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Atlas Restaurant Group is keeping an eye on other landmark Fells Point properties as the Baltimore-based hospitality company continues to add to its growing portfolio.
The restaurant group announced last week it will acquire the Waterfront Hotel, marking the third property in the historic neighborhood for Atlas, which also owns The Admiral’s Cup on Thames Street and The Choptank in the south shed of Broadway Market.
Atlas CEO Alex Smith says he’s open to even more expansion in Fells Point and would consider buying other “iconic” properties there.
“We felt like the Waterfront Hotel, with its situation right in front of the [Sagamore] Pendry, with the action of Koopers and Slainte right next to us, was a great location,” Smith said.
The bar at 1710 Thames St., one of the oldest brick buildings in Fells Point and a tavern for at least seven decades, is a neighborhood institution. So is the Admiral’s Cup, the 230-year-old beloved corner bar that Atlas purchased in the fall of 2020.
Another Fells Point acquisition would need to possess similar history as a selling point, Smith said.
“These businesses are more than just businesses; they’re landmarks, they have a history, they’re never going to come down in value,” he said. “But we’re not going around just trying to buy watering holes.”
Smith said Atlas did not look at buying the Wharf Rat, another favorite Fells Point bar that recently changed hands. Sally O’s owner Jesse Sandlin and partners Brian Acquavella and Matt Akman bought the tavern at auction for close to $1 million and will open a new concept there.
The Wharf Rat building was a smaller space than what Atlas is looking for, Smith said, “and we felt like it’s more in the neighborhood and not really in the bar district of Fells Point.”
With the purchase of the Waterfront Hotel, Atlas now owns 22 bars and restaurants in Baltimore, Texas, Florida and Washington, D.C. The sale, first reported by The Baltimore Sun, is slated to close in mid-December, and Smith’s restaurant group will take over operations then.
Smith said the Waterfront Hotel purchase was unplanned, and came together about a month and a half ago after the existing ownership group reached out to ask if Atlas would be interested in buying the bar. He declined to share how much Atlas spent on the Waterfront Hotel, though he said the sale included both the land and the business.
The restaurant group will partner with The Horse You Came in On owner Eric Mathias and Admiral’s Cup partner Darin Mislan on the acquisition. Mathias and Mislan are also part of the team now operating the Admiral’s Cup.
Smith said the group doesn’t plan to change the core identity of the tavern, which is known for its live music offerings. The name will stay the same, and Smith said the Waterfront Hotel will hold shows seven days a week.
Atlas is planning to tweak the bar’s menu with gastropub dishes developed by corporate executive chef Aaron Taylor. The group also wants to boost traffic by renovating an underused second-floor space and reopening it to bar-goers. With the added space, the Waterfront Hotel may eventually “have two live bands going at once on a Friday or Saturday night,” Smith said.
“We’re really there to preserve it for the neighborhood, we’re not trying to remodel it or rework it in a way that’s going to be new or something different,” he said, “but there’s things we think we can do to make it more profitable.”
The restaurant group’s other projects in the works include a second location for The Choptank, slated to open in Annapolis in April, as well as a new, Tagliata-inspired Italian chophouse called Marmo, which will open in February in Houston’s Montrose Collective. After a pandemic-related delay, Parlour Victoria, an oyster and seafood house planned in the lobby of Washington D.C.’s Moxy Hotel, is now on track to open in summer 2022.
Amanda Yeager | Baltimore Business Journal