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Michael Maraziti, bar owner and Fells Point figure known for his Grand Marnier Club, dies

Michael Maraziti, bar owner and Fells Point figure known for his Grand Marnier Club, dies
Mike Maraziti established the Grand Marnier Club at One-Eyed Mike's in Fells Point. (BARBARA HADDOCK TAYLOR / Baltimore Sun)

Michael Maraziti, who once owned and operated One-Eyed Mike’s bar and restaurant and introduced its Grand Marnier bottle club, died of a cerebral aneurysm April 1 at his Wolfe Street home. He was 57.

A former president of the Fells Point Main Street business association, he was also a co-owner of Lobo Fells Point.

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Born in Newport, R.I., he was the son of Richard Maraziti, a self-employed businessman, and his wife, Frances Gallant, a tour guide. He was a 1980 graduate of William S. Rogers High School. He then joined the 82nd Airborne Paratroopers and served at Fort Bragg, N.C.

After leaving the military, Mr. Maraziti went into the hospitality industry. He joined Legal Seafood restaurants in Rhode Island and went to Baltimore to open its Pratt Street location. He also tended bar at Kooper’s Tavern on Thames Street.

He told friends he acquired his own place, Seafarers on Bond Street, "with $10,000, a credit card and a dream.” After being mugged shortly after arriving in Baltimore, he wore an eye patch for about a month. One-Eyed Mike's was born of the incident. He gradually introduced more food to his business and established his location as a popular gathering spot.

“It was a neighborhood and family-friendly kind of place,” said James E. “Jamie” Hubbard, with whom he worked.

On a whim, he created a Grand Marnier Club, which a 2015 Sun article described as an “ode to a longtime favorite of bar-industry workers.” Fellow bar owners critically questioned Mr. Maraziti’s decision to focus on the orange-flavored cognac liqueur, but he filled the four designated club shelves with 32 bottles in a matter of weeks.

“Rather quickly, the idea of membership — which includes a bottle with the patron's name and a lifetime-reserved spot for $175 — did not seem so ludicrous,” said The Sun’s article, which described One-Eyed Mike’s historic building “with a gorgeous hand-carved bar and a low-lit, romantic dining room tucked away from the party vibe in the front. The walls are painted crimson, the tables are covered in white cloths and black napkins, and classical and jazz music from the sound system gives the restaurant a sophisticated nudge.”

Mr. Maraziti said of his Grand Marnier idea. "It was really a grass-roots kind of promotion, and it just kept growing. We ran out of room at the bar, so we built a case in the dining room and said, 'This will last us forever.' Well, that was filled in less than six months."

Mr. Maraziti said that Grand Marnier sales accounted about 20 percent of One-Eyed Mike's total sales and half of its spirit purchases.

"It's great for atmosphere in the building. You come here on a Friday night happy hour, there will be 10 or 12 members hanging out, and they're just sending Grand Marnier all over the place to fellow members and potential new ones,” he said. "People take pride in being a part of it."

Mr. Maraziti became a leading seller of Grand Marnier. The Marnier-Lapostolle family, the former owners of the firm, invited him to their chateau in Cognac, France, where he visited the wine caves.

“Mike had a big personality,” said Beth Hawks, owner of Fells Point’s Zelda Zen. “He didn’t know a stranger and loved meeting people. He was curious about you and your issues.”

Mr. Maraziti was elected president of the Fells Point Main Street business association and once planned to open a second operation in the Broadway Market. He also participated in the Fells Point Fun Festival and discussed the Red Line mass transit proposal after it was turned down.

"My feeling on it personally … we need a better mass transit system. But I personally don't think that the Red Line was the best choice, " he said, citing concern over the disruption caused by construction, as well as the potential problems that could arise from tunneling under blocks of historic homes near the harbor. "I'd rather see them take the monies and put out about 20 more circulator buses on the road, that run more often and have better routes."

Mr. Maraziti sold One-Eyed Mike’s nearly three years ago — and concentrated on Lobo Fells Point, which he owned with Mr. Hubbard and his wife, Pamela Hubbard. Mr. Maraziti named it Lobo, Spanish for wolf, because the restaurant is located at Wolfe and Aliceanna streets.

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“Mike’s success was rooted in his being thoughtful and considerate. In the hospitality industry, he was truly hospitable,” said Mr. Hubbard. “He was open about teaching me the way he ran his business. Not all business owners are that way.”

While known for Grand Marnier, Mr. Maraziti had another favorite — Grey Goose vodka on ice served with two straws.

A memorial gathering will be held from noon to 4 p.m. May 5 at Captain James Seafood Palace, 2127 Boston St.

Survivors include his mother, who lives in Middletown, R.I.; two brothers, William Maraziti and James Maraziti, also of Middletown; a sister, Patricia Sullivan of Portsmouth, R.I.; and nieces and nephews. A brother, Richard Maraziti, died in 1993.

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