Old Fletcher's space gets a swanky makeover

The Get Down part is upscale lounge, part neighborhood pub

July 22, 2010|By Sam Sessa, The Baltimore Sun

A DJ booth has replaced the stage where the White Stripes and other rock bands once played, and the formerly dim, grungy music hall is now awash in thousands of small lights.

Fletcher's, a long-running Fells Point club, is no more. In its place is The Get Down, a swanky new lounge that celebrates its grand opening Friday and Saturday. It's a total about-face orchestrated by owner Bryan Burkert. As a result, the space manages to bring together the alluring feel of an upscale lounge with the laid-back vibe of a neighborhood tavern.

Burkert, who also owns the music store Sound Garden, is betting large that The Get Down is the right fit for the neighborhood and the rest of the city. Baltimore has never embraced the high-end lounge scene; only a few clubs, such as Red Maple, Eden's Lounge and Mosaic, have had long-term success here. Many others have come and gone in recent memory. But The Get Down isn't pretentious or assuming. With retro furniture, innovative lighting and affordable drinks, it's the city's best new lounge in years.

Originally four rowhouses, the building is split into several smaller rooms and one main downstairs bar. Burkert brought in lighting designer (and Baltimore native) Scott Chmielewski, who worked on the Beijing Olympics and other high-end clubs, to take advantage of the layout.

Chmielewski gave each of the rooms a distinct feel. Upstairs, he designed a "woven wall" of overlapping recycled plastic pieces, with more than 4,000 LED lights glowing behind it. The lights can be programmed to display different colors and patterns. The effect is stunning — much like being at a stadium rock show and standing in front of a Jumbotron, but not as bright. Chmielewski also created intricate wall patterns elsewhere in the club and brought in work from local artists.

Though The Get Down might look different from Fletcher's, a good deal of the old club is still there. A section of the upstairs floor was knocked out to open up the space, but that's the only major structural change. Both original bars remain, just brushed up a bit. The hardwood floors downstairs are also the same, just with a new stain and varnish.

Most of The Get Down's furniture comes from the storied New York club The Roxy. Burkert bought the semi-circular leather booths and funky leather couches from former Roxy owner Gene DiNino and had them reupholstered. If only that furniture could talk.

Drinks won't drain your wallet. Though the bar only has a few standard beers on tap (Amstel Light, Stella Artois, Blue Moon, Miller Lite), they're $4-$5 each. I'd like to see more microbrews. A rail gin and tonic is $5.50, and substituting top-shelf liquor adds only a dollar. The short wine list includes a malbec, moscato, merlot and chardonnay, all of which are $30 a bottle. If you want to go all out, a bottle of Dom Perignon is $350, and The Get Down offers bottle service.

Depending on the liquor, martinis range from $8.50-$9.50. For a lounge, these prices are cheap — more along the lines of a Fells Point pub. And the happy hour is killer: From 7 p.m.-10 p.m. every day, all drinks are half off. The other night, my Tanqueray and tonic was only $3.25. Talk about a steal.

The Get Down will have DJs and some live music on a regular basis, Burkert said. Though Fletcher's hosted bands and singer/songwriters for years, with the rise of other clubs such as Rams Head Live and Sonar, it became harder to book notable nationally touring bands. That's why Burkert opted to turn it into The Get Down. He made the right move. I just wish he'd picked a better name. "The Get Down" doesn't do the space justice.

At first glance, the club's location at Bond and Aliceanna streets doesn't seem ideal, but it gets a good amount of foot traffic. Harbor East isn't far away, and the planned Marketplace at Fells renovations will put a fresh face on the historic neighborhood. Though it's hard to predict the success of any club, especially in a recession, I think The Get Down will be a hit.

sam.sessa@baltsun.com

If you go

The Get Down's grand opening is 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday at 701 S. Bond St. DJ D-Mac will spin Friday and DJ Harry Hotter will spin Saturday. The club is open at 7 p.m. daily. Go to getdownbaltimore.com.

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