Plan to regulate nightclub promoters draws mixed response

A proposal to regulate Baltimore night life has drawn a mixed reaction from area club promoters, who could be required to register events or get a license from the city.

Promoters say the proposal — one of several made Thursday by a commission investigating fatal shootings at the Select Lounge — has merit but are wary of the lack of details, including cost.

"If the city's going to charge someone to get a license, I would totally be against it," said Tim Orcutt, owner of Goodlife Boys, which promotes events at venues such as Mosaic near the Inner Harbor. "It's hard enough to make money in this economy."

The recommendation has broad support from city government, including Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III.

The commission suggests that registering club promoters would be one way to curb violence at city nightclubs because it would discourage promoters from overselling concerts.

"Promoters who overbook venues and often leave long lines of people outside contribute to the problems of the area" around a club, the panel's report says. Promoters handle a variety of events, from concerts to dance parties that can draw hundreds or only a handful.

In February 2010, a Yo Gotti concert at what was then called the Velvet Rope was oversold and hundreds of ticket-holders stormed the venue, attracting about 50 police officers and a helicopter to the scene. The club pleaded guilty to security breaches and paid a $3,500 fine to the Baltimore Liquor Board.

Bealefeld supports regulation of promoters. Police reported to the commission that venues do not normally notify law enforcement when a special event that would attract large crowds is planned.

On the night of the Select Lounge shooting, about 500 people were outside the Paca Street club, according to police estimates. The club had not notified law enforcement that a promoter had rented the facility for a private event, according to the commission's report.

J.R. Hiwot, the Select Lounge's manager, declined to comment.

But the recommendation to regulate promoters lacks specifics. It is unclear whether promoters would have to register once or for each event or what kinds of events would be covered. It is also not clear whether they would have to pay for a license.

Ryan O'Doherty, a spokesman for Rawlings-Blake, said the mayor's office and police would work together to propose a regulatory framework, but that it's too early to offer details.

While promoters say that notifying police of a highly commercial event is wise, they are wary about the lack of details in the proposal.

Promoters said problems don't always arise because of overbooking — people without tickets can be just as dangerous — and that most professional promotional outfits take measures such as hiring private security and obtaining insurance against damage to protect themselves in case of an incident. Sometimes, promoters are not responsible for the door; their responsibility ends at booking a show and selling tickets.

Where promoters say registration would have merit is in making clear who's a professional. There are amateur promoters who overbook venues in an effort to make a quick buck, said Marcy Evans-Crump, who runs the promotions company The Flywire and hosts events at Red Maple and Eden's Lounge, among others.

"For people who don't promote professionally, it would be useful," she said.

Paul Manna, who books talent and promotes events such as Artscape, said registration would make sure promoters played by the rules.

"Seeing as I carry my own insurance, [registration] is a bit unnecessary," Manna said. "But for certain promoters it's a smart idea. If that's what it takes to keep people safe and secure, then it's fine."



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