Tecla Tesnau, who has bartended at The Ottobar since it opened 21 years ago, will become the new owner of the gritty and beloved Baltimore live music club, she told WTMD in an exclusive interview on Friday.
With Tesnau in charge, The Ottobar will become even more inclusive – she hopes to bring in drag shows, literary nights and other events, and build on The Ottobar’s storied reputation as a hub for music spanning genres and generations.
“To be honest with you, I really don’t want to change a single thing,” Tesnau said. “At all. Except for maybe clean the bathrooms.”
The news will come as a relief to members of Baltimore’s tight-knit arts and music community. Last November, when The Ottobar’s current owners announced they were putting the club up for sale, fans and musicians worried the club would go the way of other Baltimore counter-culture institutions like the City Paper, the Hippo and the Bell Foundry.
In the past several months, Tesnau watched as other potential buyers brought in architects to see how they could re-imagine The Ottobar as an exclusive club for rock music or some other genre. And she fielded countless questions from distraught concertgoers wondering about the future of the club, which has become part of the fabric of Baltimore’s music scene.
“The outpouring from people, face to face as I was bartending, from patrons who were upset that this was potentially going by the wayside as a cultural nexus for Baltimore, it really struck a chord in me,” Tesnau said.
So Tesnau decided to see what it would take to buy The Ottobar herself. And after months of consulting with investors, financial advisors and the club’s current owners, it’s official – Tesnau will become the new owner of The Ottobar.
In a few months, she’ll take the keys from the current owners Michael Bowen, Craig Boarman and Brian DeRan.
“I’ve been there shoulder to shoulder with them this entire time,” Tesnau said. “It’s been a wild ride, and I don’t want it to stop.”
Tesnau joins a growing number of female business owners in Baltimore’s arts, restaurant and music scene, including the Metro Gallery’s Sarah Werner, Samantha Claassen of Golden West and Lane Harlan of WC Harlan and Clavel.
“I feel honored to join that cavalcade,” she said. “I think the future is female, the future is diverse, and I’m just thrilled. Beyond thrilled. As a woman, you want to be able to pave the way for the women who come behind you. I’ve always tried to be a bit of a role model. Granted, a bit of a degenerate role model, but a role model nonetheless. We are living in a city where our patron saint is John Waters. So, we have this degenerate joie de vivre. But yes, I would like to consider myself one of hopefully many more that come behind me.”
The Ottobar’s current schedule of shows will continue as planned, and Tesnau is planning a series of events to celebrate the club’s new ownership this fall.