The ties that bind reach breaking point at Danny's

November 23, 1991|By David Michael Ettlin

A bitter marital dispute has closed down the bar at one of Baltimore's most celebrated and highly rated restaurants -- Danny's -- and may turn its estranged husband-and-wife owners into Charles Street competitors.

The 30-year-old Danny's, which for years displayed plaques with its four-star rating, was sold in May by founders Danny and Bea Dickman to their son and daughter-in-law, Stuart H. and June B. Dickman.

By Stuart's account, his wife of four years began talking divorce with a lawyer shortly thereafter.

Early last Friday, the 50-year-old Mr. Dickman said, his estranged wife fired several shots through his bedroom door with a semiautomatic weapon.

Mrs. Dickman, 46, reached by telephone at Danny's, declined to discuss the situation with a reporter. "We're trying to stay alive, and there are problems, real bad problems," was all she would say of the restaurant and the dispute.

She is free on $25,000 bail from her arrest on a District Court warrant obtained by her husband last Friday charging her with assaultwith intent to murder, battery and carrying a handgun.

On Monday, her husband turned in the liquor license for Danny's to the Baltimore Board of Liquor License Commissioners for safekeeping -- effectively shutting down the bar service at the restaurant on the northeast corner of Charles and Biddle streets.

Although Stuart and June Dickman own the restaurant, the license remained only in his and his parents' names.

Meanwhile, Mr. Dickman has been planning to open another restaurant four blocks north of Danny's, in the now-closed Chesapeake Restaurant in the 1700 block of North Charles.

He said he and some "silent partners" he would not identify have bought the Chesapeake, including its liquor license, and hope to open it within days.

Aaron L. Stansbury, the liquor board's executive secretary, said a license for the Chesapeake -- in the name of the building's owner, Robert Sapero -- was granted in March.

Mr. Sapero had purchased the building in a foreclosure auction in 1986, and the Chesapeake reopened for a time under new management that had leased the restaurant from him.

No application has been filed for transfer or sale of the beer, wine and liquor license for Danny's. Mr. Dickman brought the license in, saying he would not be responsible for the restaurant's

conduct in the sale of liquor and therefore did not want it to be operated under his name, according to Mr. Stansbury.

"It has been purported to us that she [Mrs. Dickman] has purchased some interest in the business," Mr.Stansbury said.

"It has created some kind of internal corporate problem here. It's almost like a takeover. Stuart has deposited the license with the board on behalf of himself, his father and mother.

"Until they can resolve the internal corporate problems through the court or mutual agreement, I suppose the [bar] will remain closed," Mr. Stansbury said.

Although liquor may not be sold, Mr. Stansbury said patrons could, with management approval, bring their own bottles into ,, Danny's.

A caller inquiring about liquor service Thursday night was told that the restaurant would provide a complimentary bottle of wine with dinner.

But Mr. Stansbury said yesterday that the law would prohibit an unlicensed restaurant from giving away the wine "if they're charging for the meal."

Mr. Dickman said the shooting incident occurred about 4:15 a.m. Friday, after a 6 1/2 -hour meeting with his wife and their lawyers, at which no settlement was reached.

Baltimore County police said it was Mrs. Dickman who called for officers to come to the house in the 2300 block of Eastlake Road in Timonium, reporting that her husband had a gun and had left. Police said Mrs. Dickman told them she did not want to say anything that would get her husband locked up, and "didn't want us there."

Meanwhile, Mr. Dickman had called for officers to meet him at a nearby Royal Farm Store to give his version of how his wife had "cranked off a couple of shots at him through the bedroom door," police said.

"She claimed no knowledge of that and refused to let police inside," said Officer Fred Balk at the Cockeysville precinct.

Mrs. Dickman was arrested at 8:30 that morning after her husband obtained the warrant.

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