Hearing scheduled tonight on closing times for bars Meeting called by mayor criticized as unnecessary

January 03, 1996|By Ellen Gamerman | Ellen Gamerman,SUN STAFF

Annapolis Mayor Alfred A. Hopkins has scheduled a City Council hearing tonight on a proposal to close all bars and restaurants in the historic district at midnight by 2001. But aldermen on both sides of the issue say the meeting is unnecessary.

"We've heard from the public on this issue," said Alderman Louise Hammond, who opposes any more 2 a.m. liquor licenses in her historic-district ward. "I don't know what we're going to hear that's new."

Alderman M. Theresa DeGraff, who favors some expansion of late hour operations downtown, agrees.

"This is just requiring the residents and businesses to come out and regurgitate what they've just said about the 2 a.m. license issue not 30 days ago," she said. "I just don't think it's necessary."

The hearing, scheduled for 7 p.m., will focus on Mayor Hopkins' proposal to roll back closing times for all historic-district restaurants and bars from 2 a.m. to midnight.

The proposal would reverse the late hours for 12 downtown establishments with 2 a.m. liquor licenses, by forcing their closing a half-hour earlier each year over four years starting in 1997.

Mr. Hopkins said he does not necessarily support midnight closings, but wants to give residents a chance to speak on the issue.

Previous public hearings have concentrated on allowing more 2 a.m. licenses instead of expanding early closing times, he said.

"I've never advocated rolling back closing times to midnight. I just want to do what the public wants," Mr. Hopkins said. "I am not a dictator -- I don't want to dictate anything."

But Alderman Carl O. Snowden said the hearing could reopen a fight for more 2 a.m. closing times for all historic-district establishments instead of a limited handful.

"The whole issue gets brought up again," he said.

Furthermore, Mr. Snowden argued, the mayor's proposal would drive bar customers outside city limits to nearby bars with 2 a.m. closing times.

Historic-district residents, who complain that downtown bars are too loud and disruptive, say they cannot support the proposal because it would undo the Ward 1 Sector Study, which allows restaurants with 2 a.m. licenses to keep them, but forbids new restaurants with late hours.

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