The Block: Return from the Dead?


Farewell to The Block. Hello Pulaski Highway. Or North Point. Or Glen Burnie. Or somewhere else in Baltimore?

Of course, we're speculating here. But it isn't a lack of carnal lust that is killing The Block, downtown Baltimore's boulevard of sleaze, but political and real estate pressures. The people who set up shop in the 400 block of East Baltimore Street are like Japanese beetles: You can't wholly deter them, just chase them to your neighbor's trees. And like a backyard pest, various vulnerable areas had best ready the insecticide. Chances are The Block's go-go bars, peep shows and merchants of X-rated periodicals and visual aids won't descend en masse somewhere else, but a few could find it profitable to cluster elsewhere -- inside or outside the city.

Baltimore County can readily recall its drawn-out battle with a combination strip-tease/pool hall that ended last year. The pool hall, named "Body Talk," was able to dance around county regulations because customers brought their own booze. County officials closed that loophole, but the frustration and hurt the community of Rockdale endured over that hasn't wholly healed. County police also spent part of last year chasing transvestite prostitutes off Pulaski Highway at the eastern city-county boundary. Pulaski and North Point Boulevard, both havens for strip joints and windowless bars, are prime potential real estate for the re-location of Block interests.

Suburban communities farther from the city line, notably Glen Burnie and Edgewood, have had their problems with X-rated enterprises. But officials in Anne Arundel and Harford counties, respectively, have taken legislative remedies in the past year to thwart the spread and start-up of the adult entertainment industry.

Local officials, notably in Baltimore County, shouldn't dismiss news of The Block's demise as a passing nostalgia. It may be heading their way.

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