Food & Drink

Baltimore Liquor Board Post-Mortem: Dubai, Milan, a Tiki Barge, and Juelz Santana

Of the seven charges against Dubai nightclub at the Baltimore Liquor Board Thursday, it was the accusation the club allowed guests to smoke pot that piqued commissioner Elizabeth Smith.

On September 2 of last year, police officer Stephen Wilson was called to the club, the former Velvet Rope, for crowd control after rappers Jim Jones and Juelz Santana had performed.


Wilson "walked into a visible cloud of smoke that had a strong odor of marijuana," he told the board. Paul Gardner, arguing for Dubai, countered Wilson on several points: it turns out the club had a smoke machine that produces huge clouds of smoke, and, he pointed out that Wilson hadn't actually seen anyone smoking marijuana.

Smith, though, was skeptical. Isn't it possible the smoke could have come from the dressing room? she asked. After all, she said, demonstrating her familiarity with the stylings of Juelz Santana, rapping about marijuana takes up most of the rappers' repertoire.


In the end, the board was not convinced that Dubai had willfully allowed smoking, of illegal substances or cigarettes (another allegation), and dismissed that charge. But, it did fine the club $1,500, plus city fees, for three other violations.

The liquor board hearing Thursday promised to be a blockbuster, with decisions expected on the proposed Tiki raw barge, and accusations against restaurant and nightclub Milan and the high-profile Dubai.

But the board delayed its decision on the raw barge while it waits legal advice from the Maryland Attorney General. It did not specify the nature of the advice.

And after a contentious hearing, attended by several Little Italy neighbors, it fined Milan $3,000, plus city fees, for a slew of violations, including, failing to avoid disturbing the peace, a rodent infestation and unsanitary conditions (a 1st time offense), and selling alcohol to a minor on December 6. Three city police detectives and two liquor board inspectors testified, as well as several neighbors.

Few clubs in Baltimore have been as scrutinized as those at 200 Redwood St - the historic building has been home to many over-hyped clubs over time and is, in fact, up for sale  for $1.5 million. Its owner Nicholas Piscatelli has been trying to unload it since 2004.

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Dubai's current owners, headed by owner Tracye Stafford, have been there since 2009, when the club was still called the Velvet Rope. It opened under the new name last January.

After the marijuana allegation, city police officer Howard Dent told the board he witnessed a stabbing outside the club on September 10.

That night, Dubai's security personnel "escorted disorderly people outside, where a fight erupted,"  Dent told the board. "One of the people involved was a club patron."


Gardner pointed out that Dubai's staff had done its job by carrying the customer out to the street, and asked Dent why police on the scene hadn't worked to stop the stabbing.

"The crowd was so severe it was hard to prevent," the officer responded, agreeing the club's security had cooperated on crowd control. Later, Stafford said the club patron involved in the fight had left the club much earlier in the night.

The club was also accused by liquor board inspector John Howard of playing excessively loud music on November 5.

The board sided with Howard, charging the club $500 for noise violations. But it concluded the club had provided adequate security on September 10. The other two $500 fines came from refusing to provide a liquor license to law enforcement, and allowing live entertainment after 2 a.m.