When most bars first open for business, it takes a little while to get their bearings.
Sometimes the owners are still installing taps and furnishing the place. Or maybe they haven't hired everyone they need, and the bar is short-staffed. This goes on for weeks, and sometimes even months, at pubs around town.
In the past few weeks, I revisited three places I reviewed shortly after they opened to have another look at how they've grown.
Joe Squared Pizza and Bar 133 W. North Ave. Call 410-545-0444 or go to joesquared.com.
Business has been booming at Joe Squared since the bar/restaurant started offering an eclectic beer selection and its signature square pizza in late 2005.
Now it has one of the city's most extensive selections of rum and hosts bands and DJs for free seven nights a week. All kinds of music comes from the 6-inch-tall stage by the wooden dance floor. Joe Squared is now a hangout for artists, hipsters and local music lovers.
Owner Joe Edwardsen has put a lot of money back into the business. The first time I went there in January 2006, I sat on one of the ratty old couches near the back of the place. Those are (thankfully) gone now. Edwardsen has added wooden tables and chairs inside and out and hung plants and local art on the walls.
Early on, I hoped Joe Squared would succeed, and I'm glad to see that happening. It's a small, welcoming pocket of arts and culture on a mostly bleak street.
Club 347 347 N. Calvert St. Call 410-385-9923 or go to club347.com.
On weeknights, when the midtown stretch of Calvert Street is quiet, there is usually a cluster of cars outside Club 347.
Club 347 has always supported local jazz musicians. Now in its third year, the club's live music lineup is stronger than ever.
Open jazz jams run from 7:30 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. Mondays and Tuesdays, and open blues jams are held roughly the same time Wednesdays. I got there late a couple Tuesdays ago and almost every cloth-covered table was occupied well past 11 p.m. Bottled domestic beers are the same price now as when I reviewed the club in 2005 -- $4 each.
Owners Ron and Bob Persaud extended the bar so it now wraps around the corner of the club on your right as you walk in. The sound system looks new, too -- signs that Club 347 is doing well.
Quigley's Half-Irish Pub 633 Portland St. Call 410-539-9052.
Since opening in March 2007, Quigley's has become my favorite pub in Ridgely's Delight. The sharp service and classic pub decor at Quigley's tops any other bar in the neighborhood.
Owner Jim Quigley hung an old-school wrought-metal sign on the outside of the turn-of-the-century brick building, The sign doesn't light up at night, but it has a crest with a knight's helmet and shield. Even better: A lot of the tacky beer logo signs Quigley was using to advertise in the beginning have come down.
Inside, the union hall plastic and metal chairs are gone, replaced by nicer wooden seating. Two arcade games (one being the ever-popular Ms. Pac-Man) now sit at opposing ends of the bar. And Quigley sets out bowls of the best free bar snack I've had yet: cheese balls sprinkled with Old Bay. They are deliciously addictive.