Bar fights

April 11, 1995

Annapolis Alderman Louise Hammond attracts controversy the way pollen attracts bees. This time around, critics are attacking the councilwoman who represents the Ward One downtown district for trying to help George Phillips. He's a longtime friend of Ms. Hammond who is asking the city to allow him to sell his 2 a.m. liquor license when he sells his Harbour House restaurant.

Although in the past Mrs. Hammond has opposed restaurant owners who tried to acquire late-night liquor licenses, she believes Mr. Phillips should be allowed to sell his license to a new owner. Her critics say she is playing favorites. Mrs. Hammond replies that she is merely trying to help a constituent and uphold the Ward One Sector Study, the city's downtown development blueprint.

We have had our differences with Mrs. Hammond in the past, but this time her interpretation of her action is on target. Although the sector study prohibits the city from issuing any new 2 a.m. liquor licenses, it permits restaurant owners who already hold those licenses to sell them when they sell their businesses.

The furor caused by Mrs. Hammond's inquiries on behalf of her friend illustrates just how divided the community has become about her tenure.

When Mrs. Hammond succeeded her husband, John, on the City Council last year, she inherited a number of his enemies -- and proceeded to do very little to win them over. She doggedly pursued bar owners who violated garbage, noise and sign ordinances, snapping photographs of overflowing trash cans and hounding city officials to issue citations. Mrs. Hammond was looking out for interests of downtown residents, but her tactics came across to many observers as heavy-handed, to say the least. So now when she acts on behalf of a restaurant owner, her enemies quite naturally accuse her of playing favorites.

Mrs. Hammond needs to improve her communication with the city's business owners, and the city government needs to adopt a single time for restaurants and bars to stop selling alcohol. The existing moratorium on 2 a.m. liquor licenses was designed to protect the residents from the rowdiness of late-night bar patrons, but that problem can occur after midnight, too.

The answer is not to create a two-tiered permit system that places some bars at unfair competitive advantage. It is, rather, to enforce Annapolis' existing trash and noise laws vigorously and consistently.

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