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Here you will find a chronological list of articles from The Beverage Journal, Inc. Feel free to tag, comment and share.

Liquid Lib's


Liquid Lib’s holds the distinction of being the first wine bar in Baltimore County. Since November 2013, the business has served the Timonium, Maryland community. Liquid Lib's has established itself among the best places to enjoy a glass or a bottle of Chardonnay, Merlot, Pinot Grigio, or Sauvignon Blanc.

Owner John Liberatore stated during a recent interview with the Beverage Journal, “We have 27 wines by the glass and over 100 wines by the bottle. We also have eight different draft beers and all kinds of bourbons, whiskeys, and ryes. Our menu is tapas-style, which means small portions that come out as soon as they are ready. We have a fireplace. And just last year, we opened an outdoor patio that is connected to Liquid Lib's. It’s a pretty happening place with a bar top that lights up and changes colors, and our high-tops are made out of actual wine barrels that came from Napa Valley.”

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Rudy’s Mediterranean Grill


Many people in this area would assume that to get fine Turkish cuisine, you would have to go into either Baltimore or the nation’s capital itself. But in suburban Columbia, MD, Rudy’s Mediterranean Grill has been serving up dishes like Grilled Lamb Adana and Turkish Doner Kebab since 2009.

Most people come for two things: one, the authentic food; and two, the chance to shake hands with co-owner Rustem “Rudy” Keskin. During a recent interview with the Beverage Journal, he proudly proclaimed, “This was the first Turkish cuisine in Howard County. We’ve been here 15 years now, and we have many wonderful customers.”

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Dylan’s Oyster Cellar


"Behind Every Great Man Is A Great Woman."  Queue Irene Donnelly.

In this ongoing series of articles on Maryland and D.C. bars, restaurants, and taverns named after their owner (or a legacy family member), I typically talk to the actual namesake of the place. For Dylan’s Oyster Cellar in Baltimore, owner Dylan Salmon was unavailable. In journalism, though, one must be flexible. And, in this case, that flexibility paid off in the form of an excellent interview with Dylan’s wife, Irene Donnelly, the establishment’s co-owner.

She has been with him from the start, and she remembers some early trepidation upon making their restaurant a self-named eating and drinking place. She recalled, “There was a brief time where he felt, ‘I think I might have cursed myself because I put my name on the business.’ There was definitely a whole set of expectations that went with that he felt, and still feels, that I don’t necessarily feel. I watch him go around and talk to tables. And people are like, ‘Who is this guy?’ That’s because Dylan is very casual. He wears T-shirts and you’ll often see him in a beanie or a hat. He doesn’t present like a manager or an owner. He’s just a dude. But as soon as he says, ‘I’m Dylan’ then everybody lights up and gets really excited and they’re like, ‘Oh my God, you’re Dylan!’ It’s a lot for him, but he likes it.”

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Way to Go, Wargo’s!


“Ours is the oldest liquor license owned by the same people in Harford County!”

So proclaims Andy Wargo, who has co-owned and operated Wargo’s Restaurant and Tavern in Forest Hill, Maryland, since September 29, 1980, with his wife, Brenda. As such, Wargo’s is the ideal establishment to launch this new series of articles on eating and drinking places in and around the state that bear the name of either the owner or the founding family.

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Firestone’s Culinary Tavern


The building that houses Firestone’s Culinary Tavern in Frederick dates back to 1921. That was a noteworthy year both nationally and internationally. Adolf Hitler quietly became the Fuhrer of the Nazi Party in July. The Republic of Ireland won its independence in December. Albert Einstein won the Nobel Prize for Physics. Notable births included Rodney Dangerfield, John Glenn, Alex Haley, Gene Roddenberry, Jane Russell, and Lana Turner. And the world first started eating Cheez-Its, Baby Ruth candy bars, and white Wonder Bread.

Firestone’s didn’t start out as an eating and drinking establishment. It was Shipley’s Department Store, serving the good folks of Frederick all of their apparel and other retail needs. If you walk into the tavern today, you can see how this used to be a multi-level store at one point in its existence.

