The two lawyers in their 60s turned about 40 when they walked into the Owl Bar. They stepped back into the warmth and comfort of an earlier time.
Claude L. Callegary and Morris Lasover, Baltimore natives, joined several hundred people yesterday in celebrating the reopening of the Owl Bar in the old Belvedere Hotel. The bar had been closed about two years.
The stately old hotel, fraught with financial troubles much of its 89 years, had been sold and turned into condominiums.
"All the great social events of the city were held here," said Mr. Callegary, who drank his first beer at the Owl Bar in 1950 when he was a law student at the University of Maryland.
"It was certainly the most interesting place in Baltimore."
Restaurateur Dion M. Dorizas bought the Owl Bar, as well as the John Eager Howard Room and the lounge on the 13th floor, a month and a half ago. He is a former owner of the Cafe des Artistes restaurant when it was in Hopkins Place and the Cafe Martinique at Perring Plaza.
He refurbished the Owl Bar and opened it yesterday. The 13th-floor lounge, renamed the Skyline Cafe, was to open today as a piano bar. The John Eager Howard Room, renamed the Renaissance and still a formal restaurant, will open late next month, he said.
"I've never been more excited in my life," Mr. Dorizas said minutes before the first patrons filed into the Owl Bar. "I feel like I'm an antique dealer, a collector. This room, it's an antique, that's what it is."
The room is gorgeous -- burnished mahogany, stained glass, tapestry brick. Mr. Dorizas oversaw the extensive renovation, down to cleaning each brick by hand with a brush.
"How could you change this room? How could you possibly take anything from this room?" Mr. Dorizas said. "I didn't change it. I simply restored it to the glory, the fame, it once had."
Mr. Callegary and Mr. Lasover remembered the glory years -- the movie stars and presidents who stayed at the Belvedere, the limousines out front, the Owl Bar's famous prime rib, and its long beakers filled with beer.
"Every night was like Saturday night," said Mr. Lasover, a patron since the mid-1950s.
"My God, the bar was just jumping. On the weekends, this was the place to be seen -- the Belvedere, the Owl Bar."