Baltimore officials mailed 17 citations yesterday to organizers of tailgate parties near PSINet Stadium during the Ravens' first regular-season home game Sunday.
The citations, which each carry a $500 fine, were sent by certified mail to 10 property owners and organizers, officials said.
Responding to residents' complaints, zoning officials had warned tailgate hosts for weeks that they would be cracking down on Ravens parties held in vacant lots near the stadium. At least two organizers were cited during preseason games this summer.
The for-profit parties are considered a violation of the zoning code unless the host has a use permit issued by the the Department of Housing and Community Development, officials said.
City officials sent two zoning inspectors out on tailgate detail Sunday, but they waited until yesterday to send the citations.
They didn't want to send their inspectors into the fray to issue citations, said Denise Duval, deputy commissioner of housing and community development.
"We were concerned about confrontation," she said. "People are partying, and we didn't want anything to get out of hand."
Officials declined to name those cited, saying they wanted them to be notified first by certified mail.
Though 10 people applied for the $73 use permits, none was issued for Sunday, said Zack Germroth, spokesman for the Department of Housing and Community Development.
And chances are, they won't be issued in the future.
"It's almost a sure bet none will be granted," Germroth said.
In addition to not having use permits, the most common problem with the private parties is that they are either on unpaved lots or in residential neighborhoods, both of which violate the city's zoning code, officials said.
"The zoning code protects communities," Duval said. "You wouldn't want one of those lots next to your house unless there was some control on it."
Kurt Hadaway, owner of Kurt's Auto Shop on West Street in South Baltimore, was host to a tailgate party for about 70 people, mostly customers. He said he's sure he'll get a citation, and he won't throw any more parties.
"I'll block the lot and put up a nice sign that says, 'You can thank your city officials for this,' " Hadaway said. "It's pretty cowardly they didn't hand it to me. They wouldn't have had a confrontation."
Tailgating is permitted in two stadium lots, which have 1,300 spaces and are controlled by the Maryland Stadium Authority.
Residents say the parties are loud and intrusive.
After city inspectors cracked down on the party-goers at the Ravens' two preseason home games, residents thought tailgating in their neighborhood was a thing of the past.
"I was shocked and dismayed to see the lots used for a party," said Cynthia M. Griffin, president of the South Baltimore Improvement Committee. "In our neighborhood, we are very pro-Ravens. We want people to have a good time, but do it safely and legally."
Mother's Federal Hill Grille, which attracted a few hundred football fans Sunday, was fined twice during the preseason, on Aug. 5 and Aug. 12.
Housing inspectors cited Mother's for throwing a party on its parking lot, which the owner calls the Purple Patio. The city contends the lot is for cars, not party-goers in parking-crunched Federal Hill.
Mother's owner David C. Rather is appealing those fines to the Environmental Control Board and the Board of Municipal and Zoning Appeals. Hearing dates have not been set.
He said city officials told him he can throw the parties until the zoning board decides on the matter. So he's going full swing.
"The city should embrace the city's football team and energy it's created," Rather said. "This is the reason we acquired a team. It's a part of the American way of life."
After being cited last month by zoning officials, sports talk-show host Nestor Aparicio did not throw the tailgate party he has sponsored since the stadium opened three seasons ago.
Instead, Baltimore developer Sam Himmelrich Jr. threw the party on the unpaved lot that Aparicio has leased on West Ostend Street. Himmelrich says he's going to try to get a permit so he, too, can continue the tailgating.
"We are working on getting a permit and hope we get one," he said. "There is a real need for parking near the stadium."