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Four Decades Along the Rainbow Road

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Former Owner of The Drinkery Dies

Frederick “Fred” Allen, the former owner of The Drinkery, a longstanding corner gay bar in the Mount Vernon neighborhood, died from natural causes on August 7 at the age of 86, according to his granddaughter Amy Miller. 

Allen, who had owned The Drinkery since 1972 and maintained an apartment above the bar for over 40 years, transferred the Class “BD7” Beer, Wine & Liquor License to Miller this past January 19. 

The Drinkery, situated on the corner of Park Avenue and Read Streets, made news when the Baltimore City Board of Liquor License Commissioners voted 2-1 on May 19, 2016 not to extend the bar’s liquor license based on a petition from neighboring businesses and residents alleging rowdiness, excessive noise, drug activity and violence in and around the establishment.

Allen, frail and wheelchair-bound, was among those who testified on behalf of the bar at the liquor board hearing. 

Two weeks later on June 2 a motion for reconsideration hearing was held, and the liquor board reversed the earlier decision based on an appeal by Allen.  One of the individuals who signed the petition and testified against the license extension is listed on the liquor license of another Mount Vernon establishment and therefore, as a competing licensee, he was not permitted to participate under the board’s rules.  This led to one of the commissioners to reverse her previous vote thereby overturning the previous ruling by the board.

The Drinkery re-opened the next day to much relief and jubilance by its patrons.

“Mr. Allen formed a mainstay institution in the Mount Vernon neighborhood and the Baltimore LGBT community,” said Brian Dolbow, a long time patron of The Drinkery and resident of the neighborhood. “He cared deeply about his employees, his customers, and his community. Thanks to Mr. Allen, I have met so many wonderful people and have made lifelong friends. May he Rest in Peace.”

Carlton Smith, Executive Director and CEO of The Center for Black Equity Baltimore, agrees.

“I have been a ten-year patron of The Drinkery in which I visited so often in the gayborhood. I’m sure Mr. Allen’s death is a kind of shock to many of his patrons who especially had a long time relationship with the bar and family members. This bar has been a staple for many young men and women in the gayborhood. It was our ‘Cheers’ where everyone got to know your name,” he said.

Allen’s body was donated to the Maryland Anatomy Board.

R.I.P. Fred.

(This story appears in the Washington Blade.)

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