The new managers of The Manor, a popular LGBTQ-friendly bar and restaurant in Mount Vernon, promise to keep it as a welcoming space. But there will be some changes to the former gay-owned business, including the addition of some of the food found at their other restaurant, Noir Restaurant & Lounge.
Brothers Antonio Foster and Morris McDaniels said they are excited to open up.
“We are just trying to keep what they had going and raise the bar a bit,” said Foster, who added that they finalized a management deal for the business last week. “We want to make it elegant. We want to serve all demographics. We want to serve upper-echelon food. They had a good business model. We want to elevate that.”
Foster, 49, said he did not know exactly when the establishment would open.
“It’s going to be a little bit,” Foster said.
McDaniels, 47, said he and his brother first heard about the space being available in January.
“I had never been there before. We met with the owners. When I walked through it, I loved the ambience of it. It was perfect,” McDaniels recalled. “My mind started turning about the would bes and could bes and the possibilities.”
The brothers want to quell concerns that The Manor will significantly change from its previous co-owners, Josh Persing and Robert Gay, who are gay. Neither brother identifies as being a member of the LGBTQ community.
“People are asking me, ‘Are we going to cater to this type of group?’ We are going to cater to everybody. We want everyone to have fun. And we want to cater to everybody,” said Foster, who added that he didn’t know the The Manor was considered a gay club. “I definitely don’t want this to be a thing about sexual orientation. The goal at the end of the day is to provide a space [that] everybody can enjoy. That’s very, very important to us.”
The Manor has been “temporarily closed” since December due to damage from broken pipes.
The restaurant and nightclub, which opened in 2019, was one of the city’s most popular gay establishments. It hosted weekly drag brunches and regularly brought in contestants from the reality TV show “RuPaul’s Drag Race.”
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The absence of what many call “safe spaces” for LGBTQ community members comes as they and their rights are under attack by many conservative politicians, activists and commentators.
The Manor, one of the city’s largest gay bars and venues, remained shuttered for Pride Week activities in June, as did Central.
The owners of Central, which has gone through a handful of concept changes in the past year, recently posted that the establishment is looking for a new business partner. No reopening date has been announced for it.
Foster said he was from the era of Eden’s Lounge, a now-shuttered popular nightclub in Mount Vernon that attracted a mix of Black professionals and local movers and shakers.
“I want to do the same vibe. I want to serve the type of food — upper echelon,” said Foster, who five years ago opened Noir Restaurant & Lounge, a popular establishment in the northern part of the city known for its lamb chops, craft cocktails, special events, and occasional drag shows. He also owns Angeli’s Pizzeria on York Road.
Foster said that he has brought back 40% of the original staff at The Manor.
“When I tell you we’re not trying to change something, we’re not joking,” Foster said. “We are hiring to fill in the gaps. We will be posting a listing with the number to our general manger. We will have that in the next couple days. We want to make sure we have the right people on deck.”
Both brothers, who come from a family of educators and real estate developers, said this is a proud moment for them as Black Baltimoreans.
“It’s a wonderful feeling to see something change into a butterfly. I can’t put it into words. It feels good. And I’m excited to make it a space that is really relevant in the city,” Foster said. “Being a young Black man, I’m privileged to do so. I’m going to give it a lot of my blood and sweat. I’m going to put forth the same amount of effort in my other businesses.”
McDaniels added: “It makes me feel great. It’s another achievement in life. We [Black people] haven’t been able to own businesses to this level. It just wasn’t on the same level playing ground. Times have changed. It’s more inviting to the Black community to open their own business and lay foundation for our children. It brings some hope to our community.”