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Atlas Restaurant Group takes on operations, marketing role at Cross Street Market

Atlas Restaurant Group will take the lead on marketing and operations at Cross Street Market as the Federal Hill spot seeks to boost foot traffic amid a pandemic slowdown.

The new role takes effect Tuesday, Atlas spokesman Joe Sweeney said. The Baltimore-based restaurant group, which operates 21 concepts in the region — including seafood restaurant Watershed and the Atlas Fish Market, both located inside Cross Street Market — will use its existing corporate team to boost marketing, advertising and operations there, Sweeney said.

Cana Development, which previously handled marketing and operations at Cross Street, will continue to serve as the market’s leasing manager.

The shift follows recent turnover at Cross Street Market, which has lost more than a half-dozen tenants in the past year and a half.Departures include grocer Rooster + Hen and food stalls Phubs, Ono Poké, Annoula’s Greek Kitchen, Southrn’ Spice, Rice Crook and Royal Farms, as well as craft beer bar Cans Filling Station. Bullhead Pit Beef is temporarily closed as the concept searches for additional operating capital, according to Arsh Mirmiran, a principal at Caves Valley Partners, which spearheaded an $8.4 million redevelopment of the market in 2019.

Mirmiran said the pandemic has been a challenge for the market and its tenants. While Caves Valley offered pandemic relief to vendors including rent abatements, deferrals and percentage rents, he said the developer is now starting to collect rent based on original lease agreements, signed before Covid-19.

“We knew that it wasn’t fair to expect our tenants to pay full rent with various, ongoing government restrictions placed on businesses, so we agreed to offer rent assistance throughout the pandemic, with the goal of retaining as many tenants as possible,” Mirmiran said in a statement Tuesday.

“This decision also had a large financial impact on our own business, so as we move forward having to charge full rent to our tenants, we need to find new ways to attract more guests to Cross Street Market. Our fundamental goal is to assist all of our remaining original tenants and our new tenants to succeed moving forward, in order to allow the project to recapture the success it had achieved in the months leading up to the pandemic. Partnering with Atlas Restaurant Group is the first step in doing so.”

One of Atlas Restaurant Group’s first changes will be to stream music throughout the entire market using a market-wide sound system, rather than relying on individual vendors to play their own music, according to Sweeney. The hospitality group is also looking to “find ways to create an exciting ambiance for guests at the Market,” he wrote.

Jason Albert, an Atlas employee and the market’s operations manager, said in a statement that the goal is to “drive more traffic to the Market, in order to increase the sales at each individual vendor.”

“We will also invite the businesses to take advantage of Atlas’ significant buying power with distributors, in order for them to reduce their food and beverage costs and increase profitability,” Albert said.

Sweeney said Atlas is not currently planning to open any additional stalls inside of Cross Street Market. He said traffic has been “steady” at both of the markets existing concepts, with Watershed seeing crowds on its rooftop deck in the warmer weather months and on Ravens home game days.

New vendor additions to Cross Street Market in recent months include Crepe Crazy and Blowfish Poke. Mirmiran said an empanada concept will soon take the former Ono Poke space. The market is also in talks to lease a vacant stall in the middle of the building to a local radio station for broadcasts and co-sponsored events like listener appreciation events. The Rooster + Hen space is currently home to two temporary pop-ups, while Cana Development searches for another bodega to take over permanently.

Amanda Yeager | Baltimore Business Journal

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