A Towson law firm plans to challenge the renewal of the Recher Theatre's liquor license in an effort to stop the establishment's plan to become a nightclub.
The Charles E. Brooks Law Offices will file a petition with the county liquor board within the next week on behalf of residents and property owners, according to Jean Kosloski, an attorney with the firm. Liquor licenses in Baltimore County expire April 30.
"We object to them becoming a nightclub," Kosloski said. "That type of usage in the center of Towson is kind of a disaster waiting to happen."
The law firm recently took out an ad in the Towson Times newspaper asking people to contact them if they oppose the theater's plans.
Once the petition is filed, the liquor board would schedule a hearing for the case, said attorney Charles Brooks.
Theater co-owner Brian Recher called the move "ridiculous."
"I don't know what their grounds are," he said.
Recher plans to close the York Road venue at the end of this month and reopen, possibly in the fall, as the Torrent Nightclub, featuring DJ acts and electronic music. Recher said he understands people "want to make sure the community is safe, and so do we."
"This is going to be a classy place," he said. "I don't understand what the hoopla is."
His family has invested millions in the business, he said, and he has fond memories of growing up in Towson.
"We care very much about Towson," he said. "We're not going to do anything to jeopardize Towson."
The theater, which has been in business for about 17 years, faced criticism last fall after disturbances in Towson that followed an event there, but the county liquor board cleared the business of responsibility for the incident.
Kosloski said the firm's clients don't want to shut down the venue, but the petition is to "stop them from becoming a nightclub."
Nancy Hafford, executive director of the Towson Chamber of Commerce, called the challenge to the liquor license "a shame."
"Almost every bar in this area at nighttime has DJs and become dance clubs," she said. "The Rechers have a fabulous record of being upstanding business owners."
County Councilman David Marks, a Republican whose district includes Towson, said he has no position on the situation.
"I'm going to stay out of this case," Marks said. "Earlier on, I raised concerns about the need for more police officers, and that is where my focus is."
While some fear a nightclub could spark trouble in the downtown area, others are withholding judgment until it opens, said Paul Hartman, president of the Greater Towson Council of Community Associations.
"There's still community members who are anxious about having a nightclub, with all the baggage that word comes with," Hartman said. But "on the whole, people have been pretty pleased with the [Recher's] attention to not being a nuisance to the neighborhood."
The theater plans a final show March 31 featuring more than 15 bands, Recher said. The event will benefit CF4CF, a cystic fibrosis foundation, he said. The business will then close for remodeling.
The switch to a nightclub will help the business stay competitive, he said.
"We don't want to get out of the live music business, but we have no choice," he said.