Baltimore's liquor board suspended for six months the license for Stagedoor, a strip club on The Block, after inspectors testified that they spotted a dancer holding a used condom while giving a man a lap dance.
The board also found Stagedoor guilty of allowing minors to possess alcohol at the club during the same July 11 visit by inspectors. Four youths ages 17 to 19 were allowed in and seen with alcohol.
The suspension was the third substantial penalty levied by the liquor board in the past four weeks, after a six-month suspension of a Mexican restaurant's liquor license and the revocation of a Canton club's license.
Two Stagedoor managers testified during the three-hour hearing Thursday that they did not allow any sexual acts in the club and that liquor inspectors visit frequently and harass customers.
Stagedoor's attorney, Joel Segal, said during the hearing that inspectors called police to the club, but no arrests were made that night for illegal sexual activity or underage drinking.
Liquor board chairman Stephan Fogleman said commissioners relied heavily on the testimony of investigator Karen Brooks, who said she retrieved the used condom. Brooks took pictures of the scene with a cellular phone, and the photos were entered into evidence.
Brooks said she did not see sexual activity, but Fogleman said "we have no problem believing that more likely than not, Ms. Brooks interrupted sexual activity between the participants."
It was the third major offense for Stagedoor, located at 5-11 Commerce St. The club was fined $9,000 in 2007 after allegations that three dancers solicited vice officers. In December 2006, the Health Department closed Stagedoor for a week because it had no hot water and toilets in the women's restroom were overflowing. Inspectors also noted that the bar was infested with fruit flies.
The club's owner, Jennifer Ward- Guadarrama, was represented at yesterday's hearing by her business partner Michael Holland, who said Stagedoor has been targeted by the liquor board.
Holland said he's kept a log since April, and that inspectors have visited the club about 35 times.
Brooks "has closed us down several times, and she's pushed and cursed at my employees," Holland said.
After the hearing, liquor commissioners held an open forum to discuss proposed rules for "bottle clubs," where patrons are served liquor from bottles purportedly belonging to them, without regard to liquor laws. The board expects to pass rules within 45 days. A Baltimore judge ruled last month that the board acted improperly last year when it tried to shut down Suite Ultralounge, a bottle club in the Belvedere that Mount Vernon community leaders have said draws a violent crowd.
The judge ruled that the liquor board must first establish rules about when to revoke the license of a bottle club before trying to close Suite Ultralounge
Several residents and lawyers addressed the board yesterday, urging commissioners to come up with clear regulations and sanctions for bottle clubs, similar to those that govern other establishments with liquor licenses.