Sam Sessa wrote a very good story today about the fight for the soul of Federal Hill -- that is, the community association's battle against area bars, which are expanding and becoming increasingly known for the raucous partiers who frequent them on weekends.
"It's mayhem down here," Beth Hawks, who has run the Federal Hill boutique Zelda Zen for the past nine years, told Sessa. "The bars have become mega bars. … It was never like this."
The members of the Federal Hill Neighborhood Association and its president, Paul Robinson, have sought to shut down four bars this month. One of them is Illusions Magic Bar and Lounge, a rather quiet spot the community association took to court earlier this year. I reported about this issue previously here.
Illusions co-owner Spencer Horsman, 24, a renowned Houdini-style escape artist who performs at the venue, called me last week to talk about the community association's latest action.
Horsman already defeated the community association in court when its leadership protested his entertainment license, but the protest about his liquor license is more absurd, he said.
"They claim we have a secret kitchen. We don't have a secret kitchen," he said. "They claim we have live entertainment on the second floor. We don't have live entertainment on the second floor."
Horsman said a city inspector came out to his business and found zero violations, but the protest goes on.
Previously, when his entertainment license was challenged, Horsman said he'd have to change the magic venue into a generic "sports bar" serving $1 beers if the neighborhood association won. Now, Horsman said, he'd have to shut down completely if the association wins.
"This time, they're trying to kill our business," he said.
In Sessa's story, Stephan Fogleman, liquor board chairman, said the neighborhood association is asking for the "death penalty" on area bars.
"More times than not, the commissioners aren't going to exercise the death penalty on a license without some clear and convincing evidence that a bar is causing great harm to the community," he said.
It will be interesting to see how this all plays out in front of the liquor board.