Guilford's 600-seat restaurant stalls Troubling project: Huge size and location in city raised questions about permit process.

September 06, 1997

A ONE-TIME bowling alley at 4220 York Road is an unlikely spot for any restaurant, to say nothing of a 600-seat

establishment. Yet an entrepreneur wants to build Baltimore's biggest eatery on that deteriorated block, which has little off-street parking and is separated by a stone wall from the exclusive Guilford neighborhood.

Until the surrounding community sounded the alarm, developer George M. Harris seemed to have a done deal. Even though he did not have adequate parking, the city issued him a construction permit last October for a ''restaurant, including live entertainment + dancing on 1st and 2d floor.'' The Schmoke administration was prepared to give him more parking at a public works sub-station across the street.

Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke has now canceled his support. This is welcome news to Guilford and Govans residents who fear Mr. Harris wants to open a disco night club.

In reversing his position, Mr. Schmoke made the right decision. But he ought to do more.

The city's premature permit to Mr. Harris -- which officials now say was issued in error -- is just the latest example of bureaucratic ineptness. In recent times, several restaurants have opened before obtaining needed permits.

Item: Operators of the Little Havana restaurant on Key Highway near Federal Hill are still trying to satisfy city zoning requirements for adequate parking. Never mind that the eatery has been operating for five months. (When the restaurant held its first function, it did not even have a valid liquor license.)

Item: Captain G's, a seafood restaurant at 942 West Fayette St, also opened without adequate zoning approvals last year. (The restaurant has since gone out of business).

The city's failure to make sure that proper processes are followed is troubling. No wonder some developers avoid the municipal permit process altogether and just go ahead and build. Mayor Schmoke ought to take all necessary steps to make sure the integrity of the permit process is restored.

Pub Date: 9/06/97

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