Guitarist, bra collector and… bar owner? It may surprise fans at first to learn that Jack Barakat is now in the nightlife business, but once you think about it, it makes perfect sense for the All Time Low guitarist. From their onstage personas to their music (“Poppin’ Champagne,” “I Feel Like Dancin’,” “So Long And Thanks For All The Booze”), everyone knows ATL are no strangers to a good party. Barakat recently became the co-owner of the Rockwell, located in Baltimore’s historic Fell’s Point neighborhood. Along with co-owner Bryan Burkert (who’s also the owner of Sound Garden, a well known Baltimore record store), the two are offering something new to the area: a purely rock ’n’ roll bar. Barakat is also offering fans a chance to host their birthday parties at the Rockwell, complete with a free bottle of champagne and a round of shots, plus a signed custom birthday card. We talked to Barakat about the ins and outs of owning the Rockwell, what he looks for in a good bar and his bartending skills (or lack thereof).
PHOTOS: Chris March
How did you get involved with the Rockwell?
The bar’s actually been open since earlier this year, and I’ve quietly had in an involvement in it. More recently, my involvement’s been bigger, and I’m part owner now. It’s just a rock bar, you know? It’s kind of a rare thing to find these days.
I started to go to this bar a lot just because I liked the music they played, and the owner, Bryan, is a friend of mine. He approached me and was like, “I want you to come in on this. I think it’s something that you’d really be interested in. It’s right up your alley. It’s something that I think together we could make a pretty awesome place.” Bryan is also the owner of the Sound Garden, which is one of the most successful record stores in the U.S.
What was it that attracted you to the bar?
I go out a lot; I have a good time, I like to party. There haven’t been that many bars I go that have a rock ’n’ roll vibe like there used to be, kind of a craziness to them. It’s all about hip-hop and pop and mainstream music. I was like, “Let’s fucking do a bar that plays old ’80s rock and metal, new rock, old school, whatever it is—just plays good music. We don’t leave that genre. We don’t have a night where we do club night or whatever. We just want it to be purely a rock bar.
When bands come through Baltimore to play, there aren’t that many places to go out—for rock bands. that is. When bands come through we want to have them do DJ sets, and have a place for them to go after the show.
Do you guys think you’ll be doing any DJing of your own?
Yeah, I know Aug. 30 we have a party, and Alex [Gaskarth] is going to be DJing it. I’m going to try to do my own party once a month. I’m going to be there often obviously, just hanging out when I’m in town, but I’m going to try to do an official party once a month, just to have an event that’s recurring. It gets pretty rowdy there. I’ll definitely go behind the bar and pour everyone shots. It’s definitely a good time. I know one thing I’m going to try to concentrate on is having our fans have their birthday parties there. I know we’ve always had this party vibe onstage—we all sing about partying, we obviously do it in our music videos, after the shows—I know a lot of our fans have always wanted to be a part of that, but some of them are younger. But now that we’ve been around for eight to 10 years, a lot of our fans are starting to be 21, and I’m starting to see them out at the bars. If you have your birthday party [at the Rockwell], I’m going to give you free champagne, and we’re just gonna rage. It could be one of those things that sounds like a good idea on paper and ends up being a shit show, but I think it’s gonna be pretty fun.
So are you going to hang any bras in this bar?
Actually, that’s a great idea. [Laughs.] I never even thought about it. The vibe I want to do is kind of like Coyote Ugly, in the sense that there are no rules. I’ve jumped off the bar a couple times; people just kind of go crazy and hook up in the photo booth. Shit happens, and that’s what I like about it. There aren’t many bars like that anymore, you know?
You mentioned that you’ll go behind the bar and pour shots. How are your bartending skills?
Just fucking terrible. You think someone who goes out a lot would pick up some things—nah. It’s not as easy as it looks. Bartenders deserve to make more money, I gotta give it up to them. Also, it’s hectic back there, like people yelling at you. I’m just like, “All right, I’m going to pour 30 shots and just buy shots for everyone right now because I can’t understand the orders. Everyone gets the same thing.”
When you go out—whether you’re at home or on tour—what do you look for in a good bar?
Music is a great thing. I like to do cocktails, so I look at what kind of drinks the place makes. Also, a lot of it is the crowd, like who’s going to the bar. There are definitely a couple bars in Baltimore that are nice-looking places, but I wouldn’t go there because the clientele is just douchebag bros or whatever it is. We try to stick together and go to places that are a good vibe, no fights or that kind of stuff.
What’s your go-to drink when you’re at a bar?
I’m a whiskey guy, so Jameson.
For you, what’s been the toughest part of owning a bar?
Fells Point, there are tons of bars down there. There are probably 30 bars in a three- or four-block radius. You see people walk by your bar sometimes, and you’re like, “Why didn’t they come in?” So you just kind of try to separate yourself and make our bar appeal to everyone. Once you get people in there, it’s easy, but getting people to come to a new bar is difficult, especially when they’ve been going to the same bar for so many years.
When you go out, what are you listening to?
Anything by Mötley Crüe is usually pretty good. The interesting thing about the music that’s played at the Rockwell is, you’ll hear Taking Back Sunday, the Starting Line and old Blink-182—things that you really would never hear anywhere else. It’s kind of similar to what they do in Europe, especially in England. You can drink when you’re 18 there, so the crowd is a lot younger. You go to bars and they play all these pop-punk bands that aren’t mainstream bands, and I just love that. You don’t have to play these massive Top 40 hits, and everyone can still have a good time. And if the bar doesn’t care that it’s not a popular song, I appreciate that they would go out on a limb.
The Rockwell, 702 S. Broadway, Fell's Point