Odell's and city could be on verge of compromise that would keep club open

August 27, 1992|By William F. Zorzi Jr. | William F. Zorzi Jr.,Staff Writer

After meeting privately with lawyers for both the city and Odell's nightclub for about an hour yesterday, a Baltimore circuit judge agreed to postpone a hearing on the fate of the troubled North Avenue nightspot.

Judge Ellen L. Hollander's decision to postpone the case indicated that Odell's owner and city officials who have sought to shut down the club might strike a compromise that would allow the nightspot to remain open.

"We're going to do whatever we can to keep Odell's open," said Del. Elijah E. Cummings, D-Baltimore, an attorney representing the owner, 19-21 Inc.

"We met in chambers, and there are some issues we're trying to work out. But I don't want to go into details."

In court, Mr. Cummings told Judge Hollander that the club would be closed this weekend, pending the new hearing, which the judge scheduled for Sept. 2.

Mr. Cummings, who as a General Assembly delegate is vice chairman of the House Constitutional and Administrative Law Committee, also informed Judge Hollander that another lawyer would be assisting in the case.

That lawyer is Ira C. Cooke, one of the most high-powered and high-profile lobbyists in Annapolis, who was present at the meeting in chambers and in court yesterday.

The Board of Municipal and Zoning Appeals voted 3-1 Tuesday to deny Odell's application to remain open as a dance hall, seeming in effect to shut down the nightspot, which has been blamed for a rash of shootings and violence in the neighborhood around the club, at 21 E.North Ave.

Since last year, Odell's has been operating without a zoning permit but under court-approved agreements with city officials that imposed conditions on the club's operation, pending resolution of the zoning case.

Although the city revoked Odell's zoning permit to operate as a ** private club and twice has gone to court to close the establishment for non-compliance, the nightclub has managed to stay open temporarily under the provisions of the court-approved agreements.

Mr. Cummings said again yesterday that he would appeal the zoning board's most recent ruling. If that is the case, Judge Hollander could stay the board's decision, pending the outcome of the appeal, which would allow time for some sort of compromise to be struck.

"Hopefully the door is open for us to do something," Mr. Cummings said. "What form that will take, I really have no idea."

But, Mr. Cummings said his greater concern was for the city's youth, who would be losing a place to go at night.

"My concern is these kids," he said. "I'm looking at this violence,and I don't know if closing Odell's is going to stop it, really.

"These are not bad kids who go to Odell's," he said.

"I've talked to a lot of kids and parents who don't like the picture that's being painted, that they're bad kids because of the violence that happens outside the club.

"This is the only nightspot in the city for African-American youths, and the city cannot find a way to keep an establishment that caters to African-American young people open," Mr. Cummings said. "What does that say? It sends a terrible message."

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