Amended mega-bar bill bans transfers of liquor licenses to Cross Street area Late change comes as a surprise

April 10, 1996|By Joe Mathews | Joe Mathews,SUN STAFF

After an 11th-hour amendment, a bill enacted over the weekend by the General Assembly that bans new mega-bars from Little Italy to Canton also prohibits the transfer of liquor licenses into the neighborhood around the Cross Street Market in South Baltimore.

The amendment was added by Del. Brian K. McHale, a Baltimore Democrat, on the House floor Friday. It bars the transfer of licenses into an area bounded by Fort Avenue to the south, Hanover Street to the west, Henrietta Street to the north and Light Street to the east.

Mr. McHale's addition came without warning or public hearing, and it surprised Federal Hill and South Baltimore bar owners, who thought the bill would have nothing to do with their neighborhood. They said the ban on transfers would limit the ability of businesses in the area to grow and prosper.

"Anybody who would like to start a restaurant or bar in the area is hurt by this," said BJ Foust, an owner of Bandaloops restaurant and bar at 1024 S. Charles St. "I think this will stifle the business community."

Residents generally praised the bill. Community groups have opposed efforts to add bars and expand existing ones, citing concerns about parking and crime. And Tom McCarthy, the immediate past president of the South Baltimore Improvement Association, said the bill would be a powerful tool for residents who want to ensure that South Baltimore "does not become another Fells Point."

"If you keep moving bars in to attract larger crowds, it's going to saturate the community," Mr. McCarthy said. "If the business community wants to expand, what it needs is more retail, not more bars."

The measure, which is expected to be signed by Gov. Parris N. Glendening, comes at a time when neighbors are complaining about expanded capacity and seven-day-a-week operation at the Ropewalk, a bar in the 1200 block of S. Charles St. The expansion was made possible by the Ropewalk's purchase and subsequent transfer of a liquor license from a Wicomico Street bar outside the affected area.

The bar has been a constant topic of conversation at the South Baltimore Improvement Association's monthly meetings. Residents have complained about lewdness, noise and parking problems in surrounding blocks.

Parking probably will become even more scarce when construction of the new football stadium at Camden Yards begins in August, reducing the number of parking spaces for Orioles games by about 2,000.

The city liquor board has accommodated most of the bar's plans but has forced the Ropewalk to make some concessions, said Mr. McCarthy and Mark McFaul, one of the bar's owners.

Pub Date: 4/10/96

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