The county government tentatively agreed Monday to postpone plans todemolish a Sykesville tavern with a sordid past.
Until Monday, the administration and Howard W. Bollinger were at an impasse over a fair price for The Duke's Place, a tavern noted for brass knuckle-broken bottle brawling and blatant discrimination against blacks until Bollinger became a part-owner in 1984.
After he became majority owner in 1990, the bar's reputation changed so completely that it has become what Bollinger calls "a decent, respectable place where you can come in and feel comfortable."
So comfortable in fact, he says, that it is worth more than the $150,000the county offered him for it. The administration disagreed and asked the council to condemn the property and let the courts decide its value.
The county wants to acquire the 1.33-acre property and tear down the tavern on the south branch of the Patapsco River as part of its flood-management program.
At Monday night's work session on the condemnation bill, Bollinger's attorneys suggested a compromise. They said Bollinger might be willing to accept the county offer if he and his wife were allowed to keep the tavern and run it for the rest of their lives. Both are in their early 70s.
Recreation and Parks Director Jeffrey A. Bourne, negotiating on behalf of the county, told the council the impromptu offer seemed reasonable, and the council agreed to put the condemnation bill on hold for 60 days to give Bollinger and the administration time to forge an agreement.
Attorney Jeff Griffith told the council that while he had not discussed the proposal with Bollinger, he would recommend it to him. Bollinger could notbe reached for comment.
Ultimately, the county plans to tear downthe tavern to lessen the county's need for emergency response in case of a flood, Bourne said. He told the council that acquisition of the property also ties in with the county's need for a north-central neighborhood park.
Bourne told the council an agreement along the lines Griffith was proposing would not jeopardize a state grant needed to help subsidize the project.
The Duke's Place acreage would linkup with the Hugg-Thomas wildlife refuge to the west and Patapsco Valley State Park to the east in Carroll County to create a larger park,Bourne said.
Griffith told the council that since Howard is in aneconomic recession, it is unlikely the county would build a park on the property soon. Bourne agreed.
A postponement would benefit notonly the Bollingers, Griffith said, but would save the jobs of five full- and five part-time employees, as well as satisfy customers who want to keep the tavern open as long as possible.