When the new managers of the Fishmarket examined their prospects for success at the Inner Harbor entertainment complex, they identified several "major obstacles" that led to the previous operation's demise last year.
Among them were the high price of admission, the cost of parking and the lack of available activities.
The managers -- who include Texas businessmen and nightclub operators Billy Bob Barnett and Spencer Taylor along with local caterer Martin Resnick -- believe they have found a solution to the problems, according to sources familiar with their plans for the $25 million facility.
The management team -- which has scheduled a "walk-through" of the building for the media and government officials this afternoon -- plans to keep the admission price to $5, compared to the $7 the Fishmarket charged in the months before it closed in July 1989, sources say.
The establishment, which is set to open early next year as Billy Bob's Baltimore, will also offer free parking at three nearby garages, with shuttle buses to carry patrons back and forth.
At least one of the five bars contained in the complex -- which had been known as the Officer's Club -- will be converted into a recording booth in which visitors can make their own videos, providing an alternative to drinking, eating and listening to music, sources say.
Despite the involvement of Mr. Barnett, founder of the self-proclaimed "world's largest honky tonk" in Fort Worth, Texas, sources familiar with plans for the building say it is "definitely not [going to be] a honky tonk" but will have much the same mix of jazz, disco and rock the Fishmarket offered.
The current plan is to keep the main stage dark on Monday and Tuesday nights, which are typically the slowest nights of the week for nightclubs. Country music acts are expected to be featured Sunday nights, with other genres offered the rest of the week.
There are also plans for specially priced ladiesand college nights during the week.
The new managers have had contacted at least two well-known local music promoters about handling bookings for Billy Bob's.
Bud Becker, who books national acts into Hammerjacks, said he has "had discussions about the possibility of working with them to secure national talent."
Sources also say the managers have talked with Richard Klotzman, who dominated the local concert promotion business and coordinatedthe tours of several major acts in the 1970s and early 1980s. Mr. Klotzman, who recently completed a prison sentence for mail fraud and income tax evasion in connection with his concert business, could not be reached for comment.
Local entertainers and promoters welcomed news of the planned reopening, and said they hoped the new managers could make the project a success.
Jerry Hodges, building manager of the Brokerage, a nearby complex of bars and restaurants, said Billy Bob's "will be good for this project. It will get us more foot traffic."
Hammerjacks' Mr. Becker likewise said the facility "wouldn't conflict with us, it would enhance us."
Don Wehner, president of Upfront Promotions, said, "I think the thing can work -- I believe in the people involved." But he cautioned that continued weakness in the economy could hurt its prospects.
Ethel Ennis, jazz singer and former nightclub owner, said she would "love" to see the project work but questioned whether the city was ready to support such an ambitious venture that already failed once.