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In Memoriam: Tom Hurst


Tom Hurst was born on November 28, 1924, a member of “The Greatest Generation” as coined by newsman Tom Brokaw to describe the age group that came of age during the Great Depression who fought in World War II and sired the Baby Boom. A native of Baltimore, Hurst indeed joined the U.S. Navy during WWII after attending City College. During the war, he served aboard a ship that was torpedoed and survived.

Hurst returned to civilian life and started a career in the local beverage business that became one of legend. He worked his way up from a warehouse and loading dock employee to President of The Kronheim Company before his retirement in 1990. Along the way, he gave many industry professionals their start and continued to inspire them throughout their careers.

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The Maryland 2024 Legislative Session


As the next General Assembly session nears, those who fight the good fight for the beverage industry in Annapolis will be focused squarely on two threats. The first is any legislation that seeks to allow beer and wine sales in supermarkets and chain stores. The Maryland State Licensed Beverage Association (MSLBA) has opposed such bills for decades and will continue to do so in 2024.

MSLBA Legislative co-Chair David Marberger of Bay Ridge Wine & Spirits in Annapolis remarks, “The fact that grocery stores are still not selling alcohol is always going to be a big victory . . . as long as that’s a true statement! Sometimes there are different angles from our opposition on that. For us, at the end of the day, there is really no good way for that to be presented. Period! Every year that it goes by that it doesn’t get passed, we consider it a win. We also know that, with that win, comes another attempt the following year. It is a short-lived ‘Hurrah!’ for us, because it’s a perpetual thing. You can never rest on your laurels. We, as retailers, always have to stay focused and paying attention. And we always have to keep communicating with our legislators. You have to let them know who we are and what we do.”

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Your Livelihood Depends on It


As the Maryland General Assembly prepares to convene on January 10th, the imminent introduction of legislation allowing chain stores and supermarkets to obtain retail liquor licenses, along with another potential extension of direct shipment privileges by Maryland manufacturers (originaly introduced during COVID-19) are sure to be in the legislative hopper. On page 8, Beverage Journal staff writer, Teddy Durgin, interviews industry insiders to provide insights on what to expect and how to counteract these potential challenges.

To navigate this legislative landscape effectively, consider the following 'How-To' guide on political involvement and influence:

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Old Angler’s Inn


When researching historic bars, taverns, and restaurants in and around Maryland and Washington, D.C., for this special series of articles, one of the first things this journalist looked for were those businesses that had the word “Old” in its name. You have to earn the word “Old” if you want to be taken seriously as a legacy establishment. Old Angler’s Inn in Potomac certainly qualifies.

Proprietor Mark Reges remarks, “Old Angler's Inn is truly something special and cool for a multitude of reasons. First and foremost, our history dates back to 1860, setting us apart as a unique and enduring establishment. Such a rich heritage is not something you come across every day, and it infuses our restaurant with a sense of timeless charm. Even more remarkable is the incredible array of historic figures and beloved celebrities who have frequented Old Angler's Inn throughout the years. From former presidents to Hollywood icons, our doors have welcomed them all.”

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Old Line Teams with K9s for Warriors


Veteran-owned Old Line Spirits has supported a number of military-related philanthropic causes since its founding. This fall, the Maryland-based company has launched its latest campaign to fundraise for K9s For Warriors, the country’s biggest provider of trained service dogs for veterans with PTSD. Old Line Spirits is donating $5 from select bottles sold at participating retailers to the nonprofit through the end of 2023.

The campaign has been highlighted through product displays that hit stores in early October in the District of Columbia, Maryland, and three other states. Eligible products include the distillery’s Flagship American Single Malt Whiskey and its Navy Strength American Single Malt Whiskey. Proceeds will be donated for sales through Dec. 31.

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O’Lordans Irish Pub


We are continuing our series on historic and/or noteworthy bars, taverns, and restaurants around Maryland and Washington, D.C., and O’Lordans Irish Pub in downtown Westminster certainly qualifies. The establishment has been such a local fixture for decades that one doesn’t even think twice before casually referring to it as “the historic O’Lordans Irish Pub in downtown Westminster.”

