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Friday, March 31, 2017

Grand Central Station Turns 25

Written by  Rodney Burger
Grand Central Station, landmark status Grand Central Station, landmark status

Local Landmark Survives & Thrives in Tough Environment for Gay Bars

When most people hear the name “Grand Central Station” they think of the enormous transit hub in Manhattan that opened in 1871. Here in Baltimore we picture the popular bar and nightclub that stands at the corner of Charles and Eagar Streets. For many years it faced Baltimore’s other popular dance club, the Club Hippo, and formed the crossroads of Baltimore’s gayborhood and the backdrop for Baltimore’s Gay Pride events. The Club Hippo closed in 2015 but Baltimore’s Grand Central Station is still going strong.

On Saturday, March 25th, crowds gathered at the beloved night spot to help owner Don Davis toast 25 years of providing Baltimore’s LGBT community with a fun place to party.

In 1986 Don Davis with partner Rick Morgenthaler opened the Allegro at 1101 Cathedral Street in Baltimore’s Mount Vernon neighborhood. The Allegro replaced Mary’s, a piano bar. The Allegro quickly became a popular dance club and for many years was the place to be. Don had always admired the beautiful townhouse at 1001 North Charles Street and when the building became available, he open Central Station Pub there on September 12, 1991. Unlike the Allegro, which was in the basement of a building, Central Station Pub had big glass windows looking out onto Charles Street. For many years there was a restaurant above the bar serving a fantastic champagne brunch on Sundays. Don continued to make upgrades and changes to his club. In 2003 he bought the bar next door, which had been a gay country-and-western themed bar called Stagecoach. Don combined the two clubs and with the addition of a dance floor changed the name of his business to Grand Central Station, which opened on February 5th, 2003.

Grand Central Station has three main components: the original pub area that has cafe seating on Eagar Street and an outdoor patio in the rear; the disco dance club; and The Loft upstairs, which has pool tables, a smaller dancefloor, and a deck overlooking the Mount Vernon neighborhood. For many years Grand Central Station has been the setting for countless karaoke nights, drag shows, themed dance parties, leather contest, and charity events.

In the past years Baltimore has seen many LGBT bars come and go, but Grand Central Station is still going strong. Don Davis and Grand Central Station have survived everything from a fire in June 2008 that damaged the top floor, which was also housing the offices of Baltimore OUTLoud, to a crazy incident in September of 2013 when a car being chased by Baltimore’s transit police collided with a truck carrying a load of white paint and smashed into the building. Even after years of LGBT bars seeing declines in business due to the popularity of social apps and a LGBT population that now feels more comfortable in straight establishments, the party at Grand Central Station continues. On Saturday, April 15th starting at 9 p.m. the club will host an “Easter Party” complete with a $100 bar tab awarded to the person with the best Easter bunny outfit. On Friday, April 21st there will be a beach party with drink specials for folks in swimwear. (Yes, there will be a clothing check available.) Saturday, April 22nd will really be a super night as Grand Central Station presents: “Super Heroes vs. Villains” with a costume contest for the best dressed super heroes. First prize is a $100 bar tab, second prize is a $50 bar tab, and third place will win a $25 bar tab. Doors open at 9 p.m.

Thank you Don Davis and staff for a wonderful 25 years. The area’s LGBT community is looking forward to many more fun evenings at Baltimore’s Grand Central Station. All aboard!

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