Fells Point group protests new entertainment area

February 09, 1993|By Edward Gunts | Edward Gunts,Staff Writer

An industrial no man's land between the Inner Harbor and Fells Point would be transformed into Baltimore's newest entertainment district if city agencies approve proposals submitted by two entrepreneurs.

Baltimore's liquor and zoning boards have received applications from groups that want to operate large-capacity entertainment establishments starting this spring, and planners say others could follow.

The projects are:

* The Warehouse, a $250,000 catering facility and concert hall that would be created inside an old masonry warehouse at 511 S. Central Ave. Planned by Damian and Bernard Bohager, it would be an adjunct to Bohager's Bar and Grill, which opened last summer at 515 S. Eden St. Employing 50 to 60 people, the multipurpose facility could accommodate up to 1,500 patrons for catered events and up to 2,800 for concerts.

* The Good Sports Club, an $800,000 recreation and restaurant complex mixing outdoor volleyball, boccie and horseshoes with dining areas and a concert band-shell. Capable of holding up to 1,500 people at once, it would operate only in warm weather months on the old O'Malley Lumber property on Aliceanna Street, creating 150 jobs. Its developer is the Good Sports Club Inc., a Maryland corporation whose principal shareholder is Barry Gutin of Woodbury, N.J.

Both developers seek to build their projects as conditional uses within the industrially zoned district that straddles Central Avenue.

Baltimore's Board of Municipal and Zoning Appeals will consider the Sports Club proposal during a meeting today at 1 p.m. in City Hall. It will hold a hearing on the Warehouse Feb. 23. The city liquor board has tentatively granted a liquor license for the Warehouse but has not held a hearing for the sports club.

Fells Point residents have voiced concerns about a possible influx of "mega-bars" in the Central Avenue corridor. In response, members of the City Council's 1st District this month introduced legislation that would place a moratorium for a year or more on the opening of any "social gathering place for more than 150 patrons."

Should the moratorium be approved by the full council, it would affect the area bounded by Caroline Street, Eastern and Central avenues, and the harbor's edge -- an area that includes both proposed businesses.

Clyde "Bud" Billings, president of the Fells Point Homeowners Association, said his group intends to protest the sports club proposal at today's zoning board hearing.

The homeowners have calculated that 46 liquor licenses issued in the Fells Point area govern establishments with a total capacity of 5,382 people. They say the two new operations would raise that figure significantly. They also point out that a facility with a capacity of 1,500 people would be 12 times larger than the average Fells Point bar.

"Our concern is that the area is going to become something like the Ocean City boardwalk, with more and more entertainment possibilities and men and women getting blitzed."

The Shakespeare Street resident said he is especially concerned about "tank-top terrors" who walk on cars and yell late at night. Residents are also concerned, he said, about straining the city's already-overworked Police Department.

Mr. Gutin said he believes his project merits approval because it would create jobs, generate tax revenues and rejuvenate the area.

The sports club is part of a national trend in which entrepreneurs are creating alternatives to standard bars, he added. "It's conceived in recognition of the fact that people now more than ever want to go to a place where there is more to do than just sit and drink," he said. "Because of that, it's going to attract a well-mannered and diverse clientele."

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