Bar owner returning to court Dead Eye Saloon wants license back

August 22, 1996|By Erin Texeira | Erin Texeira,SUN STAFF

The Dead Eye Saloon, the embattled South Baltimore pub that fought the city for years over alleged unpaid taxes and rent, is going to court again.

This time, owner Dan Davis will go to the Court of Special Appeals to try to win back his liquor license, which was revoked by the Baltimore Board of Liquor License Commissioners in July 1995 but temporarily returned by a judge pending a court date.

The board claims Davis -- who leases about 3 acres from the city, including the Baltimore Yacht Basin under the Hanover Street Bridge -- defied its orders, serving alcohol on an outdoor deck and offering live entertainment after the board repeatedly ordered him not to.

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Davis, 56, denies he did anything wrong. He was surprised when the board revoked his license, he said, and suggested that board officials are the real problem.

The owner of the bar, which is adorned with dozens of stuffed animal heads, including deer, buffalo and a mountain lion, says the board is taking over where the city left off when it settled its dispute last year by offering him an eight-year lease and a repayment arrangement for taxes and rent.

"It seems funny that I get all my problems with the city straightened out and here comes the liquor board," said Davis, a former computer engineer who is known as Captain Dan.

The appeal will be heard Oct. 9.

The Saloon, a breezy and popular hangout on Insulator Drive, is nestled behind a 185-slip marina in the largely industrial neighborhood of Port Covington. Its nearest neighbors are a cargo shipping storage facility and an Amoco Station on the corner of Hanover and Cromwell streets.

Special events are regularly scheduled at the waterfront location: an annual Father's Day bash, various charitable fund-raisers and, last year, Baltimore's first Blues Festival.

The board, which is responsible for inspecting and licensing all city bars and restaurants that serve alcohol, says Davis' applications to sell alcohol on the waterfront deck and to have live entertainment such as bands and bikini contests have been repeatedly rejected for years because his landlord -- the city -- refuses to approve of such changes.

First rejection in '92

The expansion of his liquor license was initially rejected in 1992 because it was "inconsistent with the type of facility that the city wishes to provide for the boating public at the Baltimore Yacht Basin," according to a letter from then-landlord Baltimore Development Corp. that is included in court documents.

Board inspectors, who visited the Dead Eye Saloon unannounced at least six times in the past two years, found patrons drinking on the deck and watching live entertainment in the parking lot each time, according to Jane M. Schroeder, acting executive secretary of the board.

Davis received no written warnings from the board, but did discuss the alleged violations with inspectors when they visited, he said. He maintains he was unaware he did anything wrong.

A Circuit Court judge in December upheld the board's decision to revoke the bar's license, court documents show. But a succession of judges granted temporary reprieves, finding that long-scheduled events could not be canceled at the last minute. The latest reprieve will expire when the appeal is heard in court.

"This has been a real difficult, frustrating case for us," Schroeder said. "He's been able to get the use of the deck and live entertainment when these were things that the board did not specifically authorize. The judges gave him permission to do things that were not the wishes of the board."

Legal fees mount

Davis, a Baltimore native who has closed his bar twice for lack of a license, has spent more than $130,000 in legal fees fighting the city and the board, he said. He plans to sue the now-retired board executive secretary and all three commissioners for damages to his business, he said.

"I will never quit on this issue as long as my funds hold out," said Davis, who has occupied the property for nearly 12 years. "But I don't plan on losing."

Pub Date: 8/22/96

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