The city liquor board yesterday renewed the license for the owner of Club Choices - a popular after-hours spot that police say has been the origin of several violent incidents during the past year.
By a 2-1 vote, board commissioners will continue to allow alcohol to be served at Trips Place, which is connected to Club Choices on the inside by metal double doors. Alcohol is not allowed in Club Choices, but Anthony D. Triplin owns both establishments, in the 1800 block of N. Charles St., and patrons are free to walk between the two.
A Central District police commander testified at the hearing that the two places are essentially the same, although Trips Place closes at 2 a.m., and Choices is allowed to stay open until 4 a.m. Maj. John Bailey said his unit has fielded 54 calls in the past year that he directly links to the clubs, and that a killing in the 1700 block of N. Calvert St. in December may have stemmed from a fight at Choices.
Other officers testified about a January assault in which a mob of women attacked a female patron and a March attack in which a security guard was assaulted and two people were stabbed.
Bailey added that when Choices closes, patrons clog the block and force him to deploy officers from other units to control traffic. A lieutenant showed a video of about 500 people flooding Charles Street at closing time.
"Patrons are over the street, all over the sidewalk. They're placed in harm's way," said Stephan Fogleman, chairman of the liquor board, the state agency that regulates bars and adult entertainment venues in the city.
Fogleman, in announcing the decision, ordered Triplin to come up with a plan that would stagger the times patrons leave his club. The board also suspended Triplin's license for two weeks in July.
Triplin, through his lawyer, Eric L. Bryant, declined to comment. Triplin, who has owned the clubs for 25 years, testified that he has never been cited for an underage-drinking violation, and that he has tried to work with police and community leaders through the years to make the outside of the clubs safe.
Although some community leaders and business owners in the surrounding blocks had been critical of Triplin's clubs in the past, only one, Garland Thomas of the Greater Baltimore Partnership, showed up to contest the renewal.
City Council President Stephanie C. Rawlings-Blake told the liquor board that her office has received numerous calls from neighborhood residents. "I was concerned, No. 1, that there seems to be a fear from several community members to come forward," she said.
In other action, the liquor board declined late last night to renew the license of Club Mate, a Brooklyn bar that residents and police say is the site of gang activity. About two dozen residents showed up to oppose a renewal. A sergeant testified to seeing gang activity in the club.
The renewal hearing for Sky Lounge, in the 1000 block of Marshall St., was postponed until next week.