Proposal would extend night life Measure would allow city bars, clubs to stay open past 2 a.m.

October 27, 1998|By Gerard Shields | Gerard Shields,SUN STAFF

A bill that would create a Night Life Task Force to regulate and monitor bars and entertainment establishments, including the infamous strip clubs on The Block, was introduced last night in City Council.

The bill, if passed, could result in bars and clubs staying open later than the state's 2 a.m. curfew but not serving liquor.

The measure, introduced by Northwest Baltimore Councilwoman Stephanie C. Rawlings, fell shy of what some hoped would be a tougher stance against adult entertainment in the 400 block of E. Baltimore St.

Initial discussions proposed transferring enforcement of adult entertainment laws to the city's Board of Liquor License Commissioners from the city Department of Housing and Community Development. Although the possibility still exists, Rawlings said, the council wants to first consolidate night-life regulation.

Under city law, violations of adult entertainment laws are considered zoning offenses. The city's housing department has complained that it has been unable to provide the staff to enforce the law.

Although the city board controls liquor licenses, it has no power to enforce city adult entertainment laws.

"At the end of the day, we are the ones who are directly responsible to the constituents," Rawlings said. "We can't split the baby. It's got to go somewhere."

The 13-member task force would be comprised of seven council members, a zoning administrator, three mayoral appointees and representatives from the health and police departments.

State law prohibits liquor sales after 2 a.m. The measure would allow bars to stay open later, though they could not serve liquor.

Rawlings proposes repealing the city's "milk law," which prohibits establishments from providing amusement or entertainment between the hours of 2 a.m. and 6 a.m. The law, passed in 1940, governed pool halls and other teen hangouts, but has been used recently by police to prevent teen dance clubs from staying open later.

Council President Lawrence A. Bell III supports the task force bill as a way for the city to increase tourism in a similar fashion as New Orleans and New York, which have profited from extending nightclub hours.

"What we're trying to do is have some consistency," Bell said. "This is an effort to bring everybody under one roof."

But East Baltimore Councilman Bernard C. "Jack" Young questioned the creation of the task force as duplicating the role of the liquor board. Rawlings, who heads the council's Judiciary Committee, said debate over the enforcement of adult entertainment laws isn't over.

"We are impressed with the recent administrative changes at the liquor board," Rawlings said. "It is possible that the liquor board may be the best place for the regulation of adult entertainment."

Pub Date: 10/27/98

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