Night life as the right life Where and when?: Baltimore needs comprehensive look at nightclub situation.

December 15, 1996

A RECENT FLURRY of regulatory activity by city government concerning Baltimore's night spots stemmed largely from the Oct. 24 slayings of two college students outside Volcano's lounge. It was later discovered that the nightclub didn't have a permit for the exotic dancing that had drawn large crowds. Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke subsequently ordered police and housing inspectors to crack down on clubs operating late at night without proper licenses or clubs guilty of fire code or zoning violations.

But all the moving and shaking about nightclubs also is tied to the anticipation of another renaissance downtown -- the expanded Convention Center, plans for at least one new major hotel, redevelopment of the Power Plant into an entertainment complex and construction of the Ravens football stadium. Larger crowds are expected downtown and people are starting to think about after-hours activities for adults.

To make the city more conducive to those types of places, a push is on to amend state law so some nightclubs in Baltimore can stay open past 2 a.m., but probably only in designated areas such as the Inner Harbor. Seeing the potential if that occurs, state Sen. Larry Young and about 30 business people, mostly African Americans, asked Mayor Schmoke to consider another entertainment district downtown that could accommodate late-night activity. The implication is that this area would cater primarily to young black adults, the type of crowd that frequented Volcano's before it was shut down.

Nothing is expected to happen right away. Mr. Schmoke says he expects it will take at least two legislative sessions to get through an amendment allowing some bars to serve liquor past 2 a.m. In the meantime, a task force chaired by Fifth District Councilwoman Stephanie Rawlings has been created to look at the city's laws and codes concerning nightclubs and lounges. The mayor says some of the ordinances are more than 50 years old and should be revised.

This review process needs to occur, whatever the original motivation. But from this point on, the focus must be on what's best for Baltimore's people and neighborhoods -- not on how to entice a new nightclub to town.

Pub Date: 12/15/96

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