'Block' clubs fined for alleged sex offers

The Baltimore Sun

The city liquor board yesterday imposed fines on two clubs on The Block where dancers are alleged to have solicited undercover police officers for sex acts, the agency's chairman said.

Stagedoor Gentlemen's Club, at 5-11 Commerce St., was fined $9,000 after allegations that three dancers solicited vice officers there Feb. 9 and March 9, said liquor board Chairman Stephan Fogleman, who presided over the hearing at City Hall.

The Oasis Nite Club, 417 E. Baltimore St., was fined $2,000 because a dancer is alleged to have offered to have intercourse with a vice officer Feb. 16, Fogleman said.

The liquor board could have fined the Oasis $3,000, but commissioners suspended $1,000 because it was the first time the owners, who purchased the club in December 2006, had appeared before them, Fogelman added.

In December 2006, the Stagedoor was shut down by the Health Department for a week because it had no hot water, and the toilets in the women's restroom were overflowing. Inspectors also noted that the bar was infested with fruit flies.

Yesterday, the board fined the Stagedoor $250 for the health code violations, Fogelman said.

Vice officers also reported that they smelled marijuana smoke and that a police dog found drugs in a dancer's locker. However, police offered no testimony regarding those allegations at the hearing and the charges were dismissed, Fogleman said.

The board is considering action against three other clubs on The Block where dancers were accused of soliciting customers for sex, Fogelman said. But lawyers for those establishments - Lust, Foxy Lady and 2 O'clock Club - asked that the hearings be postponed so that they could prepare their cases.

The Block - home of adult book stores and strip clubs - is in the 400 block of E. Baltimore St., as well as several side streets.

Club owners say they have strict rules that prohibit prostitution. If a dancer on The Block is arrested for prostitution she is fired, they say.

At yesterday's hearing, allegations of improper touching by dancers at the Dynasty Lounge, 406 E. Baltimore St., were dismissed when a detective failed to appear, Fogleman said.

The city liquor board is a state agency that enforces Baltimore's liquor laws and monitors the activities of liquor establishments. Fogleman said the board, which was appointed by Gov. Martin O'Malley in April, was pleased with the city vice squad's activities on The Block.

"I do believe that regular enforcement is what it is all about," said Fogleman, who added that as long as police were working on The Block, liquor inspectors, who do not have police power but have staged periodic raids at city strip clubs, would spend their time elsewhere.

It was the new board's introduction to life on The Block, said Fogleman, who called the experience, including lurid descriptions of negotiations between vice officers and dancers, "interesting."

At one point, a woman and some Boy Scouts came into the hearing room, and Fogleman had to warn the group that the hearing was R-rated.

"I told them this might not be the best day to sit around and listen," he said.

lynn.anderson@baltsun.com

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