New Law Loosens Reins On Live Shows

Eateries, Bars Could Benefit, But Noise Worries Remain

November 24, 2009|By Julie Scharper | Julie Scharper,julie.scharper@baltsun.com

Mayor Sheila Dixon signed a bill Monday that could drastically change the city's nightlife scene by making it easier for bars and restaurants to host live performances.

Although proponents say the measure will promote a more vibrant city and generate profits for business owners, some community groups fear it will add noise and rowdy crowds.

During a break in her criminal trial Monday, the mayor told reporters that the legislation "is not that good of a bill." Dixon had delayed signing the bill for nearly a month and said she would rather have waited for the overhaul to the zoning code being crafted by her planning department.

While parts of the city, such as Hollins Market, could benefit from the more permissive zoning, other areas, such as Fells Point, are "overloaded," she said.

The law, which overturns a decades-old prohibition on live entertainment in certain residential areas, will enable restaurants and bars to seek permission from the city's Board of Municipal and Zoning Appeals to host live acts.

"This will draw more people to our business and to the area," said Winston Blick, who hopes to bring jazz groups and acoustic musicians to Clementine, the Lauraville restaurant he opened less than two years ago. "Under the old law, we couldn't even have a poetry reading."

But neighborhood groups say that they're worried they will have no recourse when bars violate the terms of their permit.

"I still don't know what I'm supposed to do if I encounter a violation of the entertainment code, specifically noise and crowds, at 2 o'clock in the morning," said Barry Glassman, executive director of the Southeast Presidents' Council, which represents Fells Point, Canton and Federal Hill.

Residents who are troubled by a bar or restaurant should call police at night or 311 during the day, said Cheron Porter, spokeswoman for the city housing authority, which will be handling code enforcement.

Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke, who represents several neighborhoods affected by the law and voted against it, said she was worried about the amount of time residents would need to spend at the zoning board.

"It takes citizens away from their jobs and responsibilities," she said. "And it's very hard to win at the zoning board."

Baltimore Sun reporter Annie Linskey contributed to this article.

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