BREAKING: BALTIMORE LIQUOR BOARD APPROVES CROSSBAR BEER GARDEN IN FEDERAL HILL
Steve Fogleman, Baltimore Beer Baron
FEBRUARY 9, 2017–Moments ago, the Baltimore City Liquor Board unanimously approved a request to transfer a liquor license to the site of Crossbar at 18 E. Cross Street, paving the way for the opening of an indoor German beer garden and restaurant in Federal Hill. To fans of the project, the approval brings a satisfying end to almost four years of disappointment.
Crossbar, which plans to open this spring, will feature German beers and food in a facility which formerly housed Turner’s Bar and Lanasa Produce. Applicants Josh Foti (Ryleigh’s Oyster) and Lilia Poldmae (Greene Turtle) will operate the establishment.
The Crossbar applicants came to an agreement with the Federal Hill Neighborhood Association earlier this week, with the group reversing their stance from prior years in opposing the project. The membership voted 26-3 to support the restaurant subject to the terms of the agreement reached with the licensees at a special meeting held during the afternoon of Superbowl Sunday. In 2014, the group voted 31-10 to oppose the project, according to the Baltimore Business Journal.
Crossbar has had a torturous history. In 2013, the project was denied by the Baltimore Liquor Board (under this writer’s chairmanship). At that time, the applicants sought a capacity of nearly 300 and it had no written agreements with either the Federal Hill Neighborhood Association or the adjacent South Baltimore Neighborhood Association.
In 2014, the applicants received unanimous approval from the Liquor Board (also under this writer’s chairmanship) after agreeing to reduce capacity and signing a Memorandum of Understanding with the South Baltimore Neighborhood Association. They then turned around and lost an appeal for an open-air design with Baltimore’s Zoning Board, requiring them to spend $200,000 on a glass roof. Later that year, on remand from Baltimore’s Circuit Court, a subsequent liquor board determined their liquor license to be dead from disuse. Crossbar appealed to the City’s Circuit Court, which reversed the decision in 2015 and deemed the license alive. That decision was appealed to the Court of Special Appeals, which has not issued an opinion in the matter in a year.
In the maddening meantime, the applicants purchased another license, from 1015 S. Charles Street, which was the one approved today by the Board.
That should be enough to make you want a Teutonic tonic.
And that’s exactly what’ll be on tap for you at Crossbar.
But with a giant Warsteiner logo, I wondered if this would be a one-beer bar.
“No, we’re going to have Paulaner, Spaten, Hacker-Pschorr, Warsteiner and other Bavarian beers and Stiegl (Austrian),” Brian McComas, the restaurant’s founder, told me this morning. “We’ll always be looking for something to put on tap that you wouldn’t be able to get because it’s not a big-volume beer in Maryland.”
“We’re excited to be bringing authentic German back to Baltimore. The menu is going to be outstanding with fresh German comfort foods, well-known German beers, rotating German craft boutique beers and local craft beer.”
The addition of authentic Munich festival tables from Oktoberfests past is a nice touch. They’ve also paneled the walls and bar stool tops with reclaimed wood from the building.
And there’s some serious elbow-room here: The venue will easily have the largest customer-to-cubic-foot ratio of any bar or restaurant in South Baltimore with it’s 43-foot peak ceiling hosting 155 patrons. It sounds like a perfect antidote for winter–whenever we get one again in Baltimore.
“We’re at the finish line now, and we’re so glad we got a resolution with our neighborhood associations,” McComas said. “We want the neighbors to be our customers. There’s new blood in the local associations which helped us rally support. I particularly want to thank (Federal Hill Neighborhood Association President) Beth Whitmer, (South Baltimore Neighborhood Association President) Mike Murphy and (Federal Hill Liquor Advisory Committee Chair) Ivo Jamrosz.”
The Crossbar name is a reference to the top bar of a soccer goal post and plays on the Cross Street location. And German professional soccer (Bundesliga) will be a huge part of Crossbar.”Bundesliga is huge now,” McComas said. “We’ll have Bundesliga on every weekend. We probably have room for a couple of German Soccer fan clubs”.
“Crossbar is going to raise the bar in Federal Hill, and we think they’re going to enjoy it. Some of the people who didn’t support it will come here and be happily surprised. It’s not a mega-bar in any sense of the term.”
Click here for an early look at the menu, with more items planned before the expected April opening.
(MOTHER OF ALL DISCLAIMERS)–Writer was Chair of Baltimore City Liquor Board from 2007-2014 and has provided legal representation to Crossbar since 2016, including today’s hearing.