ANNAPOLIS — Less than two years after opening his Main Street wine bar, Brian Bolter, a well-known face on Fox 5 news in Washington, D.C., wants to open a second business in downtown Annapolis.
The bar and restaurant — to be called DRY 85 — would have Prohibition-era, speakeasy decor and focus on bourbon and comfort food, such as Kobe beef burgers, flash-fried okra and slow-cooked ribs.
The restaurant would fill the vacant space next to Castlebay Pub. Bolter and his wife, Lisa Bolter, own Red Red Wine Bar, which opened in July 2011 and is two doors down the street from the proposed new restaurant. DRY 85’s plans call for 48 seats, including a dozen at the bar.
“It is a new, different and unique restaurant concept, which we’re proud to know has been warmly received by our Ward 1 neighbors,” Bolter said in a statement.
The proposed site for DRY 85 was used as an office and has been empty for about three years. Vincent Quinlan, owner of the neighboring Castlebay, declined to comment on the proposal.
According to city documents, DRY 85 seeks to “expand on the niche Red Red Wine Bar has single-handedly carved out downtown, a high-end dining and entertainment experience in between white linen tablecloths and pub fare.”
Bolter’s special exception request for a standard restaurant open until 2 a.m. will go before the Board of Appeals Jan. 16.
“Speakeasy” restaurants — which unlike the speakeasies of the 1920s are fully licensed — try to evoke the allure of that vanished era.
Earlier this month, The Baltimore Sun reported the former Martick’s Restaurant Francais in Baltimore, in a location that was a speakeasy in the early 20th century, will reopen as a speakeasy.
Another speakeasy, Harold Black, opened this month above an Eastern Market restaurant on 7th Street in the District.
New York City is brimming with them, some lacking signs, websites and front doors. Some require a password — or a reservation — to enter. Others have secret passageways or entrances.
In a June 3, 2009, New York Times story about the fad, William Grimes wrote: “Obtrusively furtive, they represent one of the strangest exercises in nostalgia ever to grip the public, an infatuation with the good old days of Prohibition.”
The HBO TV series “Boardwalk Empire,” which is about bootlegging, has likely sparked their popularity.
The libations at DRY 85 won’t be fermenting in a bathtub. The establishment would feature top-shelf bourbons from around the world and regional craft beers, according to city documents.