Waterfront residents decry bars at hearing They support senate bill to ban new 'mega' taverns

February 02, 1996|By Joan Jacobson | Joan Jacobson,SUN STAFF

For dozens of residents and business owners who came to Annapolis from Southeast Baltimore yesterday, the dirty word of the day was "mega-bars."

They attended a hearing before the city's Senate delegation, and asked for relief from what they say is a weekly deluge of suburbanites drinking, vandalizing and urinating in their communities.

Representatives of many waterfront neighborhoods testified in favor of a Senate bill, sponsored by Baltimore Democrat state Sen. Perry Sfikas, that would ban large, new bars along the waterfront in Southeast Baltimore.

A representative of several bar owners testified against the bill. It will be voted on next week by the city's Senate delegation, said state Sen. John A. Pica Jr., who heads the delegation.

The bill, which is supported by Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke and Gov. Parris N. Glendening, would cover an area from Little Italy to Canton. It would prohibit a license for a new bar with a capacity of more than 150. Liquor licenses for larger bars would be allowed in hotels and in restaurants that take in 60 percent of daily receipts on food.

Jennifer Etheridge of Fells Point said she and her husband have been frustrated by rowdiness and vandalism accompanying the opening last summer of a nearby large bar called Parrot Island.

"Hundreds of people cavort up and down our streets all night," she said, noting that her car was damaged, her cellar door was broken and her flower pots were stolen after the outdoor bar opened several blocks away.

Joseph I. Cassilly, the Harford County state's attorney, testified for the bill because of his concern about underage drinking in Fells Point.

Last June, two teens walking on a highway in Harford County were killed, allegedly by a man, 20, who had been drinking hours earlier in Fells Point. The man has been charged with manslaughter and drunken driving.

While more than 50 people attended the hearing in support of the bill, several Fells Point bar owners showed up to oppose it.

Their lawyer, Melvin Kodenski, said the bill "restricts economic development and will prohibit bigger restaurants from opening."

Mr. Pica said he favored the bill, but may want changes before sending it to the Economic and Environmental Affairs panel.

Last year, Mr. Sfikas pushed the bill through the legislature in the last minutes of the session, tacking it on to an unrelated liquor bill sponsored by Mr. Pica.

The move so angered Mr. Pica -- who does not represent Southeast Baltimore, but has several campaign contributions from Fells Point bar owners -- that he persuaded Mr. Glendening to veto the bill last year.

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