The grand, old stone building first appeared on local maps between 1867 and 1870. It opened first as a foundry. Over the years, it has served as a barber shop, a live chicken house, and the old Stone House Restaurant owned and operated by the Sharkey family in the 1930s. It was a coffee shop in the 1980s before closing for many years and eventually being purchased by the Johansson family. Following a renovation to bring it up to modern standards, the building reopened as O’Lordans Irish Pub on Oct. 25, 2005.

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The Owl Bar


The Historic Owl Bar Is Lucky to Have a Man Like Aaron Luna, Who Gives a Hoot!

In crafting a multi-part series on historic bars, restaurants, and taverns in and around Maryland and Washington, D.C., one of the most obvious venues that came to this journalist’s mind and just had to be featured was The Owl Bar in Baltimore City. The Owl Bar was built in 1903 as part of the original Belvedere Hotel. Back then, it was known simply as the Bar at The Belvedere and it was open only to men.  

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Teddy Durgin: Cheers to 20 Years


Dear readers, I am taking a break from my monthly series of articles featuring historic bars, restaurants, and taverns in and around Maryland and Washington, D.C., to spotlight another age-old fixture of this region’s beverage scene who is still standing . . . ME! For those unfamiliar with Yours Truly or who just never noticed the name in nearly 300 bylines, I am Teddy Durgin. And August 2023 marks the 20th year I have covered beer, wine, and spirits for both the Maryland and Washington, DC Beverage Journals. And my editor from the get-go, Stephen Patten, was kind enough to allow me to commemorate this milestone with this tremendously self-serving, special column.

August 2003. In the world, a lot was different, and there was a lot going on. It was definitely the “post-9/11 era.” George W. Bush was President of the United States. Robert Ehrlich was Governor of Maryland. Anthony Williams was Mayor of the District of Columbia. The big news story that month was The Great Blackout, in which residents in eight states, New York City, and parts of Canada lost electrical power for days in the summer heat. The other major headline was Arnold Schwarzenegger announcing he would run for Governor of California in the recall election of Gray Davis. August 2003 was also the month the world lost baseball legend Bobby Bonds, father of Barry; tough-guy action movie star Charles Bronson; Herb Brooks, coach of the “Miracle on Ice” USA hockey team in 1980; and actor-dancer Gregory Hines.  

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The Tune Inn


The Capitol Hill building that houses the Tune Inn has been many different things over the last century. It was once a candy kitchen. In the 1920s, it was a speak easy. Not long after, it was a men’s tailor shop that catered to the gentlemen of the U.S. Congress. In 1947, though, Joe Nardelli purchased the site, turned it into a tavern, and gave it the name that has stuck to this day. Today, it holds the distinction of being the second oldest liquor license in the nation’s capital since the repeal of Prohibition. Currently, Joe’s granddaughter, Lisa Nardelli, is the Tune Inn’s owner and operator. 

Being a family-owned and operated business for more than 70 years is quite a feat and more than qualifies it for our ongoing series of historic bars and taverns in Maryland and Washington, D.C. What’s the secret to this popular and unpretentious bar’s success and longevity? General Manager Stephanie Hulbert was eager to respond. “People like consistency,” she said. “They like knowing that they’ll see the same faces. Many get served their favorite drink without having to even ask for it. The community and our regulars definitely make up the bar’s [core clientele]. Most of them have been coming for 20 to 30 years. Their support has been everything. It’s a cliché. But a lot of people who walk in for the first time or are from out of town immediately go to the ‘Cheers’ reference . . . ‘Where everybody knows your name.’ That’s exactly what makes it a great atmosphere.”

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The Manor Tavern


A lot of places have a plaque or some type of marker that says “George Washington Slept Here” or something to that effect. But the Manor Tavern in Monkton is able to boast that our first President’s horse actually slept there! Once upon a time, this 267-year-old property was a stable. And, yes, while our country’s greatest founding father slept somewhere else locally, his horse stayed on the premises.

