Bill would allow liquor board to trim hours at nuisance bars

March 26, 1997|By Ivan Penn | Ivan Penn,SUN STAFF

Legislation gaining support in Annapolis would allow Baltimore's liquor board to clamp down on bars that are a nuisance to neighbors.

The city's House delegation voted yesterday to support a bill that would allow the board to reduce the hours and days of operation of bars that receive complaints from neighbors. The full Senate has passed a similar measure.

Del. Maggie L. McIntosh, a Baltimore Democrat, introduced the bill in response to complaints about noise and violence around some neighborhood bars during early morning hours.

In particular, residents in the Abell and Charles Village communities have complained about shootings and noisy incidents around bars that required police attention on numerous occasions, she said.

"There was all sorts of property damage, shootings and an attempted rape," McIntosh said. "The liquor board agreed this was an enormous problem."

As amended, her bill would give the liquor board authority to restrict a bar's operations only when "there is an extreme and continuing disturbance to a residential community" -- a restriction she says would protect taverns from frivolous complaints.

Still, liquor dealers and bar owners have raised concerns that if the bill becomes law, it might be used to restrict the hours of some establishments as a way of boosting business for others.

"The liquor dealers and bar owners feel uncomfortable with this bill," said Del. Frank D. Boston Jr., chairman of the House delegation.

"They have a fear that this is going to take them off of a level playing field and that some bars in certain districts will continue to operate seven days a week until 2 a.m. and some will have their bars restricted," he said.

Boston nonetheless supported the bill during the delegation's vote.

McIntosh said the bill should give enough definition to the liquor board's authority to prevent abuses.

"I think a lot of the concerns, if not all of them, have been laid to rest," she said. "This is a good bill."

The legislation was sought after a Court of Appeals ruling in November that the liquor board does not have authority to restrict a tavern's hours or the entertainment it offers once a license has been issued.

Pub Date: 3/26/97

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