New owner sets reopening of Sphinx Club Historic nightspot on Pennsylvania Ave. to become Poppa's Place

September 18, 1992|By Eric Siegel | Eric Siegel,Staff Writer

A Baltimore businessman hopes to reopen the historic Sphinx Club on Pennsylvania Avenue under a new name by Thanksgiving.

William Monroe, 60, said he wants to "carry on the tradition" of the 46-year-old club, which for decades was Baltimore's premiere black social club and a landmark on "The Avenue" during its heyday in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s. The club has been shuttered since July.

The city liquor board approved yesterday the transfer of the Sphinx Club's liquor license to Mr. Monroe from Frances Tilghman, the widow of club founder Charles Tilghman, who died in 1988.

The board's approval came despite the objections of representatives of two nearby churches, who argued that the crime-ridden area would be better off if the club was put to another use.

"We don't need another nightclub. What are nightclubs doing? They're creating chaos," said John Hancock, a member of Christ Temple Church, next door to the Sphinx.

But Robert Bloom, Mr. Monroe's lawyer, countered that if the transfer was denied, the building would be razed eventually and the lot left vacant.

He asked that his client be given "an opportunity to become a good citizen of that neighborhood."

The board placed a restriction on the new licensee prohibiting the sale of package goods, something Mr. Monroe said he had no intention of doing.

"I'm going to try to run it in the same way it's been run before," said Mr. Monroe, who bought the club at auction in July.

He has put more than $100,000 into the building, including the purchase price, payment of back taxes and renovations, his attorney said.

Mr. Monroe said he will change the name of the club to Poppa's Place because the late Mr. Tilghman's three children retain the right to the name Sphinx Club.

Mr. Tilghman used to call everyone Poppa, said Mr. Monroe, who added that he has owned businesses and property in the area for the last 10 years.

In other action yesterday, the liquor board fined the Gold Club at 5801 Pulaski Highway $200 for twice violating prohibitions on nude and obscene performances.

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