On The Block: A bar where people keep their clothes on

The Baltimore Sun

My question: Who goes to The Block just to drink?

There is only one nonstrip club on that little stretch of Baltimore Street: the Midway Bar. Last Thursday night, we went down there looking for an answer. And we got it.

My buddies Evan and Jeremy and I rolled up to The Block at about 10:30 p.m. and scored a coveted meter spot on Baltimore Street.

As we walked to the Midway, bouncers from the strip clubs did their best to try to sweep us inside. I won't repeat some of their pitches, but they didn't leave much to the imagination.

I've been in bars before where everyone stopped their conversations and turned to look at you. I thought the Midway would be like that, but it wasn't. People there didn't give a darn who walked in the door.

From the looks of it, the Midway has been there for a long time. I'll bet it hasn't been scrubbed down in a long time either. The bar itself was so grimy I leaned on it and my elbow started to slip off. I've never needed a wet napkin so bad.

Racy photos of burlesque models from the '40s and '50s hung on the walls above the wood paneling. There was a lot of red, white and blue memorabilia, which, I assume, was left over from the Fourth of July celebrations. The best indication of what decade you were in was the large flat-screen TV in the back.

Soon after we arrived, a guy showed up carrying a big CD player in a cardboard box. Wonder where he got that. He walked around the bar trying to sell it to people, and when he saw no one was buying, he took off.

The Midway's crowd was extremely mixed and pretty weathered. On the whole, everybody looked five to 10 years older than I'll bet they actually were. Some '80s funk was playing as a disco ball spun overhead, and people were getting into it. A woman in her 40s or early 50s with short blond hair was freak dancing with anyone who would get close enough. Just about every barstool was occupied, and a handful of people stood and talked -- a solid crowd for a Thursday night.

I ordered three Yuenglings from the bartender. The total came to just under $9, which meant each beer was $3 -- a pretty good deal for The Block.

Jeremy headed to the men's room. He tried to get in and discovered that the bartender had to buzz him into the bathroom. That's the first time I've seen anything like that.

After having a beer there, I got the feeling the Midway is a stop for Block dancers and bouncers who are getting ready to start or have just finished work. For them, it's halfway between work and home. Some people could also call it midway between Sodom and Gomorrah. Either way, I think that's the answer to my question.


The Midway is at 421 E. Baltimore St. It is open 8 a.m.-2 a.m. daily. Call 410-727-5054.

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