The trouble with Odell's

July 15, 1992

The 2 a.m. shooting where five people were wounded outside Odell's early Monday does not surprise us at all. Since 1976, when the late Odell Brock opened his night club in the first block of East North Avenue, half a dozen people have been slain outside, often in arguments over narcotics.

In 1987, federal agents padlocked and confiscated the club after its then owner, Philip A. Murray, was arrested and convicted for his involvement in a major West Baltimore heroin ring. Much of that ring's money had been laundered through Odell's, prosecutors said.

The change of ownership would have been a splendid opportunity to change Odell's from a magnet for the drug crowd and the kind of lawlessness that goes with it. Unfortunately, the club's current owner, Milton Tillman, let that opportunity pass.

Instead, he ran such a disorderly operation that the city was forced to revoke Odell's private-club permit. In October, the city went to court seeking an injunction to close the club. Instead of ordering it closed, a judge put Odell's on probation. Even so, the club violated the rules and it was told either to seek rezoning as a dance hall or cease operation.

Odell's has taken a similarly cavalier attitude to the problems it creates by drawing big crowds of young people, many of whom mill outside without ever entering the club as patrons. Mr. Tillman says streets are not his problem. "When they learn to deal with crime all over the city, then it will probably slow down outside Odell's," he insists.

This was the club's argument again yesterday after its lawyers appeared in court following the weekend shootings. They claimed the violence outside the club on North Avenue was part of big-city life and not a matter the club could control. We disagree. We think ample evidence shows that the probability of violence would have been lessened throughout Odell's history had it been operated in a more responsible manner.

We urge the city to throw the book at Odell's. The nightspot makes no positive contribution to an area which is trying hard to become again the viable business stretch it once was.

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