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Is the liquor board getting too tough on bars?

I couldn't help but chuckle when I read this piece by Sun reporter Brent Jones. The article takes a look at how the liquor board has started cracking down on Baltimore bars and clubs. Here's an interesting little snippet:

The board has issued more than $94,000 in fines this year, and $325,000 since January 2008. It has also revoked five liquor licenses dating to 2007, a move rarely used in the past and generally reserved for clubs and restaurants with long records of serious misconduct. The previous panel revoked just two licenses.

I've been writing about nightlife for just about four years now. I didn't get involved on the legal side (liquor license revoking, etc.) until the past couple years.

But I've kept an eye on the liquor board hearings and the punishments doled out to bars who break the law for a while.

I have to say, I think on the whole, the liquor board is doing all right. If anything, they should have cracked down even more on some of these spots (namely, Suite Ultralounge) ...

Take Club Phantom, for instance. I think this other piece (also by Brent Jones), sums it up perfectly:

The license was awarded to owner Shane Anderson last year with several conditions, according to the liquor board. Phantom was not allowed to have live entertainment, performing disc jockeys or promotions for parties.

But the club advertised 13 parties this year, using an outside agency to create fliers and promote the events, according to testimony during the 90-minute hearing. Neither Anderson nor a lawyer represented Phantom at the hearing, but the club's manager testified that he was unaware of the agreement, liquor board Chairman Stephan Fogleman said.

Um ... what? Unaware of the agreement? Sounds pretty simple to me. The liquor board said, OK, guys, you can open this place as long as you don't throw DJ dance nights. And what did they do? They threw DJ dance nights. A bunch of them.

Of course the community is going to be up in arms. They signed a petition to shut the club down.

Remember, this little strip of Boston Street clubs has been a bane of the neighborhood for several years now. The clubs have brought several incidents of violence, noise and disorderly conduct. That's why Club Phantom wasn't allowed to do live entertainment.

So the liquor board pulled Club Phantom's license. To me, that's not harsh -- that's common sense.

I'm not going to go case by case here, because that would take too long. And I'm sure the liquor board has made mistakes, and fined certain bars too much. That's inevitable. But as a bar-goer and a city resident, I'd rather have the liquor board be too tough on these joints than let them get by with whatever they wanted to do.

(Photo by me)

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