This building at 117 N. Sixth Ave. will soon be home to John Henry's, a neighborhood bar opening on the north end of downtown. 

A new bar named for a steel-driving folk hero is set to open on the north end of downtown by the end of October.

John Henry’s will fill the space most recently occupied by the comic-book-inspired gallery Constant Con at 117 N. Sixth Ave., just north of the East Pennington Street intersection.

Co-owner Brenndon Scott’s original vision was to launch a dive bar downtown in the same vein as The District Tavern, which held court on East Congress Street for a decade before being pushed out by rising rent costs in 2015. 

Plans have since changed.

“We are rebuilding a lot of this place from the ground up,” Scott said. “There is new plumbing, electric. It won’t have that dive-bar feel to it because everything is so new.”

Scott, who also co-owns the Bashful Bandit on East Speedway and The Boxyard on North Fourth Avenue, is instead shooting for a neighborhood bar vibe.

When construction is complete, John Henry’s will welcome customers with a large, horseshoe-shaped main bar top and seating that lines the walls.

Its menu will include ten taps and a selection of high-end whiskies and mezcal. Cocktail and mixed drink options will not be overly complicated.

“The drinks offered will be recognizable, affordable,” Scott said.

Scott plans to tap artist Joe Pagac to decorate the bar’s inner and outer walls with colorful murals.

Pagac’s eye-pleasing work can be found all over town, including on the walls at The Boxyard.

“Joe is a good human and people can’t stop taking pictures of the other stuff he has done for us,” Scott said. “I’ll support that all day long.”

Scott said he chose the name John Henry’s because of the bar’s close proximity to the railroad tracks.

As the story goes, John Henry was an African American steel-driver for the Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad line who died defeating a steam-powered rock drilling machine in a race. 

Scott said while the bar is a little bit beyond the hustle and bustle of East Congress, he isn’t worried about drawing customers.

He cites The Owls Club, another downtown bar that opened in the old Bring Funeral Home on South Scott Avenue, as an example of spaces doing well off the beaten path.

“The Owls Club is a little more hidden and they are still kicking ass,” Scott said. “We have that ability. As long as we are good to our customers, I’m confident in this spot.”

Scott said, with all the new development coming to downtown, he hopes to see his customer base grow around John Henry’s.

“We want this to be a fixture,” he said.

Reporter

Gerald received his journalism degree from the University of Maryland. He has been with the Star for 16 years and has covered a variety of beats. Currently, he divides his time between the presentation desk and as a member of the digital team.