A West Baltimore gas station that was forced to close earlier this summer because of alleged complicity in area crime will be allowed to reopen this week under new management, Baltimore police officials said Monday.
The BP gas station in the 2000 block of N. Forest Park Ave. was closed by police in June under a controversial law — last used in 2010 — that allows the department to "padlock" problem businesses.
Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said at the time that the BP station had been the site of "pervasive illegal activity" that was "condoned by the management" for years. Police showed videos in which a gas station clerk allegedly helped a man openly selling drugs out of the business to hide a gun as police arrived. They also ticked off violent crimes in the immediate vicinity of the gas station, in the city's Franklintown neighborhood not far from the Baltimore County line.
On Monday, the Police Department said it had granted a request from the property owner, Carroll Independent Fuel, to reopen the business after the previous management agreed to sell the business to a new dealer, who in turn agreed to introduce "various enhanced security measures."
Police Commissioner Kevin Davis issued a statement saying that with new management in place, "the community and businesses are now situated in a much safer environment than what existed in the past."
Rawlings-Blake, also in a statement, said the new management "will support and uphold the ethical standards that the local business community and residents deserve."
The new station operator was not identified, nor were the "enhanced security measures" that police said they agreed to. Michael L. Jennings, an attorney for Carroll Independent, said the new dealer was a corporation, but that he was "not inclined to provide any additional information about the dealer, because we are concerned that it may be used by persons who would prefer to use the premises for other than lawful purposes."
Jennings declined further comment.
Police said the "reopening process" could begin as early as Tuesday.
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Community leaders had lined up to support the decision to padlock the gas station in June, though Stuart Schwager, an attorney for the gas station's management company, Forest Park BP, and its resident agent, Maninder Singh, denied the allegations. Schwager said his clients were not complicit in local crime but victims of it, and had challenged the order in Baltimore Circuit Court.
In a statement released Monday by Schwager, Forest Park BP said its officials "continue to vigorously deny" that they allowed the gas station to be a "hub for illegal activity," as Davis put it, but are supportive of Carroll Independent's ability to reopen the business under new management.
The company said it felt it had to sell the business, because the only alternative was "to suffer continued business losses while the station remained padlocked for up to a year, as well as the potential loss of our entire business without recompense," while "incurring substantial legal and other costs to protect our interests."
"Small businesses, such as ours, are at an extreme disadvantage trying to survive under such circumstances," the company said. "As part of the business community in this area for a number of years, we wish nothing but the best for Carroll Independent Fuel, the new dealer and the residents of this neighborhood and community."