Over the years, the property has evolved into a blacksmith’s shop, a general store, and a saloon. Today, it is a wonderful restaurant, bar, and catering business, and its logo – inclusive of a horse – is a tip of the hat to Monkton’s historic roots. This certainly makes the Manor Tavern an excellent place to feature in our ongoing series of articles on the historic bars and restaurants of the Old Line State.

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Off The Record


Off the Record has perhaps the best tagline of any bar in the nation’s capital. “It’s the place to be seen, but not heard.” Situated in the basement of the landmark Hay-Adams Hotel, which itself is located on Lafayette Square with a clear view of the White House, Off the Record has long been a favorite upscale watering hole of Capitol Hill lobbyists and Washington, D.C., power brokers. And it’s just the place to feature in our ongoing series of historic bars and restaurants.

Overseeing Off the Record is Alexander “Alex” Roig, Director of Food & Beverage for The Hay-Adams. During a recent interview with the Beverage Journal, he confirmed, “We get a lot of senators and representatives and politicians down there. We also get a lot of celebrities. Pretty much anyone you can think of has been to Off the Record! A lot of buzz starts around 3 p.m., and it will continue on and off all the way until 11:30 when it’s last call. It doesn’t matter if it’s Tuesday. It doesn’t matter if it’s Sunday. It’s cracking.”

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Middleton Tavern


There’s a great scene near the end of “Raiders of the Lost Ark” where Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) threatens to blow up the Ark of the Covenant with a rocket launcher if the Nazis don’t release his girlfriend, Marion Ravenwood (Karen Allen). His rival, French archaeologist Rene Belloq (Paul Freeman) calls his bluff. In daring Jones to blow the Ark “back to God,” Belloq says, “We are just passing through history,” then points to the Ark and adds, “But this . . . this IS history!”.

I have passed through the Middleton Tavern in Annapolis on a couple of occasions over the years. And passing through this historic establishment is indeed like passing through history. And that is because it is indeed history. Established in 1750 by Horatio Middleton, it is among the oldest continuously operating taverns in the United States. Famous customers? George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Benjamin Franklin all frequented the place, as did members of the Continental Congress after meeting in the State House to do such things as ratify the Treaty of Paris or accept the resignation of General Washington’s commission.

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Oliver’s Old Towne Tavern


For a bar or restaurant that has been around as long as Oliver’s Old Towne Tavern, there are bound to be some bad days mixed in with many good ones over the years. December 24, 2022, was a very bad day. Marylanders will remember that this past Christmas Eve saw temperatures freakishly dip down into the single digits. Santa Claus came to town that night and found Laurel was just as cold as the North Pole. And earlier that day, Oliver’s got a big, old lump of coal in its stocking in the form of a burst water pipe that resulted in this Laurel landmark being shut down for more than two months.

The memory is still raw for owner-operator Lenny Wohlfarth, who recalled to the Beverage Journal, “The temperatures had indeed dropped into single digits. There actually were quite a few properties in the Laurel area that suffered similar damage. I can’t verify this, but one of our firefighters said they had had at least 150 calls for pipes and various things like that. We opened up at Noon because there was a lot of football on TV that day. Around 2:30-3 o’clock in the afternoon, my wife [Pamela Wohlfarth] who was working and the other staff noticed that water was coming out from some of the light fixtures in the back of the bar. So, they started bringing trash cans and buckets. Even some customers were grabbing pails and anything they could do to help.”

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The Waterfront Hotel Bar

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If you’re going to write an ongoing series of feature articles on historic Maryland and Washingotn, DC bars and taverns, you absolutely cannot leave off The Waterfront Hotel Bar in Baltimore’s Fells Point neighborhood. The iconic property dates back to 1771 and, over the decades, has been everything from a tavern that housed Civil War troops to the main bar and restaurant set for NBC’s 1990s crime drama, “Homicide: Life on the Street.”

Ann Giles, wife of Fells Point settler Edward Fell, leased the site to Thomas Long, who had the original structure built. His brother, Robert, had erected the first brick home in Baltimore city at 812 S. Ann Street. It was a private residence for much of the 19th century until it was indeed converted into a hotel and tavern to house Union soldiers during the Civil War.

