Club's fate goes back before judge 5 wounded in shooting outside Odell's nightspot

July 14, 1992|By William F. Zorzi Jr.and Roger Twigg | William F. Zorzi Jr.and Roger Twigg,Staff Writers

After the shooting of five people outside Odell's early yesterday, lawyers for both the city and owners of the North Avenue nightspot will appear this morning before a Baltimore judge who just two weeks ago allowed the nightclub to remain open with certain restrictions.

Baltimore City Solicitor Neal M. Janey said yesterday he did not expect to make a specific request of Circuit Judge Ellen L. Hollander, but asked for the meeting to "get some direction on the next step" after consultation with police and zoning officials.

"Because of the immediacy, we wanted to confer with the judge and then, if necessary, to file a motion to seek relief from the court with respect to amending her order," Mr. Janey said.

The shooting occurred just after 2 a.m. as about 450 young people were leaving Odell's in the first block of E. North Ave., said Lt. Deal G. Allen of the Central District.

Police said a young man pulled a handgun and started shooting into the crowd after someone bumped him.

"Luckily, no one was killed," Lieutenant Allen said.

Four of the victims were shot in the legs, the fifth in the arm.

Anthony Long, 16, Overton Taylor, 20, and Michael Bowers, 18, were taken to Johns Hopkins Hospital, while William Yates, 18, and Robert Kelly, 17, were taken to Union Memorial Hospital, police said.

Anthony Long was in fair condition at Hopkins last night. Mr. Bowers and Mr. Taylor were treated and released, a Hopkins spokeswoman said.

Mr. Yates was in stable condition at Union Memorial last night. The Kelly youth was treated and released, a Union Memorial spokeswoman said.

Police are still seeking the suspect, described as a teen-ager last seen wearing dungaree shorts and a sleeveless T-shirt.

The city had gone to court seeking to close the nightspot because of a recent series of crimes near the club, as well as neighborhood complaints about patrons who swarm the streets outside. City officials maintained that the club was operating without a permit.

Under Judge Hollander's order, signed June 29, the club must get zoning board approval to operate as a dance hall, instead of a private club, to remain open permanently. In the interim, Odell's must close earlier, join other local merchants in hiring off-duty police to patrol the area and limit its patrons to club members only, the order required.

Elijah E. Cummings, the lawyer representing Odell's, said he too wanted to speak with the judge to brief her on the incident.

"Since we're under a court order, we're taking the position to let the judge know where our client stood on the issue," Mr. Cummings said. "I think it's important to take a proactive stand on this.

"My client had nothing to do with it -- it happened outside the establishment, the doors had been closed 15 minutes, the crowd was dispersed, and the young man who did the shooting never came into the club," Mr. Cummings said.

While Odell's has yet to revise its zoning board request, Mr. Cummings, who also is a delegate to the Maryland General Assembly, said the club will be requesting a hearing date soon. ** He also said the club has gotten together with other area merchants and soon will ask the city's permission to hire off-duty police to patrol the area, as the judge's order required.

Odell's, one of the most popular black nightclubs in the city, has been in operation since the 1970s. It bills itself as a private club, offering only punch and cookies to its patrons, many of whom are in their late teens and early 20s. The club, at 21 E. North Ave., is open only on weekend nights.

The conditions under which Odell's can remain open were outlined in Judge Hollander's order.

As part of the order, the club agreed to close its doors at 3 a.m. on Saturdays and Sundays and 2 a.m. on Mondays. It previously remained open as late as 4 a.m.

City officials and nearby residents want to see the club gone, and yesterday's incident has renewed calls to shut it down.

"My personal reaction is, 'Close 'em up,' " said resident Charles R. "Dick" Lloyd, co-chairman of the Charles-North Community Association who also owns a business in the area.

"The problem is that nothing usually goes on inside, the problem is what goes on outside," Mr. Lloyd said. "And outside -- that area is just a disaster. They double-park on North Avenue, and play those radios so loud you just can't think, then they drive around the block and wake everybody up.

"Their defense is that nothing goes on inside, and that the kids have to have a place to go, but it's the fact that they bring thousands of kids with them when they come," he said. "It takes the entire Central District and officers from other districts to control the crowds."

Yesterday's shootings are the latest in a series of incidents to occur outside Odell's.

Last July, a drive-by gunman fired shots into a crowd outside Odell's, injuring six people, including five teen-agers.

In September, 17 people were arrested outside the club for loitering after refusing police orders to move on.

In November, a club employee was arrested for disorderly conduct.

Besides the violence, some neighbors don't like the rowdy atmosphere they say is sparked by Odell's.

They complain about broken bottles littering sidewalks, strangers urinating in doorways, and of being awakened in early-morning hours by ruckuses on the street.

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