Ambridge bill aimed at Odell's It would make reopening tougher

February 24, 1993|By William F. Zorzi Jr. | William F. Zorzi Jr.,Staff Writer

Baltimore City Councilman Anthony J. Ambridge introduced legislation last night that would slow -- if not eliminate -- the chances for reopening the controversial Odell's nightclub as a restaurant and banquet hall with entertainment.

The 2nd District Democrat said he introduced the bill at the request of neighborhood residents, who were "panicking" because the North Avenue club has applied for a permit to reopen as an establishment now permitted in that zoning district.

"The community said this is the first time in years they've gotten any sleep," Mr. Ambridge said.

Odell's corporate owner, 19-21 Inc., shut the doors of the troubled nightspot last August after the Board of Municipal and Zoning Appeals denied the club's application to stay open as a dance hall.

Appeals of that zoning decision and two others -- including the city's 1991 revocation of Odell's permit to operate as a private club -- are pending in a consolidated case in Baltimore Circuit Court.

But three weeks ago, the owners applied to the Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) for a permit to operate a restaurant with entertainment on the first floor and a meeting and banquet hall on the second floor at 19-21 East North Ave. Those uses are permitted under the city zoning code.

"I suspect they're using this as a guise to have another dance hall, which obviously is not intended to be permitted in this area," Mr. Ambridge said. "Odell's has been totally disruptive to the community, and we can't allow that."

Under the Ambridge bill, restaurants and banquet halls with live or recorded entertainment would become a conditional use in the Charles North urban renewal area -- which includes Odell's -- requiring the owner to petition the zoning board for its blessing to open.

In Odell's case, such a blessing is unlikely, given that the city had tried for two years to shut down the nightspot because of shootings and violence outside the club and nearby residents' complaints of early morning traffic jams, noise and litter.

Mr. Ambridge said he has asked HCD to delay action on the use and occupancy permit application until his bill becomes law "because previous amendments to the urban renewal ordinance have been designed to minimize effect of large clubs."

HCD officials have asked police, fire, and health departments to review the application and have requested that housing inspectors to visit the site, Mr. Ambridge said.

"We don't even know if they have a kitchen," the councilman said. Mr. Ambridge said area residents were prepared to file a "negative appeal" with the Board of Municipal and Zoning Appeals, should HCD issue the permit.

City officials believed Odell's was gone for good, after the club closed in August and, a few weeks later, the president of 19-21 Inc. was indicted on a charge of trying to bribe a member of the Board of Municipal and Zoning Appeals.

The president, Milton Tillman, 37, of the 2400 block of Pinewood Ave., pleaded guilty Feb. 9 to trying to bribe zoning board member Giavonna A. Blattermann last August in an attempt to keep the city from closing the club. Sentencing is April 23.

The middleman in the bribery scheme, Marvin Harris, 54, of the 2800 block of Taney Road, was sentenced to six months in prison without parole and fined $10,000 Feb. 19 by a federal judge. The Baltimore bail bondsman pleaded guilty Sept. 30, 1992 to one count of conspiring to commit extortion.

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