Nine striptease bars on Block win delay on license revocation Zoning board to await outcome of legislation on jurisdiction of area

March 18, 1998|By Gerard Shields | Gerard Shields,SUN STAFF

They survive to dance another day.

Nine striptease bars along Baltimore's infamous Block won a reprieve from having their licenses revoked yesterday by the city Board of Municipal and Zoning Appeals. The zoning board postponed a decision on taking the licenses until June because of General Assembly proposals that would allow the city to transfer jurisdiction of adult entertainment.

The Assembly bills could move control of strip bars from the city's Department of Housing and Community Development to the Baltimore Liquor License Board of Commissioners. The House and Senate bills have received favorable committee support and are expected to pass before the end of session.

Claude Edward Hitchcock, a Baltimore attorney representing the nine bars in the 400 block of E. Baltimore St., asked the city zoning board yesterday to postpone its decision until the Assembly acts on the bills.

City police vice squads and the liquor board have been cracking down on The Block, once a legendary burlesque region. In recent years, several Block bars have been accused of cloaking prostitution and fostering a drug trade.

All nine bars appealing their license revocations yesterday had three city violations in the past two years, most of which involved prostitution. Under city laws, three violations result in an automatic revocation of the license. The bars are the Plaza Saloon, Circus Show Bar, Mouse Trap, Golden Nugget Lounge, Chez Joey, Jewel Box, Harem Show Bar, 408 Club and Crystal Show Bar.

Four years ago, the city passed tougher laws governing The Block. But a review last year by The Sun showed that the laws weren't being enforced.

Donna A. Johnson, city zoning administrator, told board members yesterday that they had the authority to take away the bar licenses.

"There were violations," Johnson said. "None of the licensees said the violations didn't exist."

Although the state bills would allow jurisdiction of The Block to change, enforcement would remain with the city. A City Council bill would create a special adult entertainment task force to regulate the area. The panel would include bar owners and city administrators.

If passed into law, the city bill would allow nude dancing, which is prohibited now. The bill also would relax the revocation of licenses. Under current city law, bars with three violations "shall" have their licenses revoked. The law would be changed to "may" under the city bill.

Pub Date: 3/18/98

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