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Proposed City Expansion of Live Entertainment,

even to Neighborhood-oriented B-1 Business Districts

     
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"Alonsoville"

The live-entertainment bill would potentially open the way for entertainment here

and at four other Roland Park area business strips.

(View eastward from Cold Spring and Woodlawn; photo: courtesy of Sarah Nix, Patuxent Publishing.)

Note: The documents below are listed in reverse chronological order.

Scroll to the bottom of the page to get to the start of the story and then work you way up.

If you wish to contact your elected city representatives about this or any other matter,

you may e-mail them through the RolandPark.org web site by clicking here.

     

 

Background

In July 2008, City Council President Stephanie Rawlings-Blake introduced a city bill — Bill No. 08-0163, Live Entertainment and Dancing bill — that would, she said, keep Baltimore on the cutting edge of urban nightlife by making it considerably easier for restaurants and taverns to obtain live-entertainment permits.

As matters currently stand (July 2008), the permissibility of live entertainment is a zoning matter. As originally proposed, the bill would have ended this altogether, making the offering of live entertainment solely dependent upon a venue owner's successful application for an annually renewable permit. After many neighborhoods expressed concerns about this, the bill was multiply revised in spring 2009, such that the offering of live entertainment would be dependent upon both an annual license and zoning regulations, though the latter would be considerably loosened up to allow live entertainment in currently prohibited areas. There is no clause in the bill that woukd allow for the revokation of entertainment zoning once granted, though entertainment licenses could be revoked. As if July 2009, companion legislation was said to be being drafted that would allow such zoning revokation.

From the Roland Park point if view, the bill is of interest because it would allow — assuming successful permit application by venue owners — live entertainment as a conditional use in B-1, family-oriented business districts. This definition includes five areas in greater Roland Park.

D.P. Munro
Web-site Editor
RolandPark.org

July 26, 2009

The opinions expressed in the above writing and throughout this web page are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views or stated policy positions of the Roland Park civic associations.

     
 

Baltimore Sun Article, October 27, 2009

City Council President Stephanie Rawlings-Blake's long-cherished live entertainment bill passed the council on October 26. Five of 15 council members opposed it. Since 1971, live entertainment has been banned in B-1 and B-2 business districts, which are small and neighborhood oriented. Older versions of the bill contained various permutations of a permitting system for venues wishing to offer live entertainment. "Rather than creating a permit system," says the Oct. 27 Baltimore Sun, "the [just-passed] bill simply changes the city's zoning code to allow restaurants and taverns in B-2 zones to offer live music with permission from the city's Board of Municipal and Zoning Appeals. Restaurants but not bars in the B-1 areas could also have live entertainment." The Roland park area has five B-1 districts, including one in Roland park proper (the Tudor-style shopping center), but no B-2 districts. The bill was delayed by the drafting, and Oct. 27 passing, of two items of fear-alleviating companion legislation, both of which in different ways would make a venue's offering of live entertainment revocable. Mayor Sheila Dixon has yet to decide whether she will sign the bill, wishing to consult neighborhood leaders first. Read the entire Sun article by clicking the icon to the left (10/27).

 

— dpm, 10/27/09

     
 

Baltimore Sun Article, August 10, 2009

This week will see, according to Annie Linskey in the August 10 Baltimore Sun, the introduction of a city bill making "conditional use" zoning revocable. The bill's sponsor is Councilwoman Rochelle "Rikki" Spector (Dist. 5). As matters currently stand, a conditional use granted for, say, live entertainment, can never be taken back. This has appalled residents of the city neighborhoods likely to be most affected by the proposed easing of live-entertainment restrictions, such as Fells Point and Federal Hill. Council President Stephanie Rawlings-Blake supports the Spector bill, which, if passed, is likely to dampen opposition to the live-entertainment bill. Rawlings-Blake has been a principal booster of the entertainment legislation. Read the Sun article by clicking the PDF icon to the left.

— dpm, 8/10/09

     

Maps courtesy of Baltimore Sun.

 

Baltimore Sun Article, July 26, 2009

The Baltimore Sun on July 26 carried an extensive article on the live-entertainment bill. Reporter Annie Linskey writes of community concerns about the possible proliferation of noisy venues and the lack of a zoning-revokation provision. "Of particular concern to many is a quirk of the city's zoning code," writes Linskey. "Once the city's Board of Municipal & Zoning Appeals allows an establishment to have live entertainment, it can never take back the designation, even if the property changes hands." Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke, District 14, cited this defect in voting against the legislation in mid-July. The legislation passed anyway, eight to six, with one abstention. Bill supporters counter that, even without a zoning-revokation provision, an abusive venue could still lose its entertainment license. Opponents, unimpressed, note that the city has never canceled an entertainment license.

A further procedural vote is required on the bill and then Mayor Dixon's signature is needed. Opponents are urging Dixon to veto Bill 08-0163.

The Sun article may be read here (part 1) and here (part 2). A Sun map showing in blue those areas where live entertainment is now prohibited but where under the bill it would be permitted as a conditional use is reproduced at left. The map detail shows the Roland Park areas that would be covered, these being, clockwise from bottom right: (1) the old Bank of America building at 200 W. Cold Spring Lane, (2) Alonsoville, (3) the Roland Park Tudor-style shopping center, (4) the 5100 block of Roland Avenue (odd numbers), where Eddie's is, and (5) Wyndhurst Station and associated buildings.

— dpm, 7/26/09

     
 

City Bill 08-163, Draft VI, May 27, 2009

The sixth draft of 08-0163, released May 27, is virtually identical to the fifth draft (below), but has an expanded section 17-401, pertaining to environmental citations.

