The Hippo, one of Baltimore’s oldest gay and lesbian clubs, is apparently hanging up its disco ball.
Chuck Bowers, owner of the Mount Vernon nightspot, is negotiating to turn the building at the southwest corner of Charles and Eager streets into a CVS store, according to city representatives who have been in contact with CVS Health Corp.
Bowers could not be reached for comment.
MONDAY, MAY 11, UPDATE: Chuck Bowers confirmed today in a statement to the media that The Hippo will close “sometime in the fall of 2015” and will reopen as a CVS pharmacy.
If CVS goes through with the project, it would mean the end of the nightclub, which opened in 1972 and has been a venerable anchor institution for Mount Vernon’s “gayborhood.”
With a large dance floor, video bar and saloon, The Hippo has been the setting for a wide range of events, as well as the backdrop for annual Pride block parties.
The low-rise, Art Deco-style building dates back to before World War II, when it was known as the Chanticleer, and is part of the Mount Vernon historic district.
From Icon to Chain Drugstore?
In records of the Board of Liquor License Commissioners for Baltimore City, its address is listed as both 932-934 N. Charles Street and 1 West Eager Street. The full name of the business is the Hippopotamus. A sign on the exterior reads Club Hippo.
A “Hippo CVS” would be one of at least two new local stores from CVS. Company officials announced in March that they are opening a store as part of the student housing development under construction at 3200 St. Paul Street in Charles Village near Johns Hopkins University’s Homewood campus.
In addition, CVS Chief Executive Officer Larry Merlo said this month that the company plans to rebuild two Baltimore area stores that were damaged during the April riots, one at 2509 Pennsylvania Avenue and one at 2560 West Franklin Street.
City employees familiar with the project say Bowers has been working with CVS since before the looting and fire in Penn North that decimated the store on the night of Freddie Gray’s funeral.
Others familiar with the plan say they understand that Bowers intends to retain ownership of the building and lease it to CVS.
Part of Historic District
Because the building is part of the Mount Vernon historic district, any proposed changes to the exterior, such as signs and entrances, would have to be approved by the city’s Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation (CHAP).
The BD7 Beer, Wine and Liquor license for the property is in effect through April 30, 2016, according to documents on file with the liquor board. The license permits live entertainment and outdoor seating on the premises, but does not allow sale of package goods to be taken off the property.
According to liquor board inspector John Chrissomallis, the Hippo’s license can only be transferred within the state’s 44th legislative district. If a license purchaser wants to provide live entertainment, the license would have to be transferred to another property in the 44th district with zoning that permits live entertainment, he said.