Significant damage was caused to Grand Central in Mount Vernon on Monday night when a driver fleeing transit police lost control of his vehicle, smashed into a pickup truck carrying drums of paint and careened through the bar's outdoor patio.
The accident left the bar, a popular gathering place for the neighborhood's large gay community, covered in white paint as bystanders watched Maryland Transit Administration officers continue their pursuit of the driver on foot, said Terry Owens, a MTA Police spokesman.
Donnell Tyrone Ray, 18, was arrested a short distance away after trying to flee the scene, Owens said. He remained in custody Tuesday, with charges pending, Owens said.
In addition to the paint damage, the bar had windows and doors smashed and patio furniture and planters completely destroyed, among other problems, said Don Davis, the bar's owner.
"I'm on the phone now with the insurance company and insurance adjusters trying to get this cleaned up, but it's dreadful," Davis said Tuesday morning. "Just dreadful."
The crash occurred shortly before 9:30 p.m., when MTA officers attempted to make a traffic stop on a vehicle with its headlights off and traveling in the wrong direction on nearby Park Avenue, Owens said.
Instead of stopping, the driver drove off, ran a red light and then crashed into the truck and bar, with officers in pursuit, Owens said.
"Officers are allowed to pursue, but there has to be a serious infraction," he said, of MTA protocols on vehicle pursuits. "The investigation that's underway right now is trying to determine whether or not this case met that threshold."
Ray, the alleged driver, sustained minor injuries, Owens said.
The driver of the paint truck, who was not identified, also sustained minor injuries but refused transport to an area hospital, Owens said.
No one else was reported injured, he said.
Davis, who lives in Florida, said he first noticed the damage on security cameras that he can access remotely, and called the bar immediately to learn what happened.
The bar was forced to close Monday night after the accident by a building inspector, Davis said.
On Tuesday, Davis said he was trying to determine how to clean up the paint in line with environmental regulations, which neighbors were already complaining about.
"You can't just wash it down with chemicals, let it go down the city drain and go into the harbor. You can't do it," he said.
He was also working with the building inspector to determine if the bar is safe to reopen.
Business has already been slow lately, he said, and the closure — however short — will hurt.
The neighborhood has been going downhill, is now home to parties at other clubs that draw rowdy crowds, and his clientele no longer feel safe, Davis said.
"People are scared to come out. They can't find parking and they don't want to get mugged," he said.
After 22 years owning Grand Central, this may be the last straw, he said.
"We're going to get it fixed, but I'm not sure what I'm doing after that," Davis said. "I might sell the place. I'm tired of the whole city."
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