On Light Street, a bar with a past is cleaned up and renamed Charlotte's

ON NIGHTLIFE

November 23, 2006|By SAM SESSA

Brother and sister Robert Philipose and Keisha Pase saw a future in a dodgy Federal Hill watering hole.

The space at 1542 Light St. had a checkered history, to say the least. For some years, it housed Copa 2000, a shady swingers club that was busted for adult entertainment violations in 2002. Then, it became the Royal, a grungy live music venue that fought noise complaints from neighbors.

Pase and Philipose were looking to open a bar when Royal owners Mark Lasker and Peter Allen put its liquor license for sale on eBay this year. The siblings, who live in Fells Point, bought into the business and are leasing the building from Lasker and Allen. They spent months rehabbing the bar and reopened it as Charlotte's earlier this month.

Charlotte's exterior still needs plenty of work, but its clean, comfortable interior makes it one of the neighborhood's nicer new bars.

Pase named Charlotte's after her grandmother and great-grandmother.

"She was very, very important to me," Pase said of her grandmother. "I wanted to name something after her."

But a good deal of work had to be done before the bar was a fitting tribute.

"The place inside was a mess," Philipose said. "I'm talking about a night-and-day difference."

Pase and Philipose ripped off the ceiling, exposing the thick wooden rafters above, which they stained. They sanded the dark wooden floorboards to a lighter color and walled off a section for storage. They also removed the concrete -- which Lasker and Allen had used to try to soundproof the building -- from the windows.

A large flat-screen TV, satellite radio system, leather couch, mirror and wooden benches were among the new additions. Pase estimates they've invested about $110,000 in the place and the liquor license since they took over this past summer. It was an extreme makeover, which made the bar warm and inviting. It has the feel of both a lounge and a pub.

The only rough spot is the exterior, which has mismatched bricks and a temporary banner as a sign. Standing outside, there's little to persuade you to walk in -- much less have a drink there.

There are about eight beers on tap, including Yuengling and Magic Hat #9. It would be nice to see some local drafts such as Resurrection Ale or McHenry replace Woodchuck Cider and Smithwick's. Bottles cost about $3, and drafts are $4 to $4.50.

Philipose has never seriously bartended before, and it shows, but he has plenty of time to learn. He said they plan to hire a couple of bartenders in the near future, which would be good.

Now that most of the revamping is finished, the biggest task for Pase and Philipose is attracting a solid clientele. If they put the same amount of time and effort into managing as they did into renovating, they won't have much of a problem.

"It had to look like the place we wanted it to look like," Philipose said. "I think it's worth it, because it turned out really good."

I couldn't agree more.

Podcast

Listen to my new podcast, the second part in a Fort Avenue bar crawl, at baltimoresun.com/sessa.

Charlotte's, at 1542 Light St., is open 3:30 p.m.-2 a.m. Mondays-Saturdays and noon-2 a.m. Sundays. All drinks are $1 off during happy hour, which runs 4 p.m.-7 p.m. weekdays. Call 410-244-6767.

sam.sessa@baltsun.com

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