Neighbors take battle over Canton bar to liquor license board for fourth time

Owners planning to sell as residents petition

April 26, 1999|By Amy Oakes | Amy Oakes,SUN STAFF

For more than two years, residents of the 2400 block of Southeast Baltimore's Fleet St. have been engaged in a bar fight.

They consider Canton's Ocean View Inn a neighborhood nuisance, with numbingly loud music and patrons who stagger up what had been a quiet block where model sailing ships and statues of Mary dot windowsills.

Ocean View Inn owners counter that the collection of NIMBY-ers who have taken petitions to the state's Board of Liquor License Commissioners for Baltimore City and elicited support from local government officials is out to shut them down. Their opponents may succeed.

The bar battle, which landed before the liquor board three times and a community moderator once last year, continues at 1 p.m. today, when Ocean View Inn will be the only Canton establishment this year to have its Class "D" beer, wine and liquor license renewal application challenged.

"The problems had been resolved, but some things have flared up," said Nathan C. Irby Jr., the liquor board's executive secretary.

Whatever is decided today, Ray Southerland, husband of Marcela Southerland, who is listed as Ocean View co-owner with Cesar C. Deguzman, said it could be their last round. Southerland said he wants to sell the bar, which they bought for $67,000 in 1996.

"I don't know why they are protesting, I don't have any problems in the neighborhood," Southerland said. "This aggravation, I cannot put up with anymore."

Stephany Palasik, president of the Canton-Highlandtown Community Association, said the bar became a problem shortly after the Southerlands took over.

In September 1997, residents sent a 32-signature petition to the liquor board, complaining that the bar was disturbing the community's peace and safety. In a letter dated Sept. 11, they wrote that the bar was playing loud music, staying open after hours, and that patrons were fighting and drinking outside.

Ocean View presented a counterpetition with about 120 customers' signatures.

At a hearing Oct. 16, 1997, the liquor board asked Ocean View to implement changes. Ocean View promised to move the sound system and hire a professional consultant to examine noise conditions. But residents say they saw little improvement.

"The main thing has been the noise and the traffic in and out of the bar," Palasik said.

Palasik sent a letter to the liquor board's Irby on Sept. 3, 1998, suggesting the bar is a disturbance mostly when Southerland is in town and brings out-of-town people to the bar.

In October, Southerland and Deguzman appeared before the liquor board on charges of "disturbing the peace, safety, health, quiet and general welfare of the community." A penalty was withheld to give the pub and community time to resolve their differences.

That month, the board invited the Citizens Planning and Housing Association, a nonprofit community action group, to mediate the dispute.

"I used basic negotiating principles and tried to get a win-win situation," said Pete Pakas, CPHA's director of special projects.

Among the conditions Southerland agreed to in October were keeping front doors closed, not transporting customers from outside neighborhoods, cleaning outside the building daily and prohibiting solicitation.

Southerland said the restrictions hurt business. Since the meeting, Southerland said, the number of patrons has diminished to two to three people at time. "I can't survive this," Southerland said. "I don't think a business can survive around here."

Palasik said the bar never became the community establishment owners promised and residents wanted. "They thought it was going to be more of a neighborhood bar," Palasik said. "But it didn't turn out to be that."

Pub Date: 4/26/99

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