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Romilo’s Restaurant

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Romilo’s Restaurant in Severna Park will be celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. Chris Paradissis has owned the establishment for almost the past six years, continuing to serve the same Greek-Italian-American breakfasts, lunches, and dinners it has been known for from the get-go. 

Lately, though, it’s Romilo’s bar that has been drawing in the locals. In a recent interview with the Beverage Journal, Paradissis stated, “Many people didn’t know we had a bar! Last April, we expanded [the space] and added new signage on the front of the building, really highlighting that we have a bar. We offer the full variety of a liquor menu, mixed drinks, wines, and beers to both the dining room and bar area. We run Happy Hour seven days a week from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Our liquor sales are up over 200 percent in the last year based on the changes we’ve made, the renovation and expansion, and the increased promotion. It’s been a huge boost.”

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Free State Atlantic Bar

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Brian Leonard, owner-manager of the Free State Atlantic Bar in Washington, D.C., describes his establishment as being “hyper locally focused.” That might be an understatement. This is the last installment in our series of great theme bars and restaurants around Maryland and Washington, D.C.  So, what better place to feature for this final feature than a D.C. bar that is . . . Maryland themed!

Yes, for all those homesick Marylanders living in the nation’s capital who are too lazy to drive or Metro it out to the suburbs, the Free State Atlantic Bar offers a wide range of beers, wines, and spirits from Maryland and the Mid-Atlantic region. Leonard, who grew up in Aberdeen and went to the University of Maryland, co-owns the bar with his wife Hilarey. He said during a recent interview with the Beverage Journal, “We try and focus on small-batch, local producers. As much as possible, we try and serve beer and spirits from within the Mid-Atlantic region. All of our beer and 90 percent of our spirits are from makers in D.C., Maryland, and Virginia, along with a little of Pennsylvania, Delaware, and North Carolina.” 

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Ted Dumbauld Returns

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Hitting store shelves in Maryland and Washington, DC, is a line of whiskey, gin, and other spirits under the SoNo 1420 brand. What makes this line of premium spirits that includes names like 1420 BBN and Blaze Whisky stand out? They are the products of America’s first distillery to incorporate hemp seed in its whiskey mashbills.

SoNo 1420’s founder is Ted Dumbauld, a rather remarkable man who first got a taste for Maryland and all it has to offer when he attended the U.S. Naval Academy in the early 1980s. In his career, he has gone from serving our country as a submarine officer to earning his MBA from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to working on Wall Street for two decades at such powerhouses as Deutsche Bank and Bear Stearns.

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Maryland's 2023 Legislative Session

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I've been writing this Maryland state legislative preview article each year at this time for more than a decade now. And this is the first time since 2019 where the annual feature won’t be so mired down in pandemic-era hand wringing. For Annapolis and the beverage industry, it’s been back to business . . . eh, almost as usual. Thankfully, so is this look ahead to the next General Assembly session.

But first a look back at the past year and its wins. No victory was bigger than the defeat of a bill to allow supermarkets and convenience stores to put beer and wine on their shelves. Attorney and Maryland State Licensed Beverage Association (MSLBA) lobbyist J. Steven "Steve" Wise was happy for the win. But he warned, “It’s a perennial issue, and it does not seem that the supermarkets intend to give up. So, we’ll keep fighting.”

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Big Bats Café

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The Major League Baseball season may be over, but the crack of the bat can still be heard at Big Bats Café in Stevensville. This is the latest eating and drinking establishment that we are spotlighting in our ongoing series on themed bars and restaurants around the state of Maryland, and it’s certainly one of the most fun to visit. 

Big Bats Café is a 100 percent baseball-themed sports eatery that some locals have come to call “Little Cooperstown.” Owned and operated by Stephen “Steve” Garland since its opening in March 1997, Big Bats is closing out its 25th anniversary year with the same great food, drinks, and customer service it’s been known for from the get-go. Much credit has to go to Garland, who has always set the tone and pace at the business he still has a passion for at age 73. 

