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Baltimore shuts down Euphoria Nightclub for allegedly violating coronavirus restrictions, the first such penalty in the city

Euphoria Nightclub, located at 1301 Ponca St., was shut down by the Baltimore Department of Health for violating the city's coronavirus restrictions.
Euphoria Nightclub, located at 1301 Ponca St., was shut down by the Baltimore Department of Health for violating the city's coronavirus restrictions. (ULY)

The Baltimore City Health Department shut down Euphoria Nightclub in Southeast Baltimore Monday over concerns that the establishment wasn’t enforcing social distancing and mask-wearing rules.

The closure marks the first time the city has shuttered a restaurant due to COVID-19 related violations, said Adam Abadir, a city’s health department spokesman.

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A video posted on Instagram showed a large crowd of people outside the nightclub Sunday, dancing during a “day party” while security staff looked on.

Social media postings, in addition to 311 complaints, played a role in the closure, Abadir said. Euphoria Nightclub could not be reached Monday for comment.

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The establishment was contacted repeatedly about enforcing the rules, Abadir said, but violations continued.

“Events like those depicted on social media at Euphoria are exactly the type of ‘super-spreader’ events that have led to dozens of cases around the country,” Baltimore City Health Commissioner Dr. Letitia Dzirasa wrote in a statement Monday evening. “While it is too soon to tell whether any coronavirus cases will be linked to Euphoria nightclub, the activities depicted on social media — lack of face coverings, lack of social distancing, large groups of people closely congregating — present clear risk to the patrons and staff at the establishment.”

The nightclub is located in an industrial area in the 1300 block of Ponca Street in the 21224 ZIP code, which includes the Canton neighborhood and has become a coronavirus hotspot. The 21224 has the third highest number of COVID-19 cases of any ZIP code in the state.

In a statement posted in the Canton Neighbors Facebook group, Baltimore City Councilman Zeke Cohen said Euphoria was inspected on several occasions.

On July 24, liquor board and health department inspectors found that the night club was violating social distancing regulations, Cohen wrote, and it closed voluntarily for the night. During follow-up inspections on July 25 and 31, it was found to be in compliance. On August 2, inspectors found it to be in violation of COVID-19 regulations once more, and that’s when officials opted to close Euphoria, Cohen wrote.

“I want to thank Council President Scott for his involvement in this matter, and in helping ensure action was taken to hold the business accountable for these violations,” wrote Cohen, adding that he’s planning a follow-up meeting with Euphoria’s management to go over their agreement with the Greektown community.

To reopen, the nightclub has to submit a written plan to the health department stating how it intends to comply with COVID-19 rules. Then, nightclub officials must attend a conference with the health department’s environmental health supervisor to review their plan, Abadir wrote in an email.

It also must indicate that it will only serve seated patrons, all of whom will wear masks when they are not eating or drinking, Abadir wrote. Tables and chairs must be at least 6 feet apart, the dance floor ought to be closed and the venue must “increase security to ensure customers are following proper facial covering and social distancing regulations,” Abadir added.

The city’s liquor board also fined another establishment Tuesday over COVID-19 violations. El Rincon Troncaleño, an Ecuadorian restaurant in Greektown, also located in 21224, was fined $150 after inspectors determined that on July 11, the restaurant was more than 50% full, patrons were drinking alcoholic beverages while standing and tables were less than six feet apart.

The liquor board is set to hear from four more restaurants facing COVID-19 violations, including Kislings Tavern and Abbey Burger Bistro in Fells Point, during a virtual hearing at 11 a.m. Thursday.

Another restaurant, The Manor on North Charles Street, was originally scheduled for Thursday’s hearing, but its testimony has been postponed. The restaurant plans to dispute the liquor board inspectors’ findings, which date to May.

The Manor’s owner told The Sun that although the business was cited for illegally serving alcohol in violation of Gov. Larry Hogan’s March executive order closing restaurants and bars, it did not do so. During the night in question, staff members were merely on site cleaning the restaurant, and they happened to be consuming food and alcoholic beverages when liquor board inspectors arrived.

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