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When Federal Hill turns party central

The sign outside of Federal Hill’s Mad River Bar & Grille on Monday read: “1/2 Price Burgers Caw! Caw!”

The day after the night before at Nick’s Inner Harbor Seafood in the Cross Street Market, which had a line out the front door after the Ravens game.

It was an odd remnant, scribbled in purple chalk, of the jubilant chaos in that very spot the night before as a crowd of about 6,000 turned the intersection of Cross and South Charles streets into party headquarters to celebrate the Baltimore Ravens’ defeat of the New England Patriots.

“Federal Hill is ground zero for the Raven Nation,” said Brian McComas, owner of Ryleigh’s Oyster and president of the Federal Hill Hospitality Association, which represents the area’s 24 bars and restaurants.

Nevertheless, the revelry near the western end of the Cross Street Market after recent Ravens wins has left some business owners wary. While the crowds make cash registers sing for hours, many say the atmosphere is “insane” and leaves a wake of trash, chaos and property damage.

Sunday night’s revelry was tightly managed by police after a similar party on Jan. 12 following the Ravens’ double-overtime win over the Denver Broncos resulted in a mob-like swarm, with people jumping on parked cars and walking on the roofs of businesses along South Charles.

This past week, police met with restaurant and bar owners, elected officials and community leaders before the game. The result: a decision to close off parts of Cross and South Charles streets to vehicle traffic if the Ravens won.

Plans are already being made for the aftermath of the Super Bowl on Feb. 3, McComas said.

Judy Scigala, a bartender at Ryleigh’s Oyster, served purple drinks made with grape-flavored vodka until last call at 1:30 a.m. Monday, then stayed until 4 a.m. cleaning up the two-level bar and restaurant on Cross Street.

“It was madness,” she said. “We were so busy. People were so happy. We were selling beer like crazy. People were drinking everything and anything.”

Scigala said that as the game wrapped up, patrons settled their tabs and headed out to the street to celebrate before “they swooned back in.”

“It was great for us; it kept our kitchen open,” she said. “Usually, January and February are a little slow, so it helped us out.”

Josh Foti, general manager at Ryleigh’s Oyster, said business owners contribute about $100,000 each year to help pay overtime for off-duty, uniformed city officers to patrol Federal Hill Thursday through Sunday nights. But that commitment was tested with the recent overflow crowds in the streets.

Judy Scigala at Ryleigh’s Oyster.

“It’s a recent phenomenon,” said City Councilman William H. Cole IV, whose 11th District includes Federal Hill. “It’s a very, very popular place to go to watch Ravens games now because of the proximity to Ravens stadium.”

Cole said he didn’t know how much the city has spent on the extra police presence at the outdoor party. It included a helicopter overhead and a mobile police unit on the ground.

“Most of the crowds are there to support the businesses that are open at that hour,” he said of the restaurants and bars. “It’s not something we’ve ever seen during a day game.”

Amy Mutch, president of the South Baltimore Neighborhood Association, said she had not received any complaints over the past week regarding the street parties.

“I walked down to see it [Sunday night], and everything I saw was controlled mayhem,” Mutch said. “I thought the people were celebrating in an appropriate manner.”

At Nick’s Inner Harbor Seafood in the Cross Street Market Monday, a handful of Ravens fans in jerseys ate lunch and talked sports.

That was serenity compared with the night before, said Phillip Misowitz, a bartender.

“It was insane,” he said. “It was the first time since I worked here that the fire marshal came in and told us we were over capacity. It was the closest thing to watching the Ravens play in the stadium. You could just tell how big a deal the Ravens are to this town.”

Misowitz agreed that the football victories have helped the bottom line at the legendary seafood venue.

“I never thought I’d be rooting for fiscal reasons,” he said. “It’s been very good for business. We had a line out the front door for people to get in.”

The cleanup Monday morning was another story, though.

Gina Han, owner of the small Fashion Cleaners at 1108 S. Charles St., said the trash was thick on the streets and sidewalks when the shop opened Monday.

“Tons, tons, tons of cigarettes and trash,” she said. “There were beer cans and broken glass. What a mess.”

All in all, though, Han said the partying was in good fun.

“This is downtown. There are lots of young people, and they have to enjoy it,” she said. “If I were their age, I’d probably be here, too.”