Leaving Camden Yards spot after seven years

ON NIGHTLIFE

October 13, 2005|By SAM SESSA

AS A STEADY DRIZZLE fell downtown last week, only three people stood inside Max's at Camden Yards. Owner Ron Furman and two workers came to dismantle, not drink.

Max's closed Oct. 2 after the Ravens game started and the crowd shuffled out.

For seven years, pre- and post-game patrons packed the bar's corner spot at 300 W. Pratt St. But Furman could never find a way to fill tables on nongame nights.

"It's a tough corner," Furman said.

The first year, Furman said, he wasn't ready for the volume of food sales. Furman, who owns Max's on Broadway, thought people would drink more and eat less.

"We weren't prepared," he said. "The food business over here was much greater than I anticipated."

Going into the third year, Max's started to turn a profit. Furman thought his efforts were paying off -- that he'd figured out the formula.

"I was jumping up and down -- I was all excited," he said. "We were finally turning the place around and starting to make money, and I was even thinking about putting money into the joint."

The CSX tunnel fire in 2001 ended all that. Makeup games (which Furman said were never as good for business) coupled with a month of construction squeezed Max's hard.

"Would you want to sit and eat with a jackhammer next to you?" Furman said. "It killed us that year."

Though Max's profits kept climbing, it just wasn't enough, Furman said. The new convention center hotel slated for completion in 2007 means more jackhammers and less foot traffic, he said.

The lease was up, Furman's landlord gave him an out, and he took it.

"It's time to cut my losses and start enjoying my life again," Furman said. "Start taking some time off, start going away. I don't remember the last time I went away with the kids."

Furman planned to sell everything inside -- including the tables and chairs, and the taps in the windows .

An auction was scheduled for yesterday, and Furman said fast-casual chain California Tortilla expressed a strong interest in picking up the property.

"Must be serious profit in tortillas," he said.

When he first moved into the building, Furman planned to open more Max's around the city. Now he says he's happy to stay at the Fells Point location and drive to Camden Yards for games, not work.

"I'll miss the people," he said. "I won't miss the place. I never got to put the soul into the building I wanted. I'll miss the staff, I'll miss the customers. It was a lot of fun when it was good. When it was bad, it'll give you gray hairs."

As Furman sat and talked, a raindrop leaked through the roof and fell on the table in front of him. Furman stared at it for a second, then said:

"Oh well."

sam.sessa@baltsun.com

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