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Grand Central, longtime Mount Vernon gay club, to permanently close after coronavirus violation

Grand Central, a longtime Mount Vernon gay bar, is permanently closing.
Grand Central, a longtime Mount Vernon gay bar, is permanently closing. (David Hobby, Baltimore Sun photo)

Mount Vernon’s Grand Central nightclub has permanently closed after nearly 30 years in business, a lawyer representing the popular LGBTQ club told city liquor board inspectors Thursday.

The club’s owners were called to a Board of Liquor License Commissioners hearing Thursday after inspectors reported that 15 patrons were inside the establishment on the night of July 30, when indoor dining was prohibited in the city.

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The club was already operating on “borrowed time” said Stephan Fogleman, the lawyer representing the club, since its owners are planning to redevelop the property to include retail space and a full-service restaurant. But as a result of the events of July 30, they decided to close Grand Central immediately.

“It will cost them lost revenue over the next three and a half weeks, but they think it’s the best that they can do in order to ensure 100% compliance with liquor laws,” Fogleman said.

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The board only fined the bar $200, continuing its pattern of relatively gentle enforcement of COVID-19-related infractions. No one restaurant has been fined more than $300 by the body thus far.

On the night of July 30, when the infraction occurred, one bartender was manning the establishment, and told inspectors that he was “having a hard time controlling patrons,” Fogleman said. The attorney added that it’s possible not enough employees were working that night.

“Given zero percent capacity, one would think that you would be able to pull that off,” Fogleman said. “So I don’t understand it. I don’t think we’ll ever know.”

That employee was fired after the incident, Fogleman added.

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Longtime owner Don Davis purchased the property on North Charles Street in 1991, and sold it last year, citing his battle with throat cancer. Landmark Partners, a Baltimore-based developer, bought the club for $1.4 million, and announced its intentions to completely remodel the space. At the time, the developers wouldn’t say whether plans for the property included an LGBTQ nightclub.

“Both retail concepts are intended to be authentic Baltimore food and beverage establishments that are open to all,” the release said. “Our intent is to activate and energize the corner for the community to enjoy, with the goal of enhancing walkability and vibrancy within the neighborhood.”

The bar’s sale followed the closure of several other prominent gay bars in Baltimore, including Club Hippo nearby, The Baltimore Eagle in Old Goucher and Club Bunns near Lexington Market, contributing to a notable decrease in gay nightlife options downtown.

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