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The Irish Inn

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“The restaurant business, to me, is more about people than it is about money.  You want to see people having a good time. It’s nice to see them all.”

So says Christy Hughes, owner and operator of The Irish Inn at Glen Echo in Montgomery County, Md. All the “all” he is referring to is his surprisingly diverse clientele who frequent this authentic pub and restaurant not far from the posh hamlets of Bethesda and Potomac. 

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Halloween: October 31st

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Most scholars agree that Halloween as we know it originated some 2,000 years ago, when Celtic people in Europe celebrated the end of the harvest and the start of a new year in a festival called Samhain (pronounced “sow-win”). People also believed they could commune with the dead more easily during that time, lighting big bonfires to ward off spirits, according to The American Folklife Center.

The Celts also believed that the spiritual communication on Samhain made it easier for Celtic priests, or druids, to predict the future, according to History. To appease the deities, they built bonfires and sacrificed crops and animals. Villagers also attended the bonfire ceremonies wearing animal heads and skins as costumes.

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Bard’s Bistro

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Bard's Bistro Serves Dungeon Masters and Commoners Alike

These days, people will sit around a bar or restaurant and go back and forth about everything from sports to politics to the Kardashians. At the new Bard’s Bistro in California, Md., most of the customers are bandying about who is going to be Dungeon Master and what each players’ ability scores are going to be. Yes, Bard’s Bistro is a “Dungeons & Dragons”-themed eating and drinking place. Actually, it is meant to cater to gamers of all types and persuasions. But “D&D” more than anything. 

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Turp’s Sports Bar

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As part of our ongoing series of theme bars and restaurants in and around Maryland, there is no more prevalent theme in this state or any state than the classic sports bar. And one of the best is Turp’s Sports Bar & Restaurant in Baltimore. Located in a historic Mount Vernon brownstone and named after one of the original managers whose last name was Turpin, Turp’s has been wooing Charm City sports fans since opening over a decade ago with a large selection of beers and cocktails and a food menu that includes everything from pizza, calzones, and chicken wings to sandwiches, subs, and create-your-own burgers.

Running the place for the past three-plus years is General Manager Brad Bloom, who grew up in the industry under the tutelage of a father (Jay’s Restaurant Group founder Moe Bloom) who’s been in the bar, restaurant, and catering biz for over four decades. Bloom believes Turp’s reaches far beyond the casual and die-hard Ravens and Orioles fans.

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Constitution Day: September 17th

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Citizens of the United States have celebrated Independence Day and Presidents’ Day since the 1870s, and in 2005, the nation began to celebrate Constitution Day. Also, known as Citizenship Day, Constitution Day is an American holiday honoring the day 39 delegates to the Constitutional Convention signed the United States Constitution. This historic date was September 17, 1787.

In 1939, the New York City news tycoon William Randolph Hearst suggested the creation of a holiday to celebrate American citizenship. Not only did Hearst have a wide readership of his many daily newspapers, but he had significant political connections, and in 1940, Congress designated the third Sunday in May as “I am an American Day.” President Harry Truman presented the resolution, setting aside this date in honor of the American people, especially those who had recently become citizens of the United States.

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Bobby McKey’s Piano Bar

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There’s a great scene in “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?” where gumshoe detective Eddie Valiant (Bob Hoskins) walks into a private nightclub in 1940s Los Angeles and quickly learns that it is a dueling piano bar. And the two musicians tickling the ivories are hurling insults at each other on stage? Rival animated fowl Daffy Duck of Warner Bros. cartoon fame and Disney’s legendary Donald Duck.

“This is the last time I work with someone with a speech impediment!” Daffy famously cracked wise.

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Dead Freddies Roars to Life

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If you are going to commit to a series of articles on themed bars and restaurants around the State of Maryland, sooner or later you have to cover one that boasts a pirate theme. One such place is Dead Freddies, one of the more popular eating and drinking
destinations in Ocean City.

