Fells Point Restaurant, Club To Keep Licenses

April 24, 2009|By Brent Jones | Brent Jones,brent.jones@baltsun.com

A popular Fells Point restaurant and a strip club three blocks away will keep their liquor licenses after reaching agreements Thursday with neighborhood associations at a liquor board hearing.

Several Fells Point community associations were protesting the renewal of liquor licenses for Timothy Dean's Bistro, in the 1700 block of Eastern Ave., and Chubbies, citing loud noise and disorderly conduct when both places close at 2 a.m. But Timothy Dean and the licensee for Chubbies agreed to make changes in their establishments, and the cases were settled before liquor board commissioners made a ruling.

Timothy Dean was fined $3,100 in January after one of the board's inspectors was manhandled by restaurant security during an investigation last year, and commissioners also found the restaurant guilty of operating as a de facto dance club, which violates its zoning designation. Dean said he turned the restaurant into a lounge in June because he was losing money as a high-end bistro after the economic downtown.

Since then, Dean and members of the Upper Fells Point Improvement Association have sparred over the change, with residents angry over what they call late-night noise and long lines outside the restaurant Fridays and Saturdays. During yesterday's hearing, Dean agreed to encourage his crowd to depart quickly after closing and to not have any live entertainment and dancing.

Dean conceded to other provisions, including the removal of outside tables and chairs and moving speakers away from the door.

"It's in writing," liquor board chairman Stephan Fogleman said. "We're happy about that because Mr. Dean is a fantastic chef and he's well known in the city, and we wish him the best of luck without having to come before the liquor board again."

Dean's case was settled without testimony, but the community presented its case against Chubbies, calling four witnesses.

City Councilman James B. Kraft said that a school is too close to the club and that students "should not be seeing" what goes on around Chubbies. He called for the license to be revoked.

Denise Whitman, a member of Friends of Fountain Street, told the board that she lives two blocks from the club and once saw a scantily clad woman sitting on the lap of a bouncer outside the place.

Liquor board commissioners helped negotiate an agreement before Chubbies presented its case.

Chubbies, in the 2000 block of Eastern Ave., will get rid of its sandwich sign in front of the club, will not encourage people on the street to come inside and will explore planting trees around the place. The owner also agreed to not hire known sex offenders or anyone who has been convicted of prostitution in the past five years.

Victor T. Corbin, president of the Upper Fells Point Improvement Association, said he knows many in the community were hoping the place would be shut down. But he said, "This agreement is better than nothing at all."

Once solidly blue-collar, the area has seen an influx of professionals buying rowhouses blocks from the water. Over the past five years, residents have complained about Chubbies and fought to have its license revoked.

Chubbies, which has been open in some form since 1964, is one of the few strip clubs in the city not on The Block. In 2005, a previous liquor board nearly took the club's license after a six-hour protest hearing. But the owner had filed for bankruptcy earlier that day, and federal proceedings supercede local judgments. One liquor board commissioner said the board was set to void the license.

"We're sensitive to longtime license holders in a changing neighborhood," Fogleman said Thursday. "In this case, we believe Chubbies need to keep up with that neighborhood, and if that means adopting more decorum, then so be it."

The liquor board did not renew the license for M&M Discount Liquors, in the 5100 block of Park Heights Ave.

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