Several members of the Towson business community on Wednesday expressed support for the Recher Theatre, a day after Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz placed primary blame on the business for the event that triggered last weekend's unrest.
Towson Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Nancy Hafford said she's gone door-to-door to her member businesses this week and reported back that "99 percent of them think the Recher is a good, community business.
"They've been good citizens in our community," Hafford said. "I can't speak longer — I've only been here 23 years — but that business has been here and they've never had major problems."
Baltimore County Police arrested seven people early Sunday morning in downtown Towson after a large crowd outside the Recher became unruly.
The Recher Theatre was rented out to a fraternity, Theta Mu Mu, who held a charity clothing drive and fundraiser at the facility that evening. Hafford said a second fraternity event in Prince George's County fell through, and all of those attendees were directed instead to the Recher.
On Monday, Recher Theatre owner Brian Recher said doors were closed at 11:15 p.m. when the facility hit capacity, and police said the crowd outside grew violent and refused to leave the area when asked.
In a story on Wednesday in the Baltimore Sun, Kamenetz said liquor license holders "can't just assume that their responsibility ends at their doorway."
Recher could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
Kathy Harden, who owns Souris' Saloon across the street from the Recher, said it was clear being in Towson on Saturday night that the Recher hosted a "very popular" event, but said of the Recher management, "I feel for them."
"Being a business owner, I know they're probably hurting inside from what happened," she said.
Harden said the family is "an original Towson mainstay," dating back to the old Towson Theatre.
Robert Taylor Jr., a Towson attorney who has represented bars and restaurants in similar cases — but said he is not representing the Recher — said he "didn't like the knee-jerk reaction with respect to Brian's business."
"I've gone there for years, and know him personally," Taylor said. "He's a pretty darn responsible business owner. I just think he was probably as taken aback as everybody else by what went down."
Taylor, who lives in Wiltondale, also took exception with comments from the county executive, who said in The Sun article that he has "a real problem" with bar owners who cede responsibilities to outside promoters.
"Don't grandstand," Taylor said. "There's a problem here — let's solve it. It's no different than College Park. If we have a major problem or a mini riot after a basketball game, are we going to shut down the local bars or can the basketball games?"
He said in his experience, independent promoters "keep (owners) out of the loop with how much its blown up or how many people are going to come."
Melony Wagner, co-owner of Charles Village Pub in Towson, said local bars, businesses and the police department need to unify and "work together to make this an unwelcome environment for any bad element that wants to come in.
"We need to make it an unwelcome place for that activity," she said.
Meanwhile, The Sun quoted Mike Mohler, the County Liquor Board chief administrator, as saying the board will likely decide by the end of the week whether it will schedule a hearing on the Towson matter.
Mohler told The Sun he met with Recher last week to discuss crowd control issues following fights at the venue in August — and that Recher had requested the meeting. The Sun also reported that police records say officers went to the Recher's affiliated Rec Room — a bar next door— for three calls for fights on Aug. 22. A large crowd gathered on the streets and parking lots surrounding the bar as the fights broke out, stopping traffic on York Road, according to the police report.