Skateworks, Baltimore County reach deal

The owners of Skateworks and Baltimore County officials have reached a deal that will allow the Woodlawn roller rink to remain open, county permits official Mike Mohler said Wednesday.

The agreement, details of which were not immediately available, comes hours before a final deadline for the troubled business. A county code officer had given the sides until 6 p.m. Wednesday to reach a deal or the rink would be shut down.

County officials supported Skateworks when it was opened by Baltimore Polytechnic Institute Principal Barney Wilson and three partners in an indsutrial park near Security Boulevard in December 2008. But police have complained of rowdy crowds and disturbances outside the rink on Friday nights.

The code officer granted a county request to close the business on April 14, but allowed the owners to continue opereating while the sides attempted to come to an agreement.

On Tuesday, the owners said they had agreed to hire four off-duty police officers for Friday evenings, when hundreds of teenagers are causing problems at the midnight closing. But they were balking at paying for police protection on Saturday evenings, when crowds are younger and more peaceful, Wilson said.

The rink's future has been further complicated by bankruptcy proceedings. The owners filed for protection from creditors in November, listing more than $577,000 in liabilities.

In court documents, the rink was shown to owe $136,266 in back rent; $150,000 to investor Charles Pratt, $200,000 to investor Joseph Haw; and $26,000 in roller skates. The owners claimed $634,709 in assets.

The rink's landlord, CRP Holdings Whitehead LLC, said in court documents that Skateworks had failed to address "breaches of the lease" despite written notices, legal pleadings and oral arguments in court. The landlord estimated that it has spent approximately $30,000 in attorneys' fees and expense trying to get the rink's operators to comply with their lease.

Wilson attributed much of the financial problems to the sluggish economy and shortened hours of operation. Owners had originally expected to have skate sessions as late as 4 a.m. County code stipulates a midnight closing.

"That meant we lost a third of our anticipated revenue," Wilson said. "It is like telling a restaurant it can serve breakfast and lunch, but not dinner."

Wilson said the partners have sunk about $1 million into the business and expect to weather the bankruptcy.

"Businesses like us are struggling across the country," he said. "We will re-organize, just like other businesses are doing."

The rink has been sued at least 10 times. Five of those suits resulted in judgments against the rink's owners, four are pending, and one was dismissed.

One of the pending suits was filed last summer in Baltimore County Circuit Court on behalf of Travis A. Baxter, 26, who was hit by gunfire and injured on Feb. 20, 2009, outside the skating facility. Baxter contends that Skateworks had inadequate security and a history of police calls. He is seeking $10 million.

On Tuesday, Baxter's attorney, Mark A. Epstein, said that he had received no response to his lawsuit from Skateworks' lawyers and that he intends to file for a default judgment as a result.

"They had every chance to respond," Epstein said.

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