The County Council sitting as the Liquor Board voted 3-2 Friday to transfer the liquor license of a north Laurel restaurant to new ownerswho plan to feature go-go dancers.
Although she voted with the majority to grant the transfer, Shane Pendergrass, D-1st, who represents the district in which the restaurant is located, attached a statement to the decision saying she does "not condone the exploitation of women or men."
Since "the applicant's unrebutted sworn testimony indicates that dancers will comply with the law in Howard County, it would not be proper for the board to assume otherwise," Pendergrass said.
Behnam Zangenah, who owns 90 percent of the stock in the Round Table restaurant in the 9900 block on U.S. 1, is also owner of a Washington, D.C.,restaurant that features topless women dancers. Such dancers are notlegal in Howard County.
The issue of having women dancers as entertainment in a restaurant is "irrelevant to the legal criteria that the board must adhere to in reaching its decision," Pendergrass said in her statement.
During the June 18 hearing before the Liquor Board, Pendergrass told Zangenah, "What I'm hearing tonight sounds like abar. I don't understand why you have dancers in a restaurant."
"It's part of today's culture," Zangenah said, adding that if the restaurant was unable to sell more food than alcohol, he would apply for achange in the license.
"What if I bring my 12-year-old daughter and 8-year-old son with me to your restaurant?" Pendergrass asked.
"At the door, I would let them know exactly what kind of a place it is," Zangenah said. "I don't think that's the place for children."
Zangenah also was questioned about the requirement that the applicantbe a "fit and proper person."
Although attorney Thomas M. Meachumemphasized that Zangenah had never had a liquor violation in 20 years in the restaurant and bar business, the board looked askance at Zangenah's driving record: five failures to appear in court, two failures to appear at administrative hearings, three suspensions of his driver's license and 33 points on his license since 1969.
Zangenah told the board most of his violations were for speeding "10 miles over the limit," and that it was his driving in "a Rolls Royce, Austin-Martin, Jaguar -- those kinds of cars" that attracted police attention.
"You might not hire him as a chauffeur any time soon," Meachum toldthe board, "but his record speaks for itself as far as (compliance with) the liquor law is concerned."
Zangenah told the board 20 to 25 people call him each day to ask when his restaurant will open. He said he will have a jukebox rather than live music for the dancers andwill not be "disturbing the peace of residents in the neighborhood" because no residents live nearby.
C. Vernon Gray, D-3rd, and Charles C. Feaga, R-5th, voted with Pendergrass to approve the license transfer. Darrel Drown, R-2nd, and Paul R. Farragut, D-4th, voted against it.