Local Bar Is Contested Terrain

Duke's Place May Fall Victim To Floodmanagement

April 26, 1992|By James M. Coram | James M. Coram,Staff writer

A photo caption in Sunday's Howard County Sun listed an inaccurate date in noting when the Patapsco Inn, a Sykesville tavern, became The Duke's Place. Owner Duke Bollinger began making improvements in 1984.

The Howard County Sun regrets the errors.

If you've never been to The Duke's Place in Sykesville, it might not matter that the county wants to tear it down as part of a flood management program.

If you've only heard of the tavern's pre-1984 reputation -- the unbridled discrimination against blacks, the brass-knuckle, broken-bottle brawls, the illegal gambling, the parking lot beatings and the gunfire that occurred there -- you might even be pleased to learn that the county plans to demolish what used to be calledthe Patapsco Inn.

But if you've visited The Duke's Place in the last two years -- the time in which Howard W. Bollinger has owned it and Mariam L. Dearing has managed it -- you might feel a little sad.

In the last two years, the tavern has become what 72-year-old "Duke" Bollinger calls "a workingman's bar -- a decent, respectable place where you can come in and feel comfortable."

Now that the tavern has become somewhat respectable, the county wants it.

But not for historical reasons. The tavern sits on the edge of the south branch ofthe Patapsco River. The county plans to acquire and demolish the tavern as part of a 1991 capital project.

Until then, you're likely to find Duke playing cards with cronies at a table just to the right of the door. Some of the players are retired and start every day with a game early in the morning.

To the left of the card game is the bar -- a very long bar attended weekdays by female bartenders and staffed weekends by both men and women. Evenings, "Suzie" Dearing is likely to be there sitting on the end stool. Above her is a sign reminiscent of the old days, when people were physically ejected onto the street and warned not to come back.

It says: "When barred, the first offense is permanent."

Once cleared, the property will be converted to parkland with the help of a state grant. All that needs to be settled now is the price.

Bollinger objects that the county's offer is for land only -- 1.329 acres. He says he is aware the tavern building will not be appraised for much, but feels he is entitled to receive some compensation for losing his business.

He also questions the wisdom of the county spending money to develop a park that would beused predominantly by Carroll County residents.

"How you going tocontrol flooding by tearing this down?" he asks. "They're talking about spending $1.2 million for this park, but if you look around in a 5-mile radius, you won't see hardly anything but Carroll County families."

Recreation and Parks Department director Jeffrey A. Bourne acknowledges that the plan came about after discussions with officialsin Sykesville and was intended to achieve joint goals.

Removal ofstructures in a flood plain lessens the county's need for emergency response, he said. Also, the county needed a north-central neighborhood park. This property would link up with the Hugg-Thomas wildlife refuge to the west and Patapsco Valley State Park to the east in Carroll County, thus creating a larger park.

Bollinger and the county are so far apart on price, however, that the administration has asked the County Council to condemn the property and let the courts decide its value. The council will review the condemnation request at a work session tomorrow night.

Bourne says the county is "more than willing to sit down any time to achieve a settlement." The stalemate, he says, is that they have two different views of the worth of the property and the business.

Bourne says the county called in two independent appraisers and had the estimates confirmed by the State Highway Administration.

Although the county won't reveal its offering price, it appears negotiators have made two offers, one of $120,000 and a second and final offer of $150,000 based on the independent appraisals.

According to public records, Bollinger and two other buyers paid $150,000 on March 15, 1984, for the Patapsco Inn. Bollinger had a 45 percent interest. Bollinger says he and the other majority owner disagreed as to how the bar should be run, and that as a result, Bollinger bought the co-owner's shares. Official records show the May 5, 1990, price for the extra 45 percent was $85,000.

Dearing, who owns 10 percent, says the county paid $220,000 for the lot next to the oneBollinger owns. She doesn't think the county is doing right by either Bollinger, his employees or the people who frequent the tavern.

Around the corner from where she sits is a billiards table that is almost always surrounded by men in plaid shirts, jeans and work boots. Some are shooting pool. Most are watching and kibitzing.

On weekdays, there are likely to be 50 to 60 people, mostly men, in the bar after work. On weekends, the 24-by-60-foot building is wall-to-wall with people. It is not the place to look for a date.

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