Consistently filling a bar or club gets tougher the longer it's open.
For the first six months, people go because it's new. But bringing them back on a regular basis after the six-month mark isn't easy.
So it's good to see Bobby's Jazz Club and Cigar Bar thriving in South Baltimore. The club, which opened in October, is a corner bar with two floors and a second-story roof deck out back. It's clear the owners spared little expense on the decor -- between the vintage wooden bar back, exposed brick and roof deck, Bobby's has a cool, classic feel. And on a recent Wednesday night, my roommate, Patchen, and I were pleasantly surprised to see the space comfortably full.
Finding street parking around Bobby's was no problem on a weeknight, but I'd imagine baseball and football games would make it much harder.
Though a handful of taps poked up from the wooden bar top downstairs, none was hooked up yet. But they should be operational in the coming weeks, the bartender said. Our drinks, a Chivas Regal on the rocks and a sidecar, came to about $9 each. That's not cheap, but it's not overpriced either, considering both had name-brand liquor.
We couldn't have asked for better service -- both upstairs and down. The bartenders were on top of their game -- quick, friendly and knowledgeable. The sidecar came in a sugar-rimmed martini glass, and because the bartender used extra pineapple juice, it tasted syrupy and sweet. She poured two shot glasses of the leftover sidecar mix and gave them to us as a bonus.
Bobby's keeps a fairly impressive stock of a couple dozen cigar brands in see-through cubbies on top of the bar. Most cost $10 each, but a few were $12, our bartender said. I bought a Rocky Patel 1990, a light, smooth and rich smoke, for $10, and headed upstairs to sit and smoke it.
Since Bobby's sells cigars, smoking is allowed on the second floor and the roof deck. There is a surcharge to smoke any tobacco products not purchased in house. While a few people puffed on cigarettes, it looked like most bought cigars at Bobby's and smoked them there.
Behind the wide, wooden venetian blinds, the upstairs windows were slightly ajar, which let a breeze into the room and diluted the smoke. If patrons needed fresh air, they could go downstairs or out back to the large wooden roof deck, which smells new.
A couple dozen people milled around the upstairs bar, smoking cigars, sipping cocktails and talking. The conversation was loud, but the crisp-sounding smooth jazz pumping through speakers was louder. Even so, Patchen and I didn't have to yell across our high-top table to hear each other.
At one end of the room, a jazz band was packing up its instruments and heading out. There's usually live music 7 p.m.-9 p.m. Wednesdays, and we rolled in closer to 10 p.m., after the set was over. But the crowd must have liked the group -- the glass tip bowl by where it played had at least one $20 in it.
Upstairs and down, people were dressed to the nines. Men wore suits (some had on fedoras, too), and women wore dresses. Most looked to be in their 30s and 40s. In a Polo shirt and khakis, I felt underdressed. Portraits of jazz greats like Miles Davis done in vibrant colors hung on the walls, as well as diamond-shaped mirrors with thick gold-colored frames.
Two of the three small flat-screen TVs upstairs were on, but thankfully not many people were paying attention to them. In a casually upscale space like Bobby's, TVs can be an unwanted distraction.
We left about 11:30 p.m., when others had slowly started trickling out Bobby's black-painted front door, under the black awning with the gold-colored saxophone stencil and onto the street. But I'll be heading back soon.
Bobby's Jazz Club and Cigar Bar is at 1140 S. Paca St. Hours are 5 p.m.-1:30 a.m. Wednesdays-Saturdays. Call 410-545-0610 or go to bobbysjazzclub.com.