Agreement reached for bill that will extend Block's hours

October 04, 1994|By Michael James | Michael James,Sun Staff Writer

You can still have a lunchtime drink on The Block, according to a tentative agreement worked out between Baltimore officials and owners of the adult entertainment district.

The agreement, reached sometime over the summer, would settle a lawsuit filed against the city by Block owners by easing some restrictions -- particularly a ban on daytime operating hours -- imposed in a city law passed last year. An amended bill is now before the City Council.

"The Block is going to survive and stay open and hopefully flourish. We're happy as can be," said Robert B. Schulman, a lawyer for the East Baltimore Street Merchants Association, a group of more than 20 operators of adult entertainment businesses on or near The Block.

Block owners had filed a lawsuit last fall, challenging the constitutionality of a city law that required the businesses to operate only between 6 p.m. and 2 a.m.

"It was unconstitutional because it would have literally closed them down. That's not fair," Mr. Schulman said. "The prior bill would have put The Block out of business. . . .If the amendment is consistent with what we agreed to, we'll dismiss the lawsuit."

The law passed last fall was put on hold by a Circuit Court judge while the constitutionality questions were ironed out. The amended bill would make The Block's operating hours from noon to 2 a.m. -- hours most of the bars currently maintain.

Those new hours, however, would mean a significant change for the adult book stores and "peep shows" that are currently open 24 hours, said city Solicitor Neal Janey.

"The amendments are not that substantial," Mr. Janey said. "Even 12 to 2 a.m. is a curtailment of business" for some of the Block shops.

Both Mr. Janey and Mr. Schulman, reached at their homes last night, said they could not recall the date when the agreement was reached. The bill could come before the council as early as next month, Mr. Janey said.

The bill would still impose other curtailments on Block owners. Most notably, it would restrict the decades-long tradition of "barkers" -- people who stand in front of the businesses and beckon customers.

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