Joe Squared, the beloved Baltimore City eatery and entertainment venue, announced plans Thursday to shutter its doors by the end of the year.
Known for its pizza, music and full-throated support of local artists, Joe Squared has been a community anchor in the Station North neighborhood for nearly 20 years. The spot received national acclaim in 2014 for a stint on Guy Fieri’s “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives,” during which the bombastic food star called the bacon and clam pizza “crazy good.”
The decision to close comes after months of incurring pandemic-era losses that left Nic Johnson, vice president of the restaurant’s workers-owned collective, searching for ways to keep their doors open.
“COVID-19 really changed the landscape for restaurants everywhere. … so it’s really been ongoing trying to deal with the lack of business,” he told The Banner shortly after the establishment announced plans to shut down.
“I feel like we were constantly asking, ‘How is this happening?’”
Joe Squared’s shuttering follows a number of local restaurants that have struggled to regain their footing in the wake of COVID-19, including The Local Oyster, which closed both its locations last Saturday.
The West North Avenue staple previously closed in 2020 but was resurrected months later as a cooperative, which was seen as a more sustainable model for the struggling eatery. Joe Squared’s new owners were able to apply for grants and set up a voting structure that allowed 13 workers to democratically decide on issues ranging from a streamlined menu to renovations, according to WYPR.
But in Thursday’s announcement, the restaurant cited the changing industry landscape post-pandemic, including “lower turnout, higher expenses, and a lack of resources,” as the reasoning for its impending closure.
Still, Johnson believes that the best is yet to come for Baltimore-area restaurants.
He said the food scene remains a supportive and inviting space where there are plenty of niche interests waiting to be filled. The support of loyal Station North customers, he said, has been overwhelming.
“We honestly couldn’t have done it without them. It’s a little bittersweet, but we’re happy to serve the community as long as we can,” he said.
A party celebrating Joe Squared’s legacy is scheduled for the last weekend of December. Johnson hopes the neighborhood will remember the restaurant as a local watering hole and “great place to see a show or see some cool art on the walls.”
Private events and bookings are still available at the eatery through the end of the year, and more special events will be announced in the coming weeks, according to the venue’s social media.