Campus Hills residents fighting bowling alley liquor license

The Campus Hills community is rallying against AMF Towson Lanes' liquor license application, which residents believe could make what they contend are unruly crowds that gather outside the alley at night even more troublesome.

"We don't want a bar in the middle of our neighborhood," Andrea Otis, a member of the Campus Hills Community Association board, said Thursday. "They haven't proven to be responsible neighbors in the past, and we don't think them getting a liquor license will change that."

The board decided to oppose the application at Sept. 6 meeting, and a postponement from the original liquor board hearing of Monday, Sept. 10 allowed them to begin hanging fliers and collecting signatures throughout the community.

According to online records, Towson Lanes, at 701 Southwick Drive, is attempting to acquire the license from Mo's Fisherman's Exchange. The hearing has been postponed until October, though no new date has been set.

Otis, who lives on a street adjacent to the alley off Southwick Drive, said informal polling of neighbors was "unanimous" in its opposition to license at the alley. Residents say the bowling facility has long been a hub for behavior that doesn't match the alley's residential surroundings.

Earlier this month, former Campus Hills board member Gary Bulls detailed some of the problems residents have had with alley patrons, including an instance in which a person leaving the alley drove into an adjacent resident's living room.

Bulls said bowling alley patrons frequently congregate in the parking lot to drink after their games are over, leading to loud parties, public urination and other disorderly activities.

The community association keeps a log of 911 calls to the alley, but Otis said many calls don't result in police reports, including one she called in last year after witnessing 20 to 30 people brawling in the parking lot one night.

After years of frustration, Bulls said some have simply stopped calling the police to report the behavior.

"The thought of having basically a bar inside is not a good thing for the neighborhood," he said. "When these people bought their houses, it wasn't a liquored establishment."

Otis said the bowling alley followed all of the proper procedure in filing its application and hanging the sign announcing the original Sept. 10 meeting, but that no one from the alley reached out to the community in regard to the filing.

"It's irresponsible management," Otis said. "We understand that the liquor board gave them our contact information, our mailing address, so we expected they might be sending us something, but to date I have not received anything."

Merrell Wreden, vice president of marketing for AMF Bowling Centers, said the company is "sorry that the community is upset," but that AMF operates a dozen bowling centers in Maryland that hold liquor licenses and have no problems.

Wreden said servers receive extra alcohol control training at establishments with liquor licenses, and that security will be added should the license go through. He was unaware of the specific problems surrounding behavior outside Towson Lanes, but said that if the problem does exist, the extra security would help contain it.

Otis said the AMF Timonium Lanes has a liquor license, but is located in a business district, not a residential neighborhood. She also believes the proximity of Towson Lanes to Cromwell Valley Elementary School could hurt its bid.

"I know there is a rule that they can't be 300 feet from an elementary school," she said. "Building to building, they're OK, but property line to property line is very close. They're really pushing the boundaries here."

NOTE: An earlier version of this story erred in the distance required between school and businesses with a liquor license. It has been corrected here.

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