Liquor board hearing set today on Club Malibu in Canton, scene of brawls, health code violations

Bar violence draws scrutiny

November 16, 2006|By Lynn Anderson | Lynn Anderson,Sun Reporter

Club Malibu has been open only a few months, but it already has a reputation for being a violent and dangerous place.

In a two-week span in late October, the Southeast Baltimore bar was the scene of brawls that left blood on the club's dance floor and sent eight people to Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, where they were treated for stab wounds, cuts and bruises, city police reported.

"The bar has been a serious problem for us," said Matt Jablow, a spokesman for the city Police Department. "A lot of [high-ranking] people are aware of it."

FOR THE RECORD - A headline for an article in yesterday's Maryland section about Club Malibu misidentified the location of the bar. It is in the Canton Industrial Area. THE SUN REGRETS THE ERROR

The city Health Department shut down Club Malibu for several days last month when inspectors found that it was infested with mice and fruit flies; the latter tend to multiply in bars with unsanitary conditions, according to a health official.

"They had a lot of problems," said Olivia Farrow, assistant commissioner for environmental health. "There was dried blood on the dance floor."

The club is owned by Baltimore resident James Micklos, who also runs a painting and drywall company. City liquor board files show that Micklos has been cited for staying open after 2 a.m., failing to cooperate with police officers, serving a minor and other infractions that include unsanitary conditions caused by clogged toilets and sinks.

A liquor board hearing on those violations has been scheduled for today. If the board rules against Micklos, he could be fined hundreds of dollars or even lose his license.

In September, the liquor board fined Micklos $1,000 and $125 in administrative fees for failing to maintain a safe and orderly establishment, among other violations. Police testified that on June 11, 150 to 200 people were fighting at the bar's side entrance and in the parking lot. Micklos says the number was much smaller and that the brawl took place at a neighboring property.

Micklos maintains that police have targeted his club and accuses them of harassing him. "It's one thing after another with them," he said.

Micklos also said the citations by the liquor board are unwarranted and that police and other agencies are conspiring to put him out of business.

"I think they are trying to shut the place down," Micklos said yesterday during an interview at Club Malibu in the 1300 block of S. Ponca St. in the Canton Industrial Area.

"I'm very concerned," said Micklos, who had his two attorneys and family members vouch for his character when he applied to take over the club's liquor license, according to liquor board records. "I hear that other bars in the area are having the same problems."

Micklos bought the bar -- which had previously operated under the names Rawhide and Harbor Inn -- last year for $621,000.

Even before Micklos bought the club there had been trouble there, according to liquor board files. One time, a patron showed up with a chain saw; another time, someone sprayed Mace in a packed room.

Micklos said he never intended to run the business but rather saw it as a good investment.

However, when Micklos learned that the liquor board was cracking down on dormant liquor licenses and that he might lose his, he opened the club, first in April, with live bands, and then in June, after a break for remodeling, with a disc jockey.

Micklos said that business has been good -- he claims to have a mix of young white and African-American patrons -- but that he worries that frequent police visits will cut the number of his customers. He said that when police visited Club Malibu on Oct. 22, there was a wedding party in the basement, and that the bride and groom had to take their wedding cake to a nearby tavern to finish their celebration. The couple came back later to demand a refund, a request Micklos said that he granted even though it cost him $800.

"The police came in and told everyone they had 20 minutes to get out or else they'd be arrested," the club owner said.

Micklos also said that he helped police track down four men who started a brawl Oct. 21 that sent six patrons to nearby Hopkins Bayview for medical treatment. Three suffered stab wounds to the chest, stomach, back and arms. Three others suffered bruises and cuts from unknown objects. All of the victims were intoxicated at the time, police said.

Another incident at the club last month resulted in two victims being treated at Bayview, bringing the total to eight, city police reported.

Meanwhile, Micklos said he's puzzled by the scrutiny the bar is getting from police.

"I'm wondering if another bar put them up to this," said Micklos, referring to recent police activity.

Jablow, the police spokesman, declined to respond to Micklos' allegations of police harassment, adding, "I don't even want to dignify that remark."

"We've seen stabbings and underage drinking, and they serve alcohol later than they should," Jablow said. "Our only concern is making that neighborhood safer."

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