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August 25, 2009

Suite Ultralounge will stay open -- for now

suite ultra loungeThe long-awaited ruling from Baltimore Circuit Court judge Kaye A. Allison is in, and the embattled Suite Ultralounge can keep its license -- for now.

The Baltimore liquor board didn't have the proper policies in place when it revoked Suite's license last November, Allison ruled.

The liquor board is holding a hearing Sept. 24 to introduce new regulations which officials hope would solve the problem. But it could be as late as November before the city's only bottle club loses its license.

Many violent episodes have been linked to the bottle club in the basement of the Belvedere. And it's unbelievable the club still has its license.

"What a mess," said Councilman William H. Cole IV, who represents the area. 

"I'm concerned about the delay, but we don't have another choice. Now we just have to hope the liquor board acts swiftly and we'll move from there."

In the meantime, the violence has continued ...

At 1:15 a.m. last Friday, Midnight Sun commenter Ryan97ou was walking home from Brewer's Art when he saw a pack of people on the corner of Chase and Charles streets. Then he heard gunfire. Baltimore police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said one man chased another during an argument and fired about 12 shots, but no one appeared to be struck. Ryan97ou, whose real name is Ryan Detter, was appalled.

"It's crazy that it's gotten to this point," Detter said. "It proves the ineptitude of this city when it comes to the legal system."

Detter, who has lived in Mount Vernon for four years, is now looking to move elsewhere.

Of course, police couldn't directly link the weapons discharge and Suite Ultralounge. But I would be shocked if the two weren't related. This stretch of Chase Street was relatively quiet before Suite Ultralounge opened.

Last year, officials hastily crafted and passed legislation they hoped would give the liquor board the power to revoke the bottle club's license. But the judge said the legislation wasn't put together properly. So now they've got to go back and write up a new book of rules and regulations they can use to expel Suite Ultralounge. 

The new policies should take effect in late September. But the liquor board may not be able to retroactively apply the new policies to the club's old offenses. The club's license comes up for renewal in November. That's a long time from now, considering the club's history of violence.

On a side note: Sun writer Peter Hermann has written some pieces with excellent perspective on this whole saga. Check out his blog, Baltimore Crime Beat, here.

(Baltimore Sun photo of Suite Ultralounge's Louis Wood, on right by Karl Merton Ferron)

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Posted by Sam Sessa at 7:10 AM | | Comments (15)
Categories: Bars & Clubs


i guess there are just only so many times you can tell yourself "well, it's's gonna happen"

car break ins, shootings, assaults, etc. i've been glossing over it for years...but we should expect more.

will be interesting to see how this pans out.

If the police department/liquor board/citizens really want to shut the club down, I assure you they can find a way.

Park a few officers outside of the club. Harass the club with inspections. Harass their patrons. Justify the frequent visits by having the neighbors frequently call the police to complain.

A good joint liquor board/VICE raid should easily result in a few arrests.

Come on, we all know why the city won't do anything about it. Dance around that issue all you want, but there is your reason.

Johnnycat, what is this deep, dark, dastardly reason of which you speak?

John said:
"Park a few officers outside of the club. Harass the club with inspections. Harass their patrons. Justify the frequent visits by having the neighbors frequently call the police to complain."

Yeah, good idea John. While you're at it, why not just go straight down to the NAACP and do the same "harassment and inspections" thing at their headquarters. Are you guys really that ignorant about what's going on here?

@john - not going to happen

No. 1 - one can not "harass patrons"

No. 2 - Any smart business owner knows to hire a connected attorney to blow holes into any codes or restrictions written by the city council/liquor board/zoning board

It's just another example of how pathetic this city government is that they can't even close a menace club. In NYC if the city chooses to move on a bar or club it is shut down then and there. They hit it with so many violations that the owner would rather move to Kansas than go through the legal headache of fighting the city. Here not only can you fight City Hall, but all you need is a local yokel attorney to get it done by arguing about the Liquor Board regs.

They should have hit this place with 10 or more violations from different departments, necessitating different legal actions and almost guaranteeing some judge hearing a violation won't provide them a stay in order to remain in business.

