When the bell signaling the close of the Friday stock markets in New York sounds its final toll, its echoes are felt all the way down the Eastern Seaboard to Baltimore.
At this hour, downtown workers from Legg Mason, T. Rowe Price, nearby legal firms and even Federal Hill businesses pour out of their offices and into the cobblestone alley adjacent to Peter's Pour House on Water Street.
As a live band plays cover tunes, the scene is filled with rolled-up sleeves, smart high heels on pavement, silk ties loosened and fluttering in the breeze, and the blur of the roulette wheel and bright green felt of poker and blackjack tables.
Peter's, located in the downtown corridor sometimes called "Little Wall Street" by locals, has been running a weekly charity casino night for six years, and it is here that some Baltimore movers and shakers come to unwind, drink 32-ounce beers for $4 and gamble away part of their Friday paychecks.
The bar and restaurant, a downtown fixture for 30 years, holds a license for two charitable outdoor gaming events it runs each week. Friday nights are happy hour and casino nights, and Saturdays bring two Texas Hold 'Em poker tournaments. Both events are run by outside vendor Fundraisers Unlimited.
Table minimums are usually in the $5 range, and games include roulette, Caribbean poker, Texas Hold 'Em, a wheel of fortune and customer favorite blackjack. Peter's owner Peter Kimos donates all of the weekly casino night proceeds to two local nonprofits, the Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation and the University of Maryland Medical Systems Foundation.
Karen Newell, external affairs manager at the Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation, a regional arts foundation, says her charity appreciates the donations greatly. "A lot of times money is earmarked for specific programs," she explains, "And the [general support] donations like the ones from Peter's allow us a little leeway to support special projects that come up that we think are deserving."
Kimos says the project is an especially worthwhile and gratifying one. "When I hand them a check, it makes me feel so good," he grins.
As Kimos describes it, the popular Friday night watering hole enjoys two waves of customers. From around 5 until 9:30 p.m., the clientele consists of those he affectionately calls "the suits," or the professional crowd from nearby office buildings. From 10 on, the group tends to shift to a more college-aged crowd.
However, during summer, when fewer classes are in session, the evening retains a business casual atmosphere. "If you can't make a contact at Peter's, you can't make a contact," says Kimos, who notes that the college and workforce crowds occasionally intermingle. Intrepid undergrads looking for a breakthrough in the job search have been known to actually get dressed up and come down to Water Street to network with the businesspeople who frequent the events, he says.
And though some come for the live music, some for the gargantuan beers, and yet others for career networking, the charity gambling is what attracts a lot of patrons. And though the scene is hardly high-roller and no one gets comped for losing big, people from surrounding states have been known to come to town just to play in the Saturday Texas Hold 'Em tournaments where the buy-in is $50.
"We try not to let anybody get in over their head," says Kimos, who instructs his security personnel to keep an eye on people with a suspected gambling problem.
"We're not here to take anyone's money. We're here to give to charity and to have a good time."
What: Friday charity gambling Happy Hour with live music and Saturday Texas Hold 'Em poker tournaments
When: Happy Hour and gambling every Friday from 3 p.m. until close, live music beginning at 6 p.m. Texas Hold 'Em poker tournaments every Saturday at 5 p.m. and 9 p.m.
Where: Peter's Pour House on Water Street, between Calvert and Light streets
This week's band: The Full Monty
Ages: 21 and over
For more club events, see Page 31.