Baltimore County Council votes to prohibit after-hours clubs

Late-night businesses decried as a nuisance

May 02, 2000|By David Nitkin | David Nitkin,SUN STAFF

The party's over in Baltimore County.

Saying they can't stomach all-night celebrations, the County Council voted unanimously last night to outlaw after-hours clubs that sometimes lure thousands of young people to suburban neighborhoods.

The vote was a pre-emptive strike against a problem that doesn't exist.

The lone club now permitted to operate between 2 a.m. and 6 a.m. in the county -- the Twilight Zone in Arbutus -- plans to shut down June 30.

"We hope we've seen the last of these after-hours clubs," said Councilman Wayne M. Skinner, a Towson Republican who has had a few after-hours clubs in his district, none of which are still in business.

The club that gave police the most headaches is also closed.

Capt. Charles W. Rapp Jr., commander of the county police's Towson precinct, said police logged 792 calls for service in 3 1/2 years at Liquids, an after-hours club in the 8800 block of Orchard Tree Lane that attracted partygoers from the District of Columbia and Philadelphia.

In October 1998, 62 police cars from three jurisdictions responded to an overflow crowd at the club.

After-hours clubs charge admission and play music, but cannot sell alcohol.

Critics contend that the clubs encourage "raves: parties that run until sunrise, fueled by electronic music and sometimes associated with "designer drugs" such as Ecstasy. The new law, which takes effect June 30, prohibits any business subject to the county's admissions and amusement tax from operating between the hours of 2 a.m. and 6 a.m.

Rapp said police were more concerned about problems that occur outside the clubs -- such as public urination and drug sales -- than about what takes place inside.

The measure was supported by County Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger.

The County Council's decision stands in stark contrast to a debate under way in Baltimore City.

There, lawmakers are considering relaxing regulations that prohibit clubs from operating between 2 a.m. and 6 a.m., saying late-night entertainment could help Baltimore attract the sort of tourist dollars that flow into cities like New York, Miami and New Orleans.

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