Stephen Carullo, managing member of Dead Freddies, is quite proud of his establishment. He stated during a recent interview with the Beverage Journal that “Dead Freddies has multiple areas to dine in that accommodate every demographic. It also has multiple kids’ areas with playgrounds for families; multiple bar areas for adults to enjoy; and multiple dining rooms, some with TV walls that are more of a sports bar theme.” Other dining rooms have no televisions, and Dead Freddies has seen fit to give those spaces more of a laid-back vibe with fish tanks as the main décor item.

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Boatyard Bar & Grill

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If you are going to do a series of articles on the top theme bars and restaurants in the state of Maryland, sooner or later that series must feature the Boatyard Bar & Grill in Annapolis. The Boatyard was founded in 2001 by Dick Franyo after he left his three-decade financial career with such firms as Alex. Brown & Sons and Deutsche Bank.  As a little boy, Franyo grew up on the Chesapeake Bay. His vision for the Boatyard was to celebrate the Bay lifestyle and rank as the best sailor bar in Maryland.

Vision achieved, mission accomplished.

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MSLBA Report on 2022 Legislative Session

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By J. Steven Wise, Esq. MSLBA Lobbyist and Legal Counsel

The Maryland General Assembly recently wrapped up its annual 90-day Session, the last one of this four-year term, and the election season of 2022 has begun in earnest for all Delegates, Senators, and statewide office holders. In fact, one of the biggest issues of the Session was the drawing of district maps, both for State legislators and Members of Congress, a process that occurs every 10 years following the U.S. Census.

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Illusions Bar & Theater

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Offering Customers a Magical Escape

We all could use a little magic in our lives during these tough times. Illusions Bar & Theater in Baltimore is seeking to give us just that. This is the fourth in our series of articles on great themed bars and restaurants in and around Maryland, and Illusions does what every great themed place tries to do – provide a temporary escape for its customers.

Co-founder and magician extraordinaire Spencer Horsman says that is the most important part of his job. During a recent interview with the Beverage Journal, he stated, “I perform because I like providing an escape for people. We all have things in our lives that we need to have an escape from, whether it’s the global pandemic or something more personal. If I can pull you out of that bubble for a little while, that’s great. On top of that, because of the mix of people we get from night to night, it’s amazing to see the interaction between folks from all walks of life. Because we put on an interactive show, I get people to meet each other, interact with each other, and learn about each other. At other places, you just interact with the server, maybe the bartender, and your date, and that’s it. Also, it’s a magic show. At the end of the day, hopefully I’ve also created a sense of wonder and mystery for you.”

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18th & 21st: Stepping Back in Time

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We’re stepping back in time for the third article in our series on Maryland theme bars and restaurants. Long-time industry entrepreneur Steve Wecker opened 18th & 21st in Columbia back in 2018. The supper club is a throwback to the old jazz clubs, supper clubs, and speak-easies of the 1920s and ’30s. In fact, the bar and restaurant is named after the Constitutional Amendment that enacted Prohibition and the subsequent Amendment that repealed it. When you step through the door of 18th & 21st, you are immediately transported back to a bygone time and are subsequently treated to a tailored evening experience of food and cocktails that reflect the feel of the Prohibition era. 

But you gotta look for it first! 

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Sykesville Station: Right on Track

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This is the second in our series of articles on really cool theme bars and restaurants around Maryland. How cool is Sykesville Station in Sykesville? It actually has two themes! The first is an obvious one. The restaurant and bar is an old, former train station that was built in 1883 and is now designated an official historic building by the state. 

Sykesville Station co-owners D’Alan and Kim Baugh have embraced the history. The former stated during a recent interview with the Beverage Journal, “The kids love it when the train goes by. The locomotives still come by here every day and rattle the entire building. They don’t stop and let passengers off anymore. They’re freight trains.”

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Old Bay Flavored Vodka

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One of the more famous statements in Western philosophy is Socrates’ “Know thyself. The unexamined life is not worth living.” Greg David, CEO, co-owner and Chief Mixologist at George’s Beverage Company LLC, has come to know himself very well in recent years. He said in a recent interview with the Beverage Journal, “I’m an entrepreneur, which sometimes make me my biggest challenge. I’m the kind of person who likes to run through walls, break down barriers, and get something to market immediately. The biggest challenge is pulling myself back a little bit, slowing my pace down, and trying to see the bigger picture just so we don’t miss any important steps in the process. The process is the most important part.”

