Bill to curb mega-bars advances Baltimore senators OK weakened version

February 09, 1996|By Thomas W. Waldron | Thomas W. Waldron,SUN STAFF

A bill to ban more mega-bars from opening in Southeast Baltimore cleared a key hurdle yesterday, winning approval from the city's Senate delegation.

The city's 10 senators approved the measure unanimously after weakening it slightly.

Even with the changes, the bill's sponsor, Sen. Perry Sfikas, D-Baltimore, said the measure will effectively stop the proliferation of large bars in the Fells Point and Canton areas.

"It does prevent any more large organizations along the lines of a Bohager's," Mr. Sfikas said, referring to one of the area's largest bar-restaurants.

Residents of the area have complained loudly about the big bars and the sometimes rowdy crowds they attract.

The measure, as amended by the Senate delegation, would require new bar-restaurants in Southeast Baltimore to earn at least 51 percent of their revenue from food, as opposed to alcoholic beverages. The current requirement is 33 percent, and Mr. Sfikas had sought to make it 80 percent.

The bill would also require bars to provide better accounting of their sales.

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 Sen. John A. Pica Jr., D-Baltimore.

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 Gov. Parris N. Glendening to veto the bill last year.

Mr. Pica voted for the bill yesterday and said the measure responds to community complaints.

"These neighbors have legitimate concerns," Mr. Pica said. "Some of these establishments turn into drinking factories at night."

The legislation would not affect current establishments.

The measure now goes to a Senate committee and then to the Senate floor, where approval is considered likely. The bill must also win approval in the House of Delegates and be signed by Mr. Glendening, who supports it this year.

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