Lawmakers push bills restricting nightspots Legislation responds to citizens' complaints over Balto. Co. clubs

February 15, 1997|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,SUN STAFF

Reacting to complaints from residents from Lansdowne to Towson to Rosedale, state lawmakers from Baltimore County are pressing for legislation that would ban new strip bars and severely restrict after-hours clubs.

The move comes after numerous neighborhood skirmishes. Monday, for example, about 200 Rosedale residents and clergy packed a county liquor board hearing to protest Pulaski Highway bars called Boomerang, Shakers and Backsides -- where exotic dancing would be prohibited under the new law. And in Towson, neighbors have fought a running battle with Club 101, a late-night club that has drawn the repeated attention of police.

"They've heard us this time," Rosedale Community Association President Nancy Leiter said of County Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger and the legislators who sponsored the bills. "I'm happy that the citizens of Rosedale have made their point," she added, noting that it took months of complaints before the officials acted.

One of the bills, similar to a 1993 Baltimore law designed to keep Block-style bars from spreading, would outlaw liquor licensees from staging "adult entertainment" if they didn't already offer it by April 9, 1996. The bill is aimed at the three Pulaski Highway bars that have troubled Rosedale residents.

Another measure seeks to rein in Towson and Lansdowne after-hours clubs that have attracted hundreds of rowdy young people through the wee hours of weekend mornings. It would ban drinking at such bring-your-own-bottle clubs after 2 a.m.

Identical adult entertainment bills were introduced in the House

and Senate, and the after-hours club bill was introduced in the House.

County senators this week approved the legislation on strip bars and are awaiting a House version of the after-hours bill. Sen. F. Vernon Boozer, a Towson Republican who is representing Backsides in the disciplinary case before the county liquor board, abstained.

County delegates heard testimony on both bills yesterday, and they will vote on them next week.

Approval of local bills by local legislators is usually tantamount to General Assembly approval.

Operators of two of the Pulaski Highway bars said losing the exotic dancers would not force them to close.

Tony Mansueti, manager of Backsides, said: "We opened up as a sports bar. It's not going to hurt us any."

And a man who identified himself only as Steve at Boomerang said the new law "wouldn't hurt that bad."

Monday, the liquor board fined Boomerang and Shakers a combined $750 and ordered them to close for one week for allowing dancers to touch patrons and solicit expensive drinks or private booth sessions. Backsides is due for a hearing on similar charges.

Boozer pointed out, however, that if the adult entertainment bill becomes law, it could sharply increase the value of the eight county bars that had exotic dancing before April 9, 1996. Businesses such as Memories and Gails on North Point Boulevard will have no fear of new competition.

The after-hours club bill is designed to clarify an existing state law that prohibits public drinking after 2 a.m.

On Jan. 10, a Baltimore County District judge found the owner of Club 101 guilty of two alcohol violations in one case.

But a week later, another judge decided that the owner, John A. Giorgilli, was not guilty of the same charges in two other cases, ruling that the law only applies to clubs with liquor licenses.

The new law says clubs without liquor licenses may not permit drinking on their premises -- either inside or on the parking lot -- after 2 a.m.

The main targets are Club 101, in the 8800 block of Orchard Tree Lane, and the Twilight Zone, a similar club on Commerce Drive near the intersection of Washington Boulevard and the Beltway.

Major Michael H. Stelmack, Towson police precinct commander, told county delegates yesterday that he is regularly forced to send all seven of his midnight shift cars to Club 101 to control crowds of young drunks who regularly gather inside and outside the club after 2 a.m.

The precinct has responded to 197 calls there over the past year, he said, but is virtually powerless to act because of the size of the crowds and the legal ambiguities.

"We're overwhelmed," he said.

Pub Date: 2/15/97

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