Anthony J. Ambridge said The Block has deteriorated since the 2nd District councilman sneaked down to one of its lurid nightclubs as 15-year-old to see a performance by the legendary stripper Blaze Starr.
Mr. Ambridge and the rest of the City Council voted Thursday to approve a bill to regulate The Block. After six years of negotiations between city officials and owners of businesses in the adult entertainment district, both sides agree that the new rules will permit its survival.
"The good businessmen will survive; the bad will not," said Mr. Ambridge, chairman of the City Council's land use committee.
The new ordinance requires owners of Block businesses to be licensed by Daniel P. Henson III, commissioner of the Department of Housing and Community Development, within 30 days. It also specifies the types of flashing signs permitted and bans the use of barkers outside the establishments.
"We went from extinction to having a life; for that, they're happy," said Robert B. Schulman, attorney for the East Baltimore Street Merchants Association, a group of more than 20 operators of adult entertainment businesses on or near The Block. He added, however, that "no one likes to be licensed when they weren't licensed before."
The compromise that satisfied both sides related to the hours of operation for The Block. In the fall of 1993, Block owners filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of a city law that would have prohibited them from opening until 6 p.m.
Under the ordinance, the adult entertainment establishments can operate from noon until 2 a.m., allowing them to maintain their lunchtime business.
For Tony Pulaski, the owner of the Stage Door Bar on Commerce Street, the compromise was irrelevant. He said he does not open his establishment until 7 p.m. but fully supports the regulation.
"I was for it all the way," said Mr. Pulaski, who is not a member of Mr. Schulman's association.
The ordinance gives owners three years to get rid of "neon lights . . . posters, photographs, sketches, painted or laminated signs . . . that depict adult entertainment."
The new law also establishes procedures for suspending or revoking a club's license if prostitution or illegal drugs are found there.
"It's going to make the Block owners clean up their act a little bit," said Claude Edward Hitchcock, counsel for the mayor and the City Council.
Mr. Ambridge said The Block needs such regulation because the adult entertainment strip is nothing like the way it was when Blaze Starr performed there.
"It was burlesque, then," he said. "It's not brimming with the vibrancy it once had. Times have changed."