Construction is currently underway at a new branch of Busboys and Poets in Charles Village, as the chain restaurant-and-bookstore from D.C. expands into Baltimore.
In an email to The News-Letter, founder and CEO Andy Shallal explained that the restaurant will serve as a gathering space for the community, with private spaces that can be booked for events. According to him, Busboys and Poets will open in late April or early May of 2021.
“In other locations we have opened, we have become the place where the entire community meets and breaks [bread] together,” he wrote. “More than a restaurant, we are a place to take a deliberate pause. A place to meet someone new. A place to listen to music, poetry, ideas.”
Shallal noted that Busboys and Poets is also a place that cultivates social change.
“We are also a place where conversations on race and racial healing have been taking place since our inception in 2005,” he wrote. “We plan to continue these much-needed conversations, here in Baltimore.”
When news of the new Busboys and Poets branch initially came to the attention of senior Madeline Amonick in January 2020, her primary concern was the competition it would provide for nearby bookstores like Bird in Hand.
Now, over a year later, Amonick is less concerned.
“Bird in Hand has done a really great job of pivoting in the pandemic, in re-emphasizing their locality and... trying to emphasize the way that they are related to their community,” she said.
However, Amonick feels that Bird in Hand’s community outreach will hurt the potential of the new Busboys and Poets location.
“Because Charles Village is associated with Hopkins, Busboys and Poets will be associated with Charles Village and Johns Hopkins,” she said. “If they want to be a sustainable partner of the community, to Baltimore, then they need to engage with the community at their level.”
In communications with the press, Busboys and Poets has not clarified how the restaurant-bookstore will shift its community-building approach to match the location and new community it will serve.
Despite this, Amonick believes that the e restaurant will be popular among Hopkins students.
“I think Hopkins students will be attracted to any restaurant that’s going to provide worthy competition,” she said.
While senior Smitha Mahesh looks forward to outdoor seating options at Busboys and Poets, she noted that she had been hoping for a local grocery store.
“This restaurant could be anywhere within the Charles Village neighborhood and it would still thrive,” she said. “On the other hand, college students need a grocery store that promotes healthy eating choices, and it would be nice if it was conveniently located in this area.”
Although Baltimore City allows indoor and outdoor dining at 50% and 75%, respectively, senior Eric Rong does not feel safe pursuing those options yet.
“I’m excited to see what Busboys and Poets is like, although I probably will wait until things become a bit safer with COVID-19,” he said.