Group urges neighborhood challenges to troublesome liquor outlets' licenses

March 09, 1994|By Norris P. West | Norris P. West,Sun Staff Writer

Using a closed-down East Baltimore night club as backdrop, members of The City Wide Liquor Coalition yesterday urged city residents to challenge the liquor licenses of package stores and taverns linked to drug dealing, loitering, noise and other community problems.

Challenges to the licenses held by the city's 1,650 bars, restaurants and liquor stores can be filed with the Baltimore City Board of Liquor Commissioners throughout March. Hearings will be scheduled next month for any business hit with challenges from at least 10 people.

The coalition maintains that there are too many liquor establishments in the city's poor, predominantly black neighborhoods. Some of the establishments are magnets for drug dealing and related crimes, said Bev Thomas, chairwoman of the coalition.

"This is the time that we can have a say as to whether these establishments stay or leave," Ms. Thomas said.

The coalition is coming fresh off a successful campaign that resulted in a ban on billboard advertising of alcohol and tobacco products in Baltimore.

Yesterday, the group targeted the Club Tahiti in the 1900 block of Greenmount Ave in the East Baltimore Midway neighborhood. The club closed four years ago when its owner became ill.

Neighborhood residents are challenging the transfer of the Club Tahiti's liquor license to a relative of the owner who wants to reopen it.

Residents say there are too many liquor carry-outs in the area. Five package stores operate in the 1900 and 2000 blocks of Greenmount Avenue.

The coalition was joined by the Citizens Planning and Housing Association, Associated Black Charities, a local community organizer and a Johns Hopkins professor.

Dr. Thomas A. LaVeist, assistant professor of health policy and management at Hopkins, said the large number of package stores in black neighborhoods cause alcoholism, drugs and crime. He said the stores have a significant impact on young people.

"The availability of liquor affects their perceptions of the proper use of alcohol," said Dr. LaVeist, who is completing a study on the effect of package stores on Baltimore's black neighborhoods.

City Council President Mary Pat Clarke urged residents to be persistent when they go after troublesome liquor establishments. She said the challenges set in motion a time-consuming process. She used a familiar baseball metaphor to make her point.

"Based on my years and experience, it's three strikes and you're out," Ms. Clarke said, explaining that the board usually gives troublesome establishments two chances to correct their problems before shutting them.

The coalition has set up a hot line for residents seeking help to challenge the license. The number is 539-1369, from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesdays.

Aaron L. Stansbury, the liquor board's executive secretary, welcomed the coalition's call for action.

"That's good advice," said Mr. Stansbury, whose board must approve renewals. "If there's a problematic place in the community, it ought to be dealt with before a license is renewed."

He said those opposing a liquor establishment must cite specific complaints. He said one of the most effective ways to challenge a license is to submit a petition with at least 10 names, stating the objections.

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