Restaurant, arcade draw opposition

Businessman also has plans for pool hall, but merchants have concerns about crime

August 23, 1999|By Amy Oakes | Amy Oakes,SUN STAFF

A Randallstown businessman's proposed restaurant, arcade and pool hall on an East Baltimore block known for drug traffic will only foster more illegal activity in the area, say concerned merchants and an elected official who oppose the plan.

The city's Board of Municipal and Zoning Appeals has approved plans to build a two-story restaurant, arcade and office in the 2400 block of E. Monument St., and is considering allowing a pool hall there. But opposition to the project has forced landowner Noel S. Liverpool to postpone applying for permits to build, and he is considering selling the site.

"It would be positive for the community, but the politicians, the people supposedly running the community, don't see it that way," said Liverpool, who was born and raised in the neighborhood but lives in the 9700 block of Marriottsville Road.

Leading the opposition, Democratic state Del. Talmadge Branch of the 45th District has written city politicians, including Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, and the zoning board. Branch said a pool hall and arcade would give drug dealers a place to operate.

"You cannot mix pool tables and arcade machines with drugs in a well-known drug area," Branch said.

In a Feb. 1 letter to the zoning board, before a hearing on the proposal, the Monument Street Merchants Association Inc. wrote that it also opposes construction of a restaurant and arcade. "We believe that an eat-in, sit-down type of restaurant without off-street parking could not be successful in that location and that the area is already saturated with carry-out restaurants," the letter says.

While the letter indicates the association supports building on the three adjacent vacant lots, it also suggests the arcade would be a hangout, which might impede crime control in the area. While merchants said drugs are a major problem, crime statistics for the immediate area were not available last week.

The zoning board decided in February to allow a restaurant on the property along with five amusement devices, such as arcade games, coin-operated games and pool tables. Liverpool then applied to the zoning board for permission to also build a pool hall there.

Frank W. Legambi, the board's executive director, said a hearing has not been scheduled on that petition because the board is waiting for inspection reports.

Standing on the lots he has owned about four years, Liverpool said he would try to keep his establishment as safe as possible. "If need be, the police could set up a booth on the property," he said.

Liverpool said he proposed a restaurant and pool hall because of a lack of sit-down restaurants and recreational facilities in the area. The restaurant could make it by itself, he said, but the pool hall needs an anchor.

"You can walk as far as you want that way," said Liverpool, pointing east on Monument Street. "You can walk toward Hopkins, and there's no place to sit and eat."

In his application to the zoning board, Liverpool indicated the restaurant would seat 30 to 40 people, employ about seven and operate from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. Friday and Saturday. The establishment would have no phones outside and a "no loitering" sign.

Liverpool said he was not sure when he would apply for permits to start building -- which was planned to begin 90 days ago. Before then, he said, he may sell.

"I don't want to apply if there's a lot of opposition," he said.

Pub Date: 8/23/99

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