Miller's Island restaurant slapped with $4,000 fine in years-long battle over music

The years-long battle over music at the Dock of the Bay restaurant in Miller's Island continued Monday as the Baltimore County Board of Liquor License Commissioners fined the waterfront establishment $4,000 for two violations, and the chairman warned that heavier penalties will be imposed for further infractions.

"If we're back here again, my gut feeling is it's going to be a much more serious outcome," said Charles E. Klein, as the three-member panel returned their decision after only a few minutes of deliberation following a three-and-a-half-hour hearing. The board has the power to suspend or revoke the restaurant's liquor license.

Kay Sessa, one of three restaurant neighbors who testified Monday about recorded music she considered too loud being played from outdoor speakers during the Memorial Day weekend, said the fine was too light a penalty for the restaurant's co-owner, Lawrence J. Thanner Jr.

"No, I'm not satisfied with it," said Sessa. "He's been slapped with fines for six years. It does no good. I want to see him run his business within the law. He has a blatant disrespect for the county and the law, and I can guarantee we'll be back here again because he doesn't care."

Thanner, who is co-owner of the two businesses that own the restaurant and the property on Cuckold Point Road, declined to comment after the decision. His lawyer, David F. Mister, said he has 30 days to appeal the decision to the Circuit Court, but said he was leaning against that.

"If I were to guess I'd say probably not," said Mister.

The board ruled that the restaurant had violated two liquor board rules, one barring disturbances of the peace such as noise or unruly behavior, the other barring a license holder from violating state or federal law.

The first violation stemmed from neighbors' recent complaints of music being played over the Memorial Day weekend from an iPod that Thanner had placed on a barge he recently built and lashed to the pier. The second, said Michael Mohler, chief liquor board administrator, alleged that the restaurant violated the order of a Circuit Court judge, who last November barred from the place "any live band, Disc Jockey, karaoke or any other form of live or recorded entertainment."

The order arose from a lengthy zoning violations case, in which the restaurant was found by the Board of Appeals, the Circuit Court and the Maryland Court of Special Appeals to be operating as a nightclub in an area where such establishments are not allowed.

Thanner set up the iPod last month on a barge he called "my boat," claiming in an interview weeks ago that there was "nothing in the law against having a band on a boat…I don't know of any code I would be violating."

At the board hearing Monday, Thanner testified that the music on the barge did not violate the court order, and he insisted that he was being singled out among hundreds of restaurants that offer music.

"I'm illegal and they're not. That is not right," Thanner said. "Playing an iPod on a boat, that's what I'm here for."

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