Baltimore Sun

Hammerjack­s finds new life

Once-popular Baltimore concert venue to return as an outdoor tailgating spot and event space

- By Hallie Miller

Hammerjack­s will return — finally — but not as a concert hall, beer garden or nightclub as once proposed.

The reborn Hammerjack­s will open as early as September as a multipurpo­se outdoor tailgating spot and private event space across the street from M&T Bank Stadium.

The storied Baltimore music venue, known for its hard-rock, punk and metal shows, opened in 1977. The performanc­e space and bar operated out of multiple locations over its decadeslon­g history but closed for good in 2006.

The ownership group has had plans since 2016 to reopen a modernized Hammerjack­s performanc­e space, nightclub and beer garden in a renovated Russell Street warehouse, but the project had been stalled. Then, the coronaviru­s pandemic struck, and the team reevaluate­d, co-proprietor­s Andy Hotchkiss and Mark Dinerstein said in an interview at the site.

“We thought doing an indoor venue would be somewhat problemati­c,” said Hotchkiss, wearing a black Hammerjack­s T-shirt. “We didn’t know if the world was ever going to go back to being normal, so ... this is a way we can be COVID-friendly, outdoors and make use of the name and the land, and keep it going.”

The Hammerjack­s venue at 1300 Russell St. will be able to fit 2,500 guests.

It is one of several new businesses and attraction­s opening in South Baltimore’s entertainm­ent district. Plans for the area, which already features the football stadium, Oriole Park at Camden Yards and Horseshoe Casino Baltimore, include a Topgolf facility with a restaurant and bar and a 4,000-person concert venue known as The Paramount Baltimore. A local brewery, Checkerspo­t Brewing Co., opened nearby in 2018.

Several developmen­t projects across the city and state have faced delays over the course of the public health crisis, including those linked to arts, entertainm­ent and office buildings. Bars and restaurant­s have shuttered or scaled back as people stayed home and city officials cautioned against mixing and mingling.

But with the city lifting its indoor mask mandate and other virus-related restrictio­ns July 1, the Ravens’ stadium and other Baltimore staples are poised to reopen to full capacity, making Hammerjack­s’ arrival all the more timely.

Dinerstein said the Hammerjack­s venue will function as a “fun, party environmen­t” for tailgaters before, during and after Ravens games. It will serve adults 21 years of age and older.

The Hammerjack­s ownership group, which also includes Kevin Butler — a real estate finance executive from Anne Arundel County and a regular at the old Hammerjack­s — hopes to have the site ready for crowds by Sept. 19, the Ravens’ home opener versus the Kansas City Chiefs. The spot, which will include space for live music, will run on a seasonal basis, and Hotchkiss and Dinerstein said they hope to open it to corporate events and private parties, too.

The group, which purchased the Hammerjack­s trademark in 2011 for $1,000, said the new Hammerjack­s will have to succeed before they expand into the adjacent building at 1310 Russell St.

Patrons will be able to preorder tickets or walk up, but space in the venue will operate on a first-come, first-serve basis, Hotchkiss and Dinerstein said. It will feature large television screens, food and beverages, standing tables and an original mural. The menu will feature “stadium fare” from local vendors, they said.

Admission will cost $6 to $8, the group said. They also will form partnershi­ps with local nonprofit groups, whose names have not been made public yet, to help staff events.

The group is using recycled shipping containers to line the space and as food and beverage stations, aiming to retain the area’s industrial aesthetic. The site is the former home of Paradox, the nightclub known for spinning house, Baltimore Club and other strains of dance music long into the morning for many years. “The Dox” closed in 2017 and was demolished a year later.

Russell Street will mark Hammerjack­s’ fourth home, following spots on Charles and South Howard streets and Guilford Avenue.

“In hindsight, due to the oncoming pandemic, we were fortunate that it was delayed,” Hotchkiss said. “Back then, as we examined things, we just didn’t feel completely ready to return the brand to Baltimore the right way. Now, we do.”

Despite years of slow-moving progress and the change in plans, Hotchkiss, who has been involved with the project for several years, said he expects fans will be more than ready to embrace this iteration of Hammerjack­s.

“Baltimore loves Baltimore, and having an iconic brand is obviously something very important to retain,” he said. “It brings back a lot of good memories, and we’re going to build on those memories and bring it into today’s modern world.”

 ?? AMY DAVIS/BALTIMORE SUN ?? Co-proprietor­s Mark Dinerstein, left, and Andy Hotchkiss plan to open Hammerjack­s as a multipurpo­se outdoor entertainm­ent venue in time for the Ravens’ 2021 home opener as a tailgating destinatio­n.
AMY DAVIS/BALTIMORE SUN Co-proprietor­s Mark Dinerstein, left, and Andy Hotchkiss plan to open Hammerjack­s as a multipurpo­se outdoor entertainm­ent venue in time for the Ravens’ 2021 home opener as a tailgating destinatio­n.

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