New look on The Block? Live music: Weekend rock dTC performances show that bars can diversify entertainment.

February 12, 1996

THE REV. FUDGIE Dobson is a Pigtown mail-order minister who tends bar at the Flamingo Lounge. He is a missionary of sorts: he has introduced the first live music shows that the seedy district has seen in two decades.

This newspaper has repeatedly argued that eradication of The Block is in the long-term interests of the city. But there are many ways to achieve the goal. This is one way.

If they are smart and innovative, the owners of girlie bars will diversify their night-life menu from tired bump and grind to live music shows and even comedy. Variety brings in patrons. More legitimate businesses could turn The Block into a vibrant entertainment area for the 1990s.

Skeptics may protest that Fells Point already is Baltimore's answer to Washington's Georgetown and Philadelphia's South Street. The beauty of The Block, though, is that it is just a short walk from both the Inner Harbor tourist area and the downtown office district. Moreover, visitors can get there via the Jones Falls Expressway, bus or Metro.

A face-lift is inevitable. Many of the buildings along the stretch are underutilized and just waiting for something to happen. Changes will come big-time when Alex. Brown, the esteemed investment banking firm with the newly-simplified name, moves to the 30-story Commerce Place on the edge of The Block. On the other edge, Port Discovery, the intriguing Disney-designed children's museum is scheduled to open by 1998.

What The Block needs are places like a country-western venue with live bands. It also needs a rib house (Baltimore still doesn't have a real one!). If some of the upper floors could be turned into offices or apartments, transformation would be in full swing.

Just don't let anyone tell you it cannot be done.

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