Historic district residents told the Annapolis City Council last night that they are ready to go to "war" over legislation that would allow more downtown establishments to serve alcohol until 2 a.m.
"The legislation constitutes a declaration of war on downtown residents," said historic district resident Bryan Miller. "If it is war you want, war you will have, and in the words of Winston Churchill, we will never surrender."
The scalding comments came minutes before the introduction of two controversial bills sponsored by Aldermen Carl Snowden, 5th Ward Democrat, and Ellen Moyer, Ward 8 Democrat.
Mr. Snowden's bill would allow Buddy's Crabs & Ribs on Main Street and Maria's Sicilian Ristorante & Cafe on Market Space to remain open -- with live entertainment -- until 2 a.m. The two restaurants have tried unsuccessfully to get late hours in the past.
Ms. Moyer's bill would allow all downtown bars and restaurants to remain open until 2 a.m.
Mr. Miller, who helped draft the Ward 1 Sector Study, a neighborhood development plan, said the two bills violate a compromise reached last year on closing times. The compromise allows eight downtown restaurants with 2 a.m. licenses to retain them, but required all new establishments in the historic district to close by midnight.
After the meeting, Mr. Snowden said the antagonism displayed by downtown residents "further hardens the position of certain members who are sponsors of the bill." And he said plenty of downtown dwellers support his bill.
John Hammond, a former Ward 1 alderman whose wife, Louise, now represents the ward, accused the bill's co-sponsors of stirring controversy just to hurt historic district dwellers.
"This is just certain people saying, 'Ah, a wedge issue. Let's drive a wedge and create an issue where one doesn't exist,' " he said.
Mr. Hammond said Ms. Moyer's bill was especially dangerous to downtown dwellers, who already are threatening to try to bring the issue to referendum if council members do not vastly revise the legislation.
"There's no conditional use process, a 2 o'clock license is yours by right," he said. "Just go see the city clerk and she'll give it to you."
Mr. Hammond's comments drew the ire of Mr. Snowden, who accused him of trying to play "surrogate alderman."
In other matters, the council approved a measure that makes a walkway through the Ambridge community in Eastport private land.
Residents of the four homes abutting the once public walkway testified that youths cruise the path in the dead of night, harass them, vandalize their homes and peep through their windows.
"We can't even enjoy our own back yards, have a barbecue or even a wedding, without knowing that the same individuals will antagonize us," said Peter Katson, an Annapolis lawyer who lives in one of the homes.