After Artscape celebration, Windup at this bar for music, art and drinks

ON NIGHTLIFE

July 17, 2008|By SAM SESSA

This weekend's Artscape celebrations stop just south of North Avenue.

But that doesn't mean you should.

There's a new spot right where Charles Street meets North Avenue called the Windup Space. It's a bar, art gallery and performance venue all under one roof, which isn't easy to pull off. But owner Russell de Ocampo, who opened the space in May, makes it all work. He has a lot of room to play with, too - the main room is about 3,000 square feet, all told.

Since the Windup Space hosts rotating art shows on a regular basis, de Ocampo didn't want to clutter the walls with big wooden booths. So he kept it simple: a couple couches by the front door, a bar along one wall and tables and chairs in the middle. The walls are painted burnt orange and steel - a color combination that might not sound pleasant but actually works well.

The front of the building leaves a lot to be desired, but it's slowly improving as the space matures. Knotted red cloth curtains hang in each of the five front windows (it used to be a clothing store), and the name of the bar is spelled out in small white letters above them.

DJs spin at the Windup Space, and de Ocampo wants bands in there in the near future. They recently set up a sound system, and the live music license is ready to go, too.

If things go according to plan, there won't be a cover charge for live music. Bands will be paid based on drink sales, not foot traffic. That's a smart move, considering how anti-cover charge most Baltimoreans are.

The next time I'm at the Windup Space, I'd like to see someone sit down at the piano by the front door and start playing. Not the lounge stuff you normally hear in a fancy restaurant like the Rusty Scupper, and not weird art-house stuff. Something like the space itself: unexpected but good.

Most drinks hover in the $3-$5 range, depending on your taste. Most of the patrons are Maryland Institute College of Art students or graduates, local musicians or professional hipsters. A few dozen of them mingled inside at 11 p.m. on a recent Thursday night. Our bartender was pretty laid-back, which made me wonder how she would do if twice as many people were there. But we had no complaints.

The gutsiest decision de Ocampo made in opening the Windup Space was picking the location. It's only a couple blocks north of the Charles Theatre and the rest of the action, but it's far enough to put him out of range for most of the area's bar-going foot traffic. But Joe Squared made a name in the business a few blocks west of the Windup, so it's possible.

Aside from location, one of the most important things a bar can have is good management. And as a member of a Baltimore band and a former bartender at a few spots around town, de Ocampo has enough knowledge to pull it off. I can easily see the Windup Space sharing Joe Squared's success and helping turn Station North into a better hub for arts and entertainment.

sam.sessa@baltsun.com

The Windup Space is at 10-12 W. North Ave. Hours are 4 p.m.-1 a.m. Thursdays-Saturdays. Call 410-244-8855 or go to myspace.com/thewindupspace.

ONLINE

Read Sam Sessa's blog on nightlife and local music at baltimoresun.com/midnightsun

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