Nightclub faces new charges by board

Accusations against Rumblefish include serving alcohol to minors

May 21, 2002|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,SUN STAFF

Rumblefish, the Glen Burnie nightclub ordered temporarily closed last year after a string of violent incidents in recent years, is back on the county liquor board agenda - this time to answer to more than three dozen alleged violations.

The liquor board is to hear tonight charges that the club served alcohol to teen-agers, that drugs and alcohol were used in its parking lot and that a woman may have been accosted there. In all, the club is named in 39 violations - including being the scene of fights, a frequent allegation in recent years.

A guilty finding on any of the charges could lead the board to revoke or suspend the club's license.

Richard C. Bittner, liquor board chairman, said the allegations are of "great concern to the board."

But the club is on the way to being sold. A lawyer for the would-be buyers said they are hoping the board will not revoke Rumblefish's license. The lawyer, Samuel J. Brown, added that the prospective buyers, a Pasadena couple, seek to take over the liquor license and work to rebuild the club.

"All they need is a chance to prove themselves," Brown said. "They are prepared to put time and energy into a project which they believe can be successful."

The charges are the latest in a series against the club. The county liquor board needs two crates to hold the club's file.

On earlier occasions, police have noted incidents of fighting, drug use and underage drinking inside and outside the club.

Neighbors have complained about teen-agers being allowed into the club and about noisy crowds outside the bar and nearby. County fire officials have complained that patrons' illegally parked cars block emergency vehicle access, according to liquor board files.

In 2000, police stepped up patrols near the club after an incident in which gunshots fired outside the club sent about 300 people scurrying from the premises. Later that year, the liquor board rejected the club's request to hold weekly teen nights.

Rumblefish's license was suspended last year, once for endangering the "public welfare" and once for safety violations. The liquor board ordered it to post uniformed guards.

In September, a man was charged with murder in a stabbing that police said may have followed a dispute at the club.

But Brown said the atmosphere at the club has changed with new management and the pending sale.

The would-be buyers, Ulrica and Michael Ballard, could not be reached yesterday, but they have been running Rumblefish since last month without incident, Brown said.

Callers to Rumblefish hear a recording that advertises a name-the-club contest and a "dress to impress" code.

Pamela Lyons, president of Racer's Inc., which owns Rumblefish, declined to comment yesterday.

"The establishment is under contract for sale," confirmed C. Edward Middlebrooks Jr., a lawyer representing the club's current owner, and the attorney who will appear before the liquor commissioners tonight. "Suffice it to say that [liquor commissioners] had made it clear in a previous hearing that they would look favorably upon the place being sold."

"We'll hear the facts," said Bittner, the liquor board chairman, "and we will hear the defense of the establishment."

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