Odell's ruling delayed club still closed

September 03, 1992|By William F. Zorzi | William F. Zorzi,Staff Writer

A Baltimore Circuit Court judge agreed yesterday to postpone a final ruling on Odell's nightclub to give lawyers for the city and the troubled North Avenue nightspot more time to submit briefs supporting their arguments.

But Judge Ellen L. Hollander stipulated that the club must remain closed, saying "that's the linchpin" of her agreeing to the postponement, which was requested by lawyers for Odell's. Judge Hollander granted the delay in open court after a half-hour meeting in chambers with attorneys for both sides.

Judge Hollander said she would give the lawyers another month to prepare their briefs before she ruled on a request by city lawyers to throw out an earlier court-approved agreement that allowed Odell's to stay open until resolution of a zoning case.

The city zoning board ruled against Odell's in that case last week, in effect shutting down the club and resolving the case. But Judge Hollander said she would grant the additional time because documents submitted earlier were "rather skeletal."

Nevertheless, Assistant City Solicitor Sandra R. Gutman objected to a request by Odell's lawyers to put off a decision.

"The city is opposed to any further delays," Ms. Gutman told Judge Hollander.

"Odell's has delayed and delayed and delayed" the case.

Ira C. Cooke, the high-powered lobbyist-lawyer hired by the club's owners to assist state Del. Elijah E. Cummings in representing the club, asked Judge Hollander to delay ruling because he had only been brought into the matter last week.

Judge Hollander sided with Mr. Cooke and Mr. Cummings, a Baltimore Democrat, provided that the club remain closed, saying, "I'm satisfied that no harm will be done to the public. . . . I'm satisfied on that basis."

She told the lawyers that she might have decided differently "if Odell's was pressing the case to reopen."

While Mr. Cooke said the nightspot's owner, 19-21 Inc., agreed to keep the club closed until Judge Hollander ruled, he did say he would notify her should that change.

The judge gave Mr. Cooke and Mr. Cummings until Sept. 10 to submit a brief supporting Odell's arguments and gave the city until Sept. 24 to respond. She scheduled her ruling for Oct. 1.

No mention was made in the proceeding about the Tuesday morning raid on the closed club by FBI agents, who removed at least two boxes of documents and a computer in executing a federal search and seizure warrant.

Milton Tillman, president of 19-21 Inc., was not present in court yesterday.

Neither Mr. Cummings nor Mr. Cooke would comment on the raid. But Mr. Cummings did say that Mr. Tillman probably would retain another lawyer to represent him in any possible case involving the search and seizure.

Federal authorities have refused to disclose the target of their investigation or what they removed from the club, at 21 E. North Ave. They would say only that the raid was part of an ongoing investigation.

The raid was just the most recent in a spate of troubles for the club.

On Aug. 25, the Board of Municipal and Zoning Appeals denied Odell's application to remain open as a dance hall, basically shutting down the nightspot, which has been blamed for a rash of shootings and violence in the neighborhood around the club.

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

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