Mark Yost was sick and tired of going to the same old gay bars.
Grand Central and the Hippo were old hat. Yost wanted to try out some new places he'd never been before, but worried that as a gay man, he and his friends might not feel comfortable in some neighborhood pubs.
So Yost and his friend Byron Macfarlane decided to start the Baltimore branch of Guerrilla Gay Bar, a monthly happy hour designed to bring together gay people in bars they normally don't frequent.
The first Baltimore Guerrilla Gay Bar was last month at Claddagh Irish Pub in Canton, and the next one is tomorrow.
Where is it? Well, that's part of the fun. The location of each happy hour isn't announced until the day before the event.
There are a couple of reasons for the short notice. It helps build up buzz and gives Yost and Macfarlane a good gauge of how many people are coming. It also puts the Guerrilla in Guerrilla Gay Bar.
"It creates a little bit of shock," said Yost, a 28-year-old lobbyist who lives in Mount Vernon.
"We don't want a ton of warning, because we don't want people to avoid that bar that night. We want good, peaceful interaction with people."
Several other cities such as Los Angeles, Dallas and Milwaukee already host their own Guerrilla Gay Bars. About a year ago, Yost went to a happy hour in Washington called Guerrilla Gay Bar. That's where he got the idea to bring it to Baltimore.
"It was a great time," Yost said. "There were a ton of guys. Typically, it's guys who don't feel comfortable coming out in the neighborhood. You get to see a different crowd [with] a different feel."
Yost and Macfarlane founded a Guerrilla Gay Bar Baltimore Web page on the social networking site Facebook. In about two months, they had built up a network of more than 240 people. Yost was expecting his circle of friends. But this many this soon?
"It surprised me that it got that big that quick," he said.
Guerrilla Gay Bar Baltimore's following is a pretty faithful one: About 100 people went to the Claddagh happy hour. Most stayed until midnight. Yost said he called ahead to let the bar know they were coming, but didn't hear back from anyone. But no one was bent out of shape at the bar when 100 people rolled in, he said.
"The bartenders were cool with it," he said. "They just thought it was a big crowd."
"We had a ball," he said. "I think people were received pretty well. I was impressed. The comments we were getting all night long were very positive."
Now that the Guerrilla Gay Bar crew has hit up Canton, the organizers want to fan out into other city neighborhoods, Yost said. Federal Hill, Fells Point and maybe even a county bar or two are on the radar.
With one successful happy hour under his belt, Yost is confident there won't be any problems in the future.
"I'm not worried," he said. "I think people in Baltimore tend to be kind and considerate. I'm not worried about any type of real issue."
Back to the Laughing Pint
Shortly after the Laughing Pint opened two years ago at 3531 Gough St., I wrote this:
"It's really tough to drastically change a bar without driving off its old clientele. When Shannon Cassidy bought an old Highlandtown corner pub called Casey's, she wanted to find that middle ground."
Well, I went back to the Laughing Pint last weekend to see how Cassidy's corner bar was doing. And I'm happy to report that the Laughing Pint is flourishing. It now has a kitchen, new furnishings and about a dozen delicious beers on tap. I had a scrumptious Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale and my friend Joe had a Guinness.
Cassidy was behind the bar serving drinks the Friday night we went. She said business has grown steadily. It has kept the local base and also attracted some newer neighborhood residents. I'm not surprised. Cassidy knows how to run a bar, and instantly makes you feel right at home.
Resurrection in bottles
It's about time!
At long last, we will be able to buy the delicious Resurrection Ale in bottles. Tom Creegan of Brewer's Art (the Mount Vernon brew restaurant that makes the scrumptious stuff) recently sent me an e-mail confirming it.
Resurrection will be released in a 750-milliliter bottle Dec. 16. I know what I want for Christmas. Check your local liquor store to see if they stock it.