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Liquor board eyes Recher Theatre's role in Towson melee

Hearing on Oct. 29; Councilman advocates 'warning or a reasonable penalty if the owners can show this won't happen again'

By Jon Meoli, jmeoli@tribune.com

8:49 AM EDT, October 24, 2012

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The owners of the Recher Theatre on York Road will stand before the Baltimore County Liquor Board next Monday, Oct. 29, to discuss the theater's role in last month's late night disturbance in Towson, and local leaders said this week they hope the incident's high visibility doesn't increase the penalty on the business.

"I think that the Recher boys have a great history of being good community and business members for well over 17 years," said Towson Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Nancy Hafford. "It was a very unfortunate accident, and from all the people in the business community and all the people I've talked to in the residential community, almost everyone hopes that nothing severe is going to happen.

"They're good people, and I'm sure it's harder on them what happened than anything the county will impose on them," she said. "We're hoping that this shall pass, and the positive light that Towson deserves will shine on it again."

Police said as many as 2,500 people were on the streets in downtown Towson late on Sept. 24 and into the following morning for a party that drew people to the Recher Theatre from all over the state.

After the incident, Brian Recher, owner of the Recher Theatre, said the venue reached capacity for the event shortly after doors opened, and police said the crowd waiting to get in did not follow orders to clear the streets. The event used an independent promoter and tickets were not sold in advance.

Recher declined to be interviewed for this story.

The Recher was issued a show cause hearing in which they must defend themselves for violation of Rule 3B of the county's liquor laws, which states "all licensees shall operate their establishments in such a manner as to avoid disturbing the peace, tranquility, safety, health, and quiet of the neighborhood where located."

"We use that a lot," said Liquor Board chief administrator Mike Mohler last week. "You are responsible for your patrons and your establishments in the neighborhood that you exist. That includes loud music, fights, police calls, all that kind of stuff."

The law requires licensees to take all precautionary measures to comply with the rule.

"That's going to be the board's decision," Mohler said. "Was the bar at fault? We can all put two and two together and say if the event wasn't held, would this have happened? Were there certain things that the bar didn't do? And that will be up to the board to determine that."

Mohler said the board considers the severity of the incident and the frequency of their occurrences, but noted that an August incident — in which police were called to the Recher's affiliated Rec Room facility for a fight between patrons — would not be part of this case.

Commissioners would be aware of the incident, he said, but it cannot be considered in the penalty.

Additionally, police have not linked that night's shooting of a 19-year-old man near the Towson Town Center mall to the disorder outside of the Recher. Police spokeswoman Cpl. Cathy Batton said Tuesday that the shooting remains under investigation.

The maximum fine for any charge that could be levied against a bar is $2,000 — that is the fine levied on Oct. 1 to TeeBee's Place in Parkville, where a man died after being stabbed inside the bar on Sept. 1.

In that incident, local and state legislators urged a stiff penalty.

After the Towson incident, County Executive Kevin Kamenetz took a similar approach, placing blame for the incident on the Recher's owners for passing off control of their establishment to an independent promoter.

"With TeeBee's Place, there was a history of problems and two homicides," said County Councilman David Marks, who represents the 5th District. "There hasn't been that experience with the Recher Theatre. I'm comfortable with either a warning or a reasonable penalty if the owners can show this won't happen again and they'll control the crowds that sometimes do form outside the theater."

Mohler said three incidents in the past two years have resulted in either permanent or temporary losses of license, including the Black Hole in Dundalk, which he said was "an open-air drug market" with underage patrons that was shut down as the result of a prolonged police investigation.

Additionally, Cheers in Parkville was suspended for 30 days and never reopened, and Boomers in Middle River was suspended for "at least a day" before selling to new owners who have not since had issues, Mohler said.

Brian and Scott Recher will be before the liquor board on Monday, Oct. 29, at 2 p.m. in Room 104 of the Jefferson Building, 105 W. Chesapeake Ave., Towson.