Council to address displaced strip club

El Dorado needs rezoning to move to site owned by city near The Block

January 22, 2001|By Tom Pelton | Tom Pelton,SUN STAFF

Mayor Martin O'Malley is asking the City Council to pass legislation allowing the rezoning of a city-owned building near The Block, so that it can become the home of a strip club displaced by urban renewal.

City officials have spent months trying to find a new location for the El Dorado strip club at 322 W. Baltimore St., which the city is condemning as part of a $350 million effort to rebuild 18 blocks on the west side of downtown.

The city and club owners have settled on a vacant, four-story brick building - the site of a former culinary school - at 19 S. Gay St., around the corner from Baltimore's adult entertainment district and a block south of police headquarters.

"It's the best location because it's adjacent to the red light district, and it won't really expand the adult entertainment district," said Tony White, spokesman for O'Malley.

The administration's request for the zoning change is one of several bills on the agenda tonight during the first City Council meeting of the year.

Also up for consideration are bills that would set design guidelines for the renovation of the Belvedere Square shopping area in North Baltimore, and allow the city to hire nine food inspectors to speed the processing of restaurant licenses.

Trying to find a new location for the El Dorado has been difficult for the city.

"There are not many sites available [for adult entertainment]," said City Council President Sheila Dixon, who is introducing the rezoning bill for O'Malley. "This one is right near The Block, so it will keep all of these kinds of businesses in one area."

The 26-year-old lounge, which is run by the family of Kenneth A. Jackson, is one of more than a dozen shops and businesses being displaced to allow Bank of America to build a 334-unit apartment and retail complex at the northwest corner of Howard and Baltimore streets.

City Council members from the 1st District have opposed other possible locations for the El Dorado, including one a block north of City Hall on North Holliday Street.

The city-owned building at 19 S. Gay St. sits between city personnel and agricultural education offices and across from the Baltimore City Community College Business and Community Education Center at 10 S. Gay St.

Herbert Sledge, director of public relations for the college, said Friday that he did not know about plans for the club and that the college did not have any immediate comment.

"We moved in here knowing that The Block was right around the corner," Sledge said.

Jackson, manager of the El Dorado, said he wants to create an upscale dining club that would attract professionals who are in Baltimore for conventions.

"If you go to Atlanta or Miami and see some of the upscale clubs there, that would be my goal," Jackson said. "The kind of place where business people go, where you can eat dinner and watch Las Vegas-style entertainment."

The city plans to buy the El Dorado lounge at 322 W. Baltimore St. from the Jackson family's company, K.A.J. Inc., for $450,000. The company bought it for half that amount in 1996 but told the city it renovated the building.

The city had proposed to sell 19 S. Gay St. to the Jacksons' company for the same amount. State tax records list its assessed value as $492,000.

But the Jacksons' lawyer, Lisa Harris Jones, complained that it would cost the family business hundreds of thousands of dollars to renovate the Gay Street building, which city records show needs a new roof and bathrooms, among other problems.

As a result, the city would sell the Jacksons the building for $50,000.

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