County seeks to revoke Skateworks' license

April 07, 2010|By By Mary Gail Hare | The Baltimore Sun

A Baltimore County hearing officer will review testimony today that could close a popular roller skating rink in Woodlawn.

County officials want to revoke the entertainment license of Skateworks, the two-year-old rink that opened in an industrial park on Whitehead Road.

Officials would not comment on the specifics of the case but said the rink's management has not adhered to licensing requirements, which include prevention of excessive noise, traffic congestion and vandalism, according to permit regulations.

"The hearing gives Skateworks an opportunity to present evidence as to why we should not take action to revoke the license," said Mike Mohler, the county's deputy director of permits and inspections.

An attorney for Skateworks said the county is targeting a minority-owned business and its predominantly African-American clientele. Attorney Paul Gardner said a rally at the rink last week drew hundreds of supporters, most of them parents.

"How can this business be a nuisance to the neighborhood when it is in an industrial park?" Gardner asked. "The community supports this venue because it gives kids something to do."

Co-owner Barney Wilson said he invested in the rink "to provide a place for families to gather."

"This could be a model for businesses in an urban center, if the police and community could work together as partners," said Wilson, who is principal of Baltimore's Polytechnic Institute.

Mohler said his office has received multiple complaints about Skateworks, including reports of unauthorized after-hours activities. When the rink opened in 2008, its owners requested permission to operate until 4 a.m. The permit granted by the county orders the rink to close at midnight. The Skateworks Web site recently advertised an event Saturday that is scheduled to run until 4 a.m.. Wilson said he is waiting to receive a permit from the county.

Gardner said the rink "has abided by its midnight closing for the better part of a year."

Mohler said the county effort is not only about hours of operation. Police records show officers were called to the rink or its immediate surroundings 196 times in the past 15 months. A year ago, two men were shot about 3 a.m. in the parking lot behind the rink.

Gardner said only 132 of those calls included the business name. The owners have installed security cameras and have hired security guards.

"We need help at dismissals to move the crowd along," said Wilson.

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