A third nightclub on The Block lost its license to stage striptease dancing this week as Baltimore continues its heightened regulation of the red-light district.
Club Chez Joey is the latest strip bar to have its adult-entertainment license revoked because three dancers were convicted of prostitution within a year. The bar will remain open while appealing to the Board of Municipal and Zoning Appeals.
After years of lax enforcement, the city has cracked down in recent months on prostitution, obscene stage acts and zoning violations on The Block, the nationally known but deteriorated adult night-life zone.
Once, it stretched more than three blocks along East Baltimore Street and boasted 70 clubs that featured big-name burlesque and vaudeville acts.
Today, it is barely more than one block of fewer than two dozen narrow bars, peep shows and triple-X video stores.
The city stepped up its enforcement in late May, after the The Sun reported that once-ballyhooed regulations to control The Block had been largely ignored.
In June and July, the housing department, which is in charge of licensing and regulating the clubs, issued a flurry of penalty notices for prostitution and other offenses.
The Golden Nugget's and Plaza Saloon's licenses were revoked, and another half-dozen clubs face suspensions ranging from five days to 15 days. All are appealing. The Block's biggest survival test in years will be Nov. 18, when the zoning board hears the cases.
If the board upholds the penalties, the neon lights will go off at some of Baltimore's oldest and best-known clubs.
Without licenses, the clubs would be restricted to offering customers nonalcoholic drinks -- served by fully clothed women.
The Block has been under mounting pressure because of the vigilance of vice officers, opposition by business leaders and the development of the downtown business and tourism district.
Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke tried in the early 1990s to shut The Block down. But after community leaders clamored to keep a centralized adult night-life zone, the mayor and City Council enacted strict rules in 1994 to limit street-level intrusion.
Merchants want to promote The Block and make it look more respectable with plans for brick sidewalks, gas lamps and 1920s-era facades.
Three months ago, they tried unsuccessfully to persuade the council to weaken regulations by permitting barking by doormen, which is banned.