Daily Record Business Writer
May 26, 2009 8:07 PM
On Friday, the future of an aging Baltimore sports institution gets left up to fate — or, more accurately, the highest bidder.
Club 4100 dates to 1958 when its original owner George Coutros, Colts quarterback Johnny Unitas’ godfather, opened a bar underneath a house he bought in Brooklyn. Up until the Colts left Baltimore in 1984, the club served as a pre- and post-game hangout for fans and players, and the establishment’s walls are littered with photographs and signed memorabilia to prove it.
Its current owners, Rajcoomar and Meenawatie Harkie, who bought it in November 2007 for $950,000 from Manny and Dino Spanomanolis, don’t want to sell to just anybody. But that’s what they’ll face this Friday at the landmark’s auction.
“If they can treasure it and continue the club the way it’s been here for the last 50 to 60 years, that’s what I would hope for the new owners,” said Rajcoomar Harkie. “That’s what we’ve tried to do.”
The Harkies said they spent $300,000 in cleaning the bar and updating its fixtures and appliances. They had planned on owning the place until their retirement, but Meena’s recent health problems have made that plan an impossibility and the couple has chosen to put it up for auction in order to sell it quickly.
The husband and wife duo are the only full-time staff at the bar, with Meena cooking in the back and Raj up front. When they took over, Club 4100 was pulling in more than $20,000 a month in sales and they had a few others on staff to help, they said. But with business falling off since the recession began nearly a year ago, it’s just not financially viable anymore to operate the place with just the two of them.
“The doctor has told me I shouldn’t lift more than four or five pounds,” said Meena.
But the couple and others hope the club’s tradition and history can be preserved. John Ziemann, deputy director of the Sports Legends Museum at Camden Yards and founder of the Colts’ Marching Band (now the Marching Ravens), noted the establishment is the last standing landmark of the Colts era in Maryland.
“This is basically it for the history and heritage of the Baltimore Colts,” he said. “Memorial Stadium is gone, the [players’] restaurants are gone.”
Before there was tailgating, there was Club 4100, he said. Fans would meet at the bar in the morning, take the club’s bus over to Memorial Stadium for the game and then head back to Brooklyn to close down the place with Unitas and other players.
“It was a time in our history where a football player could go into a restaurant and more or less carouse and talk with fans,” Ziemann said. “Nowadays you can’t do that, but I would hope that the new owners can still tell that story.”
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