Reacting to public pressure, Power Plant Live has ended College Night, a festival of drunken revelry that drew busloads of young people to a neon-lit courtyard in downtown Baltimore where they wandered from bar to bar guzzling cheap drink specials.
Developer David S. Cordish controls Power Plant Live and an affiliate holds an arena license that that gives his tenants the right to sell alcohol. Yesterday, a Cordish official met with the Underage Drinking Coalition, a group of police and liquor board officials, and announced that College Night had been canceled.
The announcement came as legislators in Annapolis debated a bill that would ban College Nights at Power Plant Live, where they had become a regular Thursday event, and one other city venue.
An article in The Sun Feb. 23 detailed underage drinking problems at Power Plant Live. City vice police said they had arrested or issued citations to 165 underage drinkers in a six-month period and that dozens of other young revelers had been caught using fake IDs, urinating in public, carrying open containers of alcohol, abusing drugs or fighting.
Reed Cordish, the son of David Cordish and vice president of the Cordish Co., issued a statement after yesterday's coalition meeting saying that the firm had "decided to take a leadership position" by ending College Night.
"It is our hope that this policy can serve as a model for nightclubs and bars in the city and throughout the state," the statement said.
A Cordish Co. official who met with the group and gave them advance notice of the announcement, said the College Night ban went into effect Thursday.
City Liquor Board Chairman Mark S. Fosler attended yesterday's coalition meeting and said the Cordish Co. announcement was a step in the right direction. But he encouraged the group to support legislation that would prohibit anyone under the age of 21 from entering a bar. He also said he was concerned that other bars in the city will start College Nights to attract business that used to go to Power Plant Live.
Fosler said he favored legislation that would encompass the city and surrounding jurisdictions and make it virtually impossible for any bar in the metropolitan area to host College Night.
"You can't do this in a vacuum," Fosler told members of the coalition.
This month, Fosler voted with commissioners Edward Smith Jr. and Jeffrey B. Pope to fine Power Plant Live officials $800 for serving alcohol to underage patrons.
The Sun's article described how bar promoters - often college students - were paid by Power Plant Live venues to rent school buses to transport students to College Night. The buses would pick up students on college campuses. The bus stops later were moved to residential neighborhoods after university officials banned them due to campus drinking problems.
At a liquor board hearing March 2, commissioners said there was credible evidence that two bars had served underage patrons on two occasions in the fall. The bars, Bar Baltimore and Have a Nice Day CafM-i, sponsored college-themed events that catered to students from Towson University, the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, and the University of Delaware. Bar Baltimore has since closed.
At the time, liquor board officials warned Power Plant Live representatives, including Reed Cordish, who attended the hearing, that if they had any more violations for underage drinking they would risk a suspension of their arena license.
Those who attended the meeting - including members of Mothers Against Drunk Driving and police officials from Towson University and UMBC - said it was too late to draft legislation for the 2006 General Assembly session, but promised to introduce a bill next year.
They said that legislation introduced last week by Sen. George W. Della Jr., a Baltimore Democrat, would not go far enough in combating underage drinking. Della's bill, which was debated before the Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee in Annapolis yesterday, would ban College Night events at Power Plant Live and one other venue in the city with an arena license.
Della did not return telephone calls seeking comment on his bill.