Legislation to prohibit nude dancing in city fails; Economic concerns sway Senate delegation

THE BALTIMORE SUN

A bill that would have forced clothing on Baltimore's exotic dancers failed to gain the support of key city legislators yesterday, essentially ending the attempt to ban nude dancing on The Block.

"That effort is over," said Sen. Nathaniel J. McFadden, after the city Senate delegation voted 6-4 against the ban.

Because the bill was aimed only at the city, failure to gain support from its senators ends hopes of General Assembly passage.

McFadden, who chairs the city delegation, said economic concerns drove the vote.

"It's a matter of keeping parity with other convention cities," he said. "We should not be binding the hands of our businesses when this kind of activity is allowed elsewhere."

Nude dancing, McFadden pointed out, is legal in New Orleans and Atlanta, which draw large convention crowds.

Sen. George W. Della Jr., who sponsored the legislation, said senators had not focused on the criminal activity that is often found in some of the adult clubs.

"In spite of all of that, you're benefiting people, who on a regular basis, year after year, have violated the law," said Della of southern Baltimore.

After the vote, McFadden reassured Della and the other supporters of the ban: "Those who are going to hell will still go to hell."

Nude dancing became legal in Baltimore six weeks ago after an unexpected Circuit Court ruling.

City officials and club owners thought full nudity had been outlawed after a 1993 change in state law. But Circuit Judge Richard T. Rombro determined that nothing on the books prohibited it at three dozen clubs.

Rombro's decision was embraced with gusto on The Block and in clubs in other parts of the city, as dancers removed their G-strings and pasties. Business soared.

The reaction prompted Della to introduce the legislation.

Club owners responded by hiring lobbyists and gaining backing from the city. Several senators said they did not approve of nude dancing but were not going to support an outright ban.

"You don't make laws based on your personal attitude," Northwest Baltimore Sen. Joan Carter Conway has said.

Yesterday, the vote on the measure occurred with little discussion.

Voting against the ban -- and to allow nude dancing -- were McFadden, Conway, Thomas L. Bromwell, Clarence W. Blount, Barbara Hoffman and Clarence M. Mitchell IV. Supporting the ban were Della, Ralph M. Hughes, Perry Sfikas and Delores G. Kelley. All are Democrats.

Pub Date: 3/05/99

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