Rap, liquor license irk candidate

City Council hopeful questions concert scheduled Saturday at the Du Burns Arena

August 16, 2007|By Liz F. Kay | Liz F. Kay,sun reporter

A candidate for the City Council seat representing Canton has raised concerns about a concert Saturday at the Clarence H. Du Burns Arena featuring rappers Lil Wayne and Juelz Santana.

Donald J. Dewar III sent a letter Monday to Mayor Sheila Dixon and the city's liquor board, complaining about the performers' lyrics and Lil Wayne's criminal record. He asked that the event be canceled and its one-day liquor license be revoked.

"This building is in a residential neighborhood," said Dewar, a Democrat. The event "doesn't belong in a neighborhood like this. It belongs in a high-density area."

FOR THE RECORD - An article in the Maryland section yesterday misspelled the name of a city police spokesman. His name is Sterling Clifford.
THE SUN REGRETS THE ERROR.

His letter described lyrics by Santana and Lil Wayne about violence, prostitution and drugs.

Dixon's spokesman Anthony McCarthy said last night the mayor was gathering information about the concerns and the event.

Paul Gardner, attorney for concert promoter IKON Entertainment, said having the city cancel the concert would violate the First Amendment. "It's unconstitutional to really erect a policy banning one kind of concert based on its content," he said.

Dewar acknowledged that the songs were protected as free speech but said that "with all the crime and drugs, having anything like that that promotes it seems inappropriate." He said it is better-suited for downtown venues such as the 1st Mariner Arena.

Gardner said the complaint had a hint of racial bias. "If Paris Hilton was coming down to the Du Burns Arena on Aug. 18, I do not think Mr. Dewar would be complaining -- and she's" been convicted, he said.

City police spokesman Sterline Clifford denied Dewar's claim in his letter that a Lil' Kim concert held at the arena June 15 "created a mini-riot." No police were called to the arena that night, he said. He added that police have developed a security plan for the venue and surrounding neighborhood. "It's something they do for every special event," Clifford said.

The city-owned arena is managed by a company owned by First Mariner Bancorp executive and developer Edwin F. Hale Sr. He could not be reached for comment last night.

City Councilman James B. Kraft, a Democrat who represents Canton, said he was contacted last week about the concert. He also said the June concert caused no problems. Kraft made calls to confirm that liquor inspectors and police would be present, as they are for events drawing crowds at O'Donnell Square and Boston Street bars.

"I'm not, and the city is not, saying we support this particular group or these particular entertainers ... but they have a legitimate contract with the city to use the Du Burns Arena," Kraft said.

Kraft said he plans to meet with officials from city recreation and parks, the liquor board and Hale Properties.

IKON President Tracye Stafford said the concerns were unfounded. "We had no problems. It went smoothly," Stafford said of the June event, which about 500 people attended. The same number is expected Saturday. Liquor board Chairman Stephan Fogleman said last night that there had been no complaints about the June event "except for one concern sent four days ago, well after the license was issued -- certainly a little late for protest."

The one-day license was issued by a liquor board employee and was not reviewed by the board itself, he said. The board received about 26 calls or e-mails complaining about Saturday's event, so future liquor applications for the arena will not be approved without consulting the Canton Community Association, he said.

Lil Wayne, whose given name is Dwayne Michael Carter, pleaded not guilty to gun possession charges after an arrest in New York last month, according to news reports.

liz.kay@baltsun.com

Sun researcher Paul McCardell contributed to this article.

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