is getting purchased by a longtime employee, the music venue announced in a Facebook post on May 10.

“While the ink isn't completely dry just yet, we are anticipating a smooth transition this summer,” the post said.

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Bartender Tecla Tesnau said she was interested in buying the Charles Village spot since before it was listed for sale, but “I didn’t think it was going to be a possibility, financially speaking.” She said she’s been working with a “team of financial wizards who are helping make this dream a reality.”

Hello Ottobar Friends & Family! We are thrilled to announce that the sale of Ottobar is imminent and if all goes...

Posted by Ottobar on Friday, May 10, 2019

“It’s like a Cinderella story,” Tesnau said. “I’m a little more ‘Cinder’ and a little less ‘Ella.’” The 50-year-old woman said she was proud to tell people her age. “I know I’m an older woman and the fact that I’ve been doing this for so long, especially slinging drinks, saying my age is a testament to my durability.”

She estimates that she’s seen at least 10,000 different acts since she began tending bar at the Ottobar 21 years ago. “Easily.”

The programming and feel of the bar will remain mostly the same, though Tesnau said she hopes to do more to reach out to a diverse audience, including Baltimore’s LGBTQ community, which has been hit hard by the closing of the Hippo and upcoming closing of Grand Central. “I am open to any and all suggestions,” she said.

Tesnau said she has been overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and support from friends and patrons in the wake of the announcement. Tesnau said she hopes Ottobar patrons can “breathe a sigh of relief.”

Ottobar’s owners announced last November that they were selling, raising questions about the future of the 20-year-old Charles Village music venue. It was listed for $1.25 million.

The Ottobar first opened in downtown Baltimore in 1997. In 2001, it moved to its current location in the 2500 block of N. Howard St.

Thousands of bands of both local and national acclaim have performed there over the years, including the White Stripes, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Wiz Khalifa, Beach House, Future Islands and Animal Collective.

Last year, Rolling Stone named Ottobar one of the “10 Best Live Music Venues in America.”

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