Mayor does not reopen late-night closings issue For now, debate on bars, restaurants seems dead

November 28, 1995|By Ellen Gamerman | Ellen Gamerman,SUN STAFF

Annapolis residents expecting to hear renewed debate over late-night bar closings downtown were told last night to wait no longer. The issue appears to be dead.

Mayor Alfred A. Hopkins abstained from voting on a bill defeated this month that would have allowed more 2 a.m. closing times for historic district restaurants and bars. He had said he would reopen the issue for discussion last night, but changed his mind.

"Nothing is going to come up," Mr. Hopkins said, prompting more than a dozen residents and merchants to leave City Hall. Some of those audience members thought the mayor would try to make all downtown establishments close at midnight because at the last council meeting he tentatively endorsed that idea.

"Why he said it was going to come back up I really have no idea," said Alderman Shep Tullier. "I think the status quo will remain for the foreseeable future."

Two weeks ago, the council rejected 6-2 a bill offered by Alderman Ellen O. Moyer that would have allowed all downtown restaurants to stay open until 2 a.m. after the businesses submitted to public hearings for permits. Mr. Hopkins abstained.

The council also defeated a bill sponsored by Alderman Carl O. Snowden that would have allowed more downtown restaurants with midnight closings to receive zoning permits for 2 a.m. closing times without additional permits or public hearings. The mayor helped defeat the measure in a 5-3 vote.

Ms. DeGraff said the mayor does not appear ready to change his position and endorse more 2 a.m. closing times. Ms. DeGraff, who endorses more late-night closings downtown, had hoped the mayor's swing vote would favor her side, but at press time last night that seemed unlikely.

"The mayor hasn't changed his position," she said, "and he's the only key vote."

Ms. DeGraff said she plans to introduce early next year a bill that would allow new restaurants to stay open until 2 a.m., but only if the establishments do not operate bars and play rock music. Restaurants would have to make half their late-night profits from the sale of food.

Some historic district preservationists, who scored a coup with the defeat of the two bills, watch the council's every move in case the 2 a.m. issue rekindles.

"I don't know how they're going to resolve this," said Stephanie Carroll, director of preservation services for the Historic Annapolis Foundation. "It could just fizzle. Who knows? But it's getting pretty boring coming down here every time just to wait and see."

But under council rules, the two late-night bills could not be revived after last night's meeting.

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