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Lawmakers Behind Legislation To Close 'The Block' At 10 P.M. Say Compromise Has Been Reached

BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- A group of lawmakers behind a bill that would close strip clubs on "The Block" by 10 p.m. said a compromise with the club's owners has been reached.

Maryland Senate President Bill Ferguson, who introduced the proposal, 46th District Dels. Luke Clippinger, Robbyn Lewis, and Brooke Lierman, and City Councilman Eric Costello release a statement Friday saying "a representative majority of clubs" have agreed to consistently use security cameras and share footage, pay for a dedicated police deployment, and develop security plans.

Those plans have to be approved by the Baltimore City Board of Liquor License Commissioners and the Baltimore Police Department.

"We are confident that this path forward will result in a safer 'Block,' surrounding community, and Central District," the lawmakers said.

They said the bill "was always to ensure an equitable distribution of police resources across the Central District, not to put the businesses on "The Block" out of business."

Introduced Jan. 12, Senate Bill 222 would have required businesses on the 400 block of E. Baltimore Street with a Class A or Class BD-7 liquor license, or an adult entertainment license, to close by 10 p.m. The bill text outlines an area bounded by E. Fayette Street to the north, Water Street to the south, Holliday and Commerce streets to the west, and Gay Street to the east.

Frank D. Boston, III, an attorney representing The Hustler Club, said about half of "The Block's" licensees have been involved in talks with Ferguson."It was really good because the Senate president got to hear from the businesses and how they're struggling to stay open, the things they already do," Boston said. "We tried to put together some common sense amendments that would address the actual crime and perception of crime."Boston said club owners will pay for uniformed police three nights a week between 10 a.m. and 3 a.m., during the area's peak hours."The long and short of it is all it does is codify a lot of the existing practices of outside cameras, adequate and properly-trained security personnel, making sure there's a metal detector or a wand when you go in," Boston said.

Thiru Vignarajah, who represents several businesses on "The Block," said the agreement announced Friday came as a shock to many of the club owners.

Last week, many of the club owners and management told WJZ city and state leaders have wanted to shut the clubs down for a while.

"We want Baltimore City to be safe, but they want to bully us. They want to strong arm us," Club Pussycat Owner Bill Wantland said Feb. 7. "I'll tell them whatever they need. What do you want? I'll tell ya. Look at my cameras. Whatever you want. We'll help you."

The area has long been associated with adult entertainment, dating at least as far back as the mid-20th century, when Blaze Starr and other burlesque dancers performed in clubs along the street.


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