It has been a long time since I’ve hurled one of my missives at you, due in part to the culmination of two and a half years of extremely annoying work trying to get a liquor license here at the Ballroom. Consider this the formal announcement. Yesterday the Board of Zoning Appeals granted us our conditional use as a tavern with live entertainment and dancing (that’s the formal language). Obviously, Mobtown is not a tavern, but that’s as near as the zoning code can get, since there hasn’t been an overwhelming demand for “ballroom” as a category for some time now.
The short story is this: Since opening in September of 2011 we’ve been negotiating with multiple city agencies and politicians to make this a possibility. We had to change a state law to allow this license within 300 feet of a church. We had to pass two city council bills. We had to build out a bar. We’ve spent dragon-level hoards of money. We still have inspections and red tape to deal with. The whole process has probably taken a combined 10 years off the lives of the staff. We were recently informed that no one in Baltimore City has ever done this before. It’s been an undertaking.
So, now it’s appropriate for us to tell you, first, why we’ve put so much effort into this and, second, how coming to Mobtown will be different in the future.
The dance/arts business is a cruel mistress, and while the ballroom has never lost money, we run on thin margins, and the business requires upwards of 70 hrs a week from several of the staff members. We want to be here for decades, and in order for us to take risks and put on interesting events, we need more cash than covers and dance classes alone can bring in. Just as important, we are extremely committed to making our events affordable to as many people as possible. Adding a different revenue stream (rather than upping prices) is the best way to do this. Liquor will also allow us to bring in more expensive bands, and keep us extremely competitive (which we have been so far) in paying the artists who work for us.
Beyond the practical reasons, we also believe that the worst mistake that arts businesses can make is adopting the family-friendly, non-profit, white-bread model. We run programming for real, human adults, believing always that too much of the world has begun to feel like Sunday school. We value learning, growth, and all of that positive shit–but we like to do it with a drink in our hands and a grin on our face. That’s the real reason we’ve fought so hard to open a bar.
So, we want you to come out and enjoy whatever aspect of the business appeals to you. Whether you drink or not, you’re welcome here. To make the place as welcoming as possible, and to protect the ballroom for the future (this liquor thing is a huge investment), we’ve written up a small document about our policies here. Some of this is us, and some of this is Baltimore City law. All of it is extremely important. It will be posted permanently on the website soon, but for now you can read it below. We love you all, turkeys.