A bitterly divided Annapolis City Council last night approved later hours for a Main Street restaurant, with some members saying it was a matter of consistency and fairness and others predicting the move would bring more noise and more requests for extended operating hours.
The council voted 5-4 to approve a request from Harvey Blonder, owner of Buddy's Crabs and Ribs in the 100 block of Main St., to stay open until 2 a.m., serving liquor without food and providing live entertainment.
Mr. Blonder, who has tried for several years to keep his restaurant open past midnight, was uncertain when the new hours would go into effect, explaining he also has to get approval from the city's liquor board.
"I think the citizens of Annapolis will be proud of what we do," he said after the council action, as he received congratulations from well-wishers.
The council's action came one month after some 75 residents packed City Hall and urged the council to reject the proposal.
"It's just going to attract more people and more drunkenness and more loud noises for the residents," predicted a disappointed John Prehn, a King George Street resident who attended the council meeting with his wife, Mary.
Voting in favor of the restaurant's application were Mayor Alfred A. Hopkins; and Aldermen Samuel Gilmer, D-Ward 3; Theresa DeGraff, R-Ward 7; Carl O. Snowden, D-Ward 5; and Ellen Moyers, D-Ward 8.
Opposing the later hours were Aldermen John Hammond, R-Ward 1; Dean L. Johnson, I-Ward 2; Ruth Gray, R-Ward 4; and Wayne Turner, R-Ward 6.
Residents circulated a petition that would have forced Mr. Blonder to obtain a 7-2 super-majority on the council. But the super-majority law was struck down last week by an Anne Arundel County Circuit Court judge.
Mr. Hammond, who has said he would consider an appeal of the judge's action, urged the council to table the application until the legal questions could be resolved. But that move was defeated.
Mr. Hammond, whose district includes Buddy's, said residents may decide on a referendum to settle such issues.
"This will become a 2 o'clock town," Ms. Gray said after the vote. "We have to balance quality of life vs. tourism and entertainment."
But supporters of the later hours said other neighborhood taverns, such as Fran O'Brien's across the street, hold 2 a.m. licenses. "What we need to be is consistent," Ms. DeGraff said.
But the council did not have to "blindly" follow past actions, said Mr. Johnson, quoting playwright George Bernard Shaw that consistency is the hobgoblin of a little mind.
el,.5l The famed playwright was known to "take a few drinks" and stay up past 2 a.m, rejoined Mr. Snowden.
"The reality is it's already a 2 o'clock town," he said.
Mr. Turner, noting the operating hours of a licensee has not been extended since 1983, said he expected a flurry of requests from other bars and restaurants.