MADD urges race-car driver to cancel appearance at bar Allison is to serve drinks in Middle River

September 10, 1997|By Joe Nawrozki | Joe Nawrozki,SUN STAFF

Mothers Against Drunk Driving called yesterday for NASCAR racing legend Bobby Allison to back out of an appearance tomorrow at a Middle River bar where he is to serve drinks to promote motor sports and a proposed $100 million speedway.

Allison is to spend about an hour behind the bar at the Plaza Lounge, owned by Del. Diane DeCarlo, an Essex Democrat and a supporter of the proposed Essex International Speedway.

"We are concerned about the combination of racing and alcohol and how that is presented to the racing fans, a lot of them young people," said Donna Becker, an official with MADD's Towson chapter.

That angered Joseph Mattioli III, head of the Middle River Racing Association. "We back Allison's appearance totally; we set it up," he said. "Is there a Budweiser sign displayed in Oriole Park at Camden Yards? I take offense to the implication we are engaging in unethical behavior."

But the leader of another group, Jerry Hersl of the Eastern Political Association, said, "Do you see Cal Ripken walking around with the Budweiser hat on? No, because he knows kids look up to him. Allison's a legend and leaves an impression on children, and this will give the appearance that drinking and driving mix, that it's OK."

Becker said she was also disturbed that Allison's stint behind the bar was arranged by DeCarlo, who was given probation before judgment July 30 in Essex District Court after being charged with drunken driving and speeding.

Yesterday, DeCarlo, 51, defended Allison's visit to her lounge.

"He could be serving Coke. Look, I've been in this business 17 years, and alcohol is still a legal product. Newspapers, professional sports teams, lots of businesses profit from ads for alcoholic beverages," said DeCarlo, a past president of the Baltimore County Licensed Beverage Association.

DeCarlo's bar is about a mile from the site of the proposed speedway.

Allison, who was hired as spokesman for the Middle River Racing Association, has made several publicity tours in the county, including a May visit to Eastern Technical High School.

Allison, who reportedly is to be paid $5,000 for tomorrow's visit, will throw out the first ball at the Orioles-Yankees game at Camden Yards that night; visit the Lockheed Martin Corp. plant in Middle River; and sign autographs for fans at a nearby NASCAR souvenir store, DeCarlo's bar and Rock-A-Billy's, another east-side tavern and haven for racing fans.

The racing association has proposed a speedway on 1,100 acres across Eastern Boulevard from Martin State Airport. Officials are awaiting County Council approval of a zoning exemption for the site.

Supporters say the track would help the area's image and promote economic development. But some residents are fighting the project, pointing to potential problems from traffic, noise and pollution.

In July, after a Planning Board hearing on the proposed speedway, Adam Paul, president of White Marsh Civic Association, knocked over a life-size cardboard image of NASCAR driver Kyle Petty that bore a sign promoting Coors beer.

"That is a public building, and advertising is not allowed," Paul said yesterday. "But it was advertising a race-car driver with the Coors logo. It sends the message to young people that drinking is OK.

"A lot of people idolize people like Allison and Petty."

Mattioli said the racing association had permission to display the sign in the county courthouse lobby.

Pub Date: 9/10/97

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