— dpm, 7/26/09

     
 

City Bill 08-163, Draft V, May 10, 2009

The fifth draft of 08-0163 adds to the purposes of the bill: "...authorizing the issuance of environmental citations for violations of conditions, etc., imposed on live entertainment or dancing uses" (the latter being authorized under section 17-401).

— dpm, 7/26/09

     
 

Rawlings-Blake Legislative Summary, Undated

The document reproduced at left (click icon) appears to have been released by Rawlings-Blake's office in May 2009, though it is neither dated nor attributed. Significantly, it states that, even after a live-entertainment conditional use has been granted, the Zoning Board "may impose conditions [and] restrictions it considers necessary or desirable in order to:

"Reduce or minimize any effect of the use on other properties in the neighborhood;
"Secure compliance with the standards and requirements of this title; and
"Better carry out the intent and purposes of the Zoning Code.

"The conditional use permit will have the conditions that have been imposed printed on the permit and copies will be forwarded to the Liquor Board, the Commander of the police district where the establishment lies as well as available online for the public."

Despite this, the bill still does not at this stage contain a provision to revoke the entertainment zoning of objectionable establishments. The license could be revoked but not the zoning.

— dpm, 7/26/09

     
 

Department of Planning Public Information Release, May 4, 2009

The city Department on Planning issued an information release on May 4, containing much the same material as Rawlings-Blake's April 27 press release. The DOP release at left (clock icon).

— dpm, 7/26/09

     
 

Clarke Legislative Update, May 3, 2009

In early May, Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke, representing the 14th city district (mostly Tuscany-Canterbury, just to the east of Roland Park, Plat 5), issued a legislative update seeking community input on the draft legislation. Clarke listed the B-1 and B-2 business areas in the 14th district that would, under the legislation, be open for live entertainment as a conditional use, including Alonsoville. (The update does not mention the other impacted Roland Park areas because there are not in Clarke's district.) Click the icon for Clarke's update.

— dpm, 7/26/09

     

 

Rawlings-Blake Press Release, April 27, 2009

As the result of community concerns about blaring music in residential neighborhoods, Council President Stephanie Rawlings-Blake announced further changes to 08-0163 on April 27. The "amended legislation will allow for a targeted expansion of live entertainment that will protect neighborhoods," according to a press release issued by the council president's office. Along with other considerations already in the bill, in deciding whether to issue an entertainment license, the Zoning Board would now have to consider:

• Proximity of residences, schools, religious institutions, or parks to the establishment [the would-be music venue].
• Maximum authorized occupant load of the establishment.
• Volume of vehicular and pedestrian traffic in the area.
• The maintenance of a sanitation plan.

Click the PDF icon to see the press release.

— dpm, 7/26/09

     
 

City Bill 08-163, Draft IV, April 24, 2009

As described by the City Paper and the Baltimore Business Journal (see the two entries below), the fourth draft of the live-entertainment bill is fundamentally changed, in the following manner.

The bill would no longer be for the purpose of: "...deleting live entertainment and dancing as a zoning use category; requiring licensing of certain establishments that provide live entertainment or dancing; establishing the Board of Licenses for Live Entertainment and providing for its powers and duties; establishing an Office of Hospitality Services and providing for its powers and duties; defining certain terms; imposing certain penalties; and generally relating to the licensing and regulation of live entertainment and to the promotion and coordination of hospitality services."

Instead, the purposes would be: "...allowing live entertainment and dancing, in conjunction with restaurants or taverns, as a conditional use in certain Business Districts; expanding the conditions to be considered before granting a conditional use for restaurants or taverns to provide live entertainment or dancing; requiring the Zoning Board to maintain and periodically provide to the City Council certain information about all pending applications for all conditional uses; and generally relating to the zoning and related requirements for restaurants and taverns providing live entertainment or dancing."

Live entertainment would be a conditional use in B-1 business districts, such as Alonsoville on Cold Spring Lane and the Wyndhurst Station complex on Lawndale Road, along with three other areas in greater Roland Park. Read the draft bill by clicking the icon. Currently, live entertainment is not a permitted use in B-1 areas.

— dpm, 7/26/09

     

 

Baltimore Business Journal Article, April 23, 2009

In late April, the Baltimore Business Journal carried a piece about the bill. As explained by the BBJ, the bill would have venues within existing or expanded entertainment-zoned areas apply for entertainment licenses. However, as the result of objections from current entertainment-offering venues, the latter would be temporarily grandfathered in, and would not have to apply for an entertainment license for three years. Read it by clicking the icon to the left.

— dpm, 7/26/09

     
 

City Paper Article, April 8, 2009

On April 8, 2009, the City Paper was still expressing concern about the propensity the live-entertainment bill would have for snuffing out small and exciting venues as the result of bureaucracy and the bill's "moral character" clause. The paper noted that a newer draft of the bill, draft III, would leave entertainment as a zoning issue, but expand the number of zones permitting live entertainment. Click the icon to read the City Paper article.

— dpm, 7/26/09

     
 

City Paper Article, March 11, 2009

As early as March 2009, the City Paper was calling City Council Bill No. 08-0163 — the Live Entertainment and Dancing bill — a "misguided beast." However, while most neighborhood concerns have been about the ease with which venues would be able to obtain entertainment permits, the City Paper's objection was the bureaucracy involved in getting one. The bill as originally drafted would completely eliminate entertainment as a zoning matter and reconstitute it as an issue subject to annual licensing. Click the PDF icon at left to read the City Paper article. The bill was first introduced in July 2008 by Council President Stephanie Rawlings-Blake.

— dpm, 7/26/09