City's big-bar planners told to slow down Assembly tightens rules on southeast development

April 09, 1996|By Thomas W. Waldron and Joan Jacobson | Thomas W. Waldron and Joan Jacobson,SUN STAFF

The General Assembly has given final approval to a bill intended to stop more mega-bars from opening in Southeast Baltimore.

Its sponsor, Sen. Perry Sfikas, said the measure, despite being weakened, effectively will stop the proliferation of large bars in the Fells Point and Canton areas.

"It's a wonderful victory for the community," said Mr. Sfikas, a Baltimore City Democrat.

Residents of the areas have complained about the big bars and the sometimes-rowdy crowds they attract.

Liquor licenses for larger bars would be allowed in hotels and restaurants only if they take in 51 percent of daily receipts on food.

The current requirement is 33 percent, and Mr. Sfikas initially had sought to make it 60 percent.

The bill also would require bars to provide better accounting of their sales. The legislation would not affect existing establishments.

"I give it mixed reviews," said Stevens Bunker, president of the Fells Point Community Organization. "Frankly, I like the old percentage [of food to liquor], but it was a reasonable compromise with the liquor industry."

Celie Ives, a Fells Point businesswoman and homeowner, said she was pleased with the bill's passage. "It's certainly not going to help the current situation, but it will prevent any more Parrot Islands and Bohager's from coming in," she said, referring to two large bars between Fells Point and Little Italy.

The greater Fells Point area has 113 liquor licenses in 114 blocks from Central Avenue east to Chester Street and from Baltimore Street south to the harbor, according to liquor board records. The bars have the capacity to serve more than 7,000 drinkers.

Critics of the Fells Point drinking establishments complain that large bars attract underage drinkers from the suburbs.

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

Pub Date: 4/09/96

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