In an effort to free Baltimore police officers to focus on more serious crime, city liquor inspectors are playing a greater role in enforcing adult entertainment laws.
This week, liquor inspectors cited two bars on The Block during the first of several planned undercover operations designed to halt illegal sexual conduct.
Enforcement of those laws traditionally has been the responsibility of the Police Department's vice squad, but officers often have to focus on other more serious crimes, said Samuel T. Daniels Jr., chief inspector for the Board of Liquor License Commissioners.
"We have made the decision that the police force is being taxed ... with far more major crimes ... so we will begin to engage in this regulation ourselves," Daniels said.
Inspectors cited the Circus Bar & Restaurant and the Flamingo Club, both in the 400 block of E. Baltimore St., Wednesday for violating Rule IV of the city's adult entertainment code, which prohibits dancers from touching patrons, Daniels said.
Inspectors issued the citations after visiting 12 establishments on The Block during a 35-minute operation that began just after midnight Wednesday.
During the operation, inspectors saw dancers at the two clubs performing sexual acts with patrons, Daniels said.
"Seeing this conduct is as easy and as evident as simply walking into these establishments," he said. "You can see it in two or three seconds with one quick scan of the room."
The dancers and patrons were not charged, but operators of the two clubs could face fines of up to $500 each and the possibility of having their adult entertainment licenses suspended, pending the outcome of a liquor board hearing, Daniels said.
The responsibility for enforcing the adult entertainment code was transferred from the city Board of Municipal and Zoning Appeals to the liquor board in the spring of last year.