It’s certainly been the most important part of bringing Old Bay Vodka to Maryland store shelves starting March 7th. Hanover-based George’s Beverage has partnered with McCormick & Company, Inc.’s Old Bay brand on this all-natural spirit. 

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Kaló Hemp Infused Seltzer

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Kaló Hemp Infused Seltzer is coming to Maryland store shelves. And rather than start this Brand Profile with what the product is, it’s probably best to educate readers on what it is not. Ivy Wimberley, Kaló’s Director of Trade Development, said it best during a recent interview with the Beverage Journal: “On the sales side, the hardest thing has been getting people to understand the difference between hemp and marijuana. We are NOT a marijuana seltzer! We are a hemp-infused seltzer. A big part of my job has been educating people.”

She continued, “We love being able to give somebody a product that’s good for you and that can help you relax. We also love turning the skeptics. Kaló is something that will help you take a breath after a can or two. Some people think it’s a hoax. But we’re giving them an all-natural way to feel good with something that’s plant-based.”

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Five Iron Golf

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Sitting on Top of Baltimore’s Leaderboard: 5Iron Golf.

This is the first in a series of articles on theme bars and restaurants around the state of Maryland, and the District of Columbia. The first entry couldn’t be cooler for those looking for a swinging club to swing their clubs. Five Iron Golf in Baltimore is part of a growing chain of businesses that offer golf simulators, indoor golf lessons, and top-quality food and drink choices. The goal is to re-shape urban golf culture with additional locations now up and running in Chicago, Las Vegas, Manhattan, Philadelphia, and elsewhere with more to come. 

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Feebs Distilling

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Feebs Distilling of Milford, Delaware, is looking to make inroads in the Maryland spirits market. It not only has the right products to sell, it has the right story to sell. Co-founder Eric Fibelkorn and his wife, Stacey Arnold, had dreamt of going into the beverage business. But it took Arnold’s cancer diagnosis in 2017 and subsequent survival to convince them that life is too short not to follow one’s bliss. Feebs Distilling, whose name is based on a Fibelkorn family nickname, was subsequently born.

In a recent interview with the Beverage Journal, she recalled, “I went through all of the radiation and chemo and ended up on this side of the dirt. That’s when we decided we were going to go for it. But we were not going to mortgage the house. We don’t have investors or bank loans. We do everything out of pocket. When we started out, we would buy a barrel when we had the money. So, we only had one, 30-gallon barrel to make bourbon. That obviously has changed. We now have 30 barrels aging in the distillery.” 

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A Beverage Biz Look Ahead ... The 2022 Legislative Session

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With new variants popping up, it’s clear that the coronavirus will be a factor in all aspects of our lives for some time to come, whether it’s personal or professional or political. But the wheels of government grind on. I’ve been penning these annual legislative update features for the Beverage Journal for a decade now. Last year’s edition was unlike any I had ever written up, with 2020 being the birth of COVID-19 and the absolute height of business restrictions statewide.

So, with the vaccines and booster shots and eased government policies, was 2021 really any better? Compared to 2020? Of course, it was! But two years of this now are starting to constitute an “era.” And Annapolis has adapted to these times, as have beverage industry interests looking to have their voices heard in the state capital.

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2022: Here we go again...?

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As we say adieu to 2021 and ring-in 2022, it’s a good opportunity to reflect on the past and (do our best to) plan for the future.  Unfortunately, in this era of covid, our elected -- and unelected -- leaders have added an extra stratum to the already volatile beverage alcohol marketplace.  

The Maryland General Assembly will convene on January 12.  There is little doubt that legislation allowing chain stores and supermarkets to obtain retail liquor licenses as well as some beverage alcohol tax increases are going to be proposed during the 2022 legislative session. Beverage Journal staff writer Teddy Durgin has interviewed industry insiders on what to expect and how to combat this looming threat.  Check out his piece on page 26.

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