To its patrons, the Earleigh Heights Tavern was a "little country bar" where you could get a Bud draft for 50 cents and play a little pinball with the guys.
To some nearby residents in Severna Park, the bar was a nuisance -- a place that drew people who drank too much, fought too much and did drugs.
The neighborhood squabble took on intense proportions this week when Anne Arundel County police arrested the tavern's owner and charged him with possessing explosives. Police say they believe the explosives were to have been used to blow up the home of a neighbor who had fought to get the Liquor Board to close the bar.
David G. Paff, 64, was released on $25,000 bond after his arrest Sunday.
Lt. Gary Sheckells of the county's Fire Department said investigators found in Paff's possession a pipe bomb "which could have a destroyed a medium-sized dwelling and killed or maimed anyone inside" along with some other destructive devices, several weapons and firecrackers.
Situated in a wooded area off Earleigh Heights Road, not far from the traffic blur of Ritchie Highway, Paff's former tavern -- it closed two weeks ago when the Liquor Board seized the license -- sits on the fringe of a changing neighborhood. Older, wood frame houses and a few trailers remain in the area, but the neighborhood also includes many new, luxury, single-family homes.
Police searched Paff's home and tavern after receiving a tip Paff had bombs which he intended to use to destroy the home of the man who spearheaded the drive to shut the tavern.
Paff took it over in October 1984. According to records from the county's Liquor Board office, neighbors had begun complaining
by early 1985. The tavern had its liquor license suspended after patrons began drinking on the tavern's parking lot.
Last July, about 60 residents of Earleigh Heights and the nearby Oaks of Severna Park subdivision sent a petition to the Liquor Board asking that the tavern be shut down. The petition was preceded and followed by several letters from Gary Briggs, whose home is alleged to have been the bomb target.
Briggs couldn't be reached for comment.
By last September, the tavern was shut down, and its liquor license revoked after Paff was found to have allowed alcohol to be sold to minors, and drugs to be sold on the property. The tavern reopened in December following a court order pending an appeal of the Liquor Board penalties, but was closed two weeks ago after the court rejected the appeal.
Supporters and detractors of Paff are hesitant to talk about the man. Those who did talk did so only without the use of their names.
One man, who lives near the tavern and said he worked there as a bouncer six months ago, said the bar had its problems, but he and other bouncers did their best to keep out rowdy customers.
"At one time, we had a bar list of about 30 people we were trying to keep out," the man said."
"Some of the neighbors complained there were lots of drugs, and a lot of noise and fights. They got together and signed a petition. But we got together and made up our own petition to keep it open. We must have had a hundred or more people sign it," he added.
Another man who did not want his name used said he used to visit the bar fairly frequent. "Things sometimes got out of hand, but it wasn't all that bad," he said.
Neither man expressed surprise that explosive devices were found at Paff's home and tavern.
"I never heard him threaten anybody but he kept about 40 guns in [the tavern]," said the first man. "He had a pipe bomb in there, too, but he never threatened anybody."