Police chief suggests changes after another fight at Bel Air's Dark Horse Saloon

Another fight was reported at The Dark Horse Saloon in Bel Air this weekend, just a week after two people were stabbed outside the bar in a fight that began inside.

The latest incident involving people who were at the business has prompted the town's police chief to suggest some changes in the business' operations.

Police Chief Leo Matrangola said Tuesday the latest fight happened at about 11:30 p.m. Saturday and began when one person was acting disorderly.

He said two people went to the hospital for minor injuries and refused further treatment.

"We have met with the bar owner and manager," Matrangola said, adding he did suggest Dark Horse have shorter hours.

"We have made several suggestions for them to modify music and modify certain hours of operation," Matrangola said. "We want to cooperate with them; we don't want to burden them too much or put them out of business."

Although fighting may be hard to prevent, the chief said, "we have to do something in order to maybe discourage it, so we are working very closely with them."

Bel Air police are still looking for a suspect in a stabbing after a fight in the parking lot outside the Dark Horse on Dec. 1, the Saturday night.

In that fight, two people were stabbed by an attacker, who came to a party held at the bar and was asked to leave by management when trouble started. The bar's manager said the man who did the stabbing was not a regular at the Dark Horse and had been escorted outside and along with others involved, as soon as fighting started inside.

Bel Air Mayor Eddie Hopkins said Monday that he was told the latest altercation Saturday at Dark Horse started between two people who know each other, calling it "domestic in nature."

"My understanding was the one this weekend was with a girl who believed her boyfriend was cheating on her and punched him," Hopkins said.

He said the two began arguing and a fight ensued that spilled out into the parking lot.

Hopkins said the timing of the fights a week apart is "unusual" for Bel Air, but he does not believe it means people should again be concerned about violence on the property.

Past issues

The site of the Dark Horse, when it was formerly known as The Greene Turtle and was under different management, had several publicized police calls in 2009, including one involving an Army reservist who told police he was drinking alone in the bar, after he was later found in a neighborhood several blocks away with a handgun, allegedly threatening people. The man later hanged himself in the county jail.

Also in 2009, an active duty Army sergeant was charged with raping a woman he met inside the Greene Turtle. He later pleaded guilty to a reduced assault charge and received a year prison term.

"We haven't seen this in a long time," Hopkins said about two fights at the same bar so close together.

He said Town Administrator Chris Schlehr regularly speaks with the management at the downtown bars and addresses any safety issues. The downtown Bel Air area is home to several popular nightspots.

"There's always something we can do to work with restaurant and tavern owners to prevent these things from happening," Hopkins said.

Although Hopkins said it is important to stay vigilant, he reiterated he also does not believe the two incidents at Dark Horse pose a serious threat.

"These things occur occasionally at bars and restaurants, no matter how good you are," he said. "A bar is never free of a bar fight."

Nevertheless, he added: "Any time something like this happens in town, I have to be concerned and aware."

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