The Fish Head Cantina in Arbutus will have to defend its liquor license Monday following a stabbing that claimed the life of a man following a rap show there.
The county liquor board called the hearing in response to the stabbing July 7 that killed 22-year-old John Bowman. Police found him after they were called to the bar for a report that fights had broken out as about 300 people left the show around 1:30 a.m.
The bar's owners have been called before the board in the past — for fights, noise complaints and underage drinking, but made changes to security based on police recommendations, according to county records. Neither the owners of the bar nor their attorney responded to requests for comment.
Terrence Nolan, president of the Arbutus Business and Professional Association, said Fish Head is a responsible business and a good neighbor. The bar is a member of the association.
"When people drink, they can cause trouble, and that can happen anywhere," he said.
But County Council Chairman Tom Quirk, who represents the community, said he has received numerous complaints about the bar.
"There has unfortunately been a lot of problems that have emanated from Fish Head Cantina. They must do a better job with the types of clientele they are attracting," he said.
As a result of Monday's hearing, the owners could have their liquor license revoked or suspended. They could also be hit with fines.
Two other killings and several violent incidents have been reported in Baltimore County bars over the past year, and a melee in downtown Towson after an event at the Recher Theater also brought increased scrutiny because of its size and location.
But authorities said that the recent incidents were isolated and they did not believe violence at drinking establishments is up.
County Police Department spokeswoman Elise Armacost said that after serious incidents at bars, it is the responsibility of the establishment to make sure proper security measures are in place.
Police stationed in the area are expected to check in to make sure the bar or restaurant has everything under control, according to Armacost.
"When something does happen, we expect the captain to be talking to them about what needs to be done," Armacost said.
Mike Mohler, chief administrator of the Baltimore County Liquor Board, said the only bar that he remembers losing its license recently was the Black Hole Club in Essex, where county police spent more than a year investigating drug activity.
"We do not tolerate foolishness or bars not taking proper actions," Mohler said. "If the board finds an establishment is at fault, they will move swiftly."
The county has more than 480 establishments with liquor licenses, with the majority never having an issue, he said.
In the Fish Head violence, police have charged Shelbie Mech, 31, with murder. Her husband, 35-year-old Michael Singer — also known as the rapper Blizz — has been accused of being an accessory after the fact by preventing a security guard from detaining his wife. Both live in Curtis Bay.
Cpl. Cathy Batton, a police spokeswoman, said police have not determined a motive or a relationship between Bowman and the couple.
Batton said Kimberly Adkins, 30, of the 3800 block of Pennington Ave. in Brooklyn, was indicted on July 29 as an accessory after the fact, for allegedly helping Mech leave the bar. Charging documents said Adkins drove Mech home. She does not have a lawyer listed in court documents
David Bowman, the victim's uncle, said his nephew went to the bar to pick up friends and was acting as the designated driver.
He said didn't know of any problems he might have had with anyone.
He said John Bowman worked at a business in Elkridge making electronic brakes for trains and was engaged to be married to his high school girlfriend this month. He lived in southern Baltimore County near Lansdowne.
"She was really upset," he said. "She will miss him. We all will."
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