As to the whole racial issue, I do not agree with the posters on here citing it as a major factor. The Mayor is African American and can provide political cover for any actions against the club. Plus it's in her political interest to do so in order to look like she cares about protecting white people. What could she possibly gain from protecting this club? The votes of black 18 year old clubgoers? Let's get real. I just think the city is incompetent. What else is new?

Look guys, believe it or not this place is marked for death. You might have to wait another few months while the city council, liquor board, police, etc. figure it out once and for all but Suite Ultralounge's days are numbered in bold.

Normally I'd be the one bashing the powers that be but let's face it, at least they TRIED to do something, whereas 5 years ago they more than likely wouldn't have done a damn thing. Quite frankly it shouldn't be terribly difficult to raid the place on any given weekend under suspicion of illegal weapons possession (Cheerleaders, anyone?) or god knows what else and hollow that mother out.

PJ you and johnnycat need to team up and make babies or something, you're meant for each other.

Evan, leave the immature personal attacks alone. And Sam, if you're going to be serious about personal attacks on your blog, then you shouldn't allow comments like that. That's how flame threads start. Believe me, I know.

The fact is that it's taken the city over a year to shut down a club. A club where random people are being attacked outside on the regular for doing so much as walking down the street. The city's impotence is indefensible. Indefensible. And frankly making excuses for the local government is a large part of the problem. Baltimoreans are too apathetic about the sad state of our city. You need to be the change you want to see. It's not going to happen by wishful thinking or by making the ridiculous argument that one year+ of random attacks outside a club is better than it was five years ago around here. That's like saying September 11th isn't so bad compared to the Holocaust. ALL OF THE ABOVE are unacceptable.

Patapsco Jones makes a lot of sense because he knows what's going on. Baltimore which is largely African American will NOT move in on closing down an African American club. New York City though, to be fair, is run totally differently and cannot even be compared to any other town. That is by far the last town on earth I'd ever want to live in. Baltimore, however, is totally incompetent as he said. Kansas is sounding really good about right now.

PJ if you regard that as a personal attack you probably shouldn't be posting on the internet at all, Captain Sensitive.

And the point of my comment in general was "Believe it or not, things are better now than they were five years ago." That's generally the way things are - you think things are apathetic now, you ain't seen Baltimore in the 90s. Or the 80s.

Yes, it's an enormous tragedy and italicized inexcusable that this place didn't get shut down absolutely immediately, I agree completely.

In my wildest dreams, however, this is all part of a bigger case against organized crime and some sort of big bust is pending. The judge had to allow them to operate because the undercover agents needed just a little more, enough to make the case, to bring down the gang of individuals discussing their operations at the club (this actually happened too, there was a wiretap). And some sort of bellowing captain has to make the tough decision: allow the random attacks to continue while building a case, or shut the place down and blow it all?

Wildest dreams. The problem here, in reality, is that if that were ever the case it could only happen in Sandtown, where there are no rich white people to get on the internet and talk about it. Huge operations have been shut down before in other clubs in other parts of the city, this one just happens to be in an affluent, very vocal part. Pretty insane.

aaaaaanyway, I just hope that the next time the case is taken before a judge, they make sure their case is iron-clad (or that undercover op already has what he needs).

...or god forbid they boost police presence on that block on weekends like they do in Federal Hill, or by Power Plant, or in Canton Square...

I grew up here. I saw this City in the 70's and the 80s and the 90s. And throughout the time I lived in NYC I was back here regularly visiting friends and fam. But let's be real, the city didn't get better from the 80's and early 90's because of the government. It got better because people who used crack - the drug of choice at the time - had a very short lifespan.

As for johnnycat - I want to be real clear. Somehow either you or you and Evan misread my post above. I could not disagree with you more over the racial angle on the club staying open. Why would the Mayor come out publicly against the club, then secretly keep it open in order to keep a group of 18 year old clubgoers happy? Makes no sense. And black voters in the city could care less about some menace club. Particularly if a black Mayor is the one closing it. What the Mayor needs to shore up is the white vote in the city and there is no worse way of doing that than being soft on clubs like this. This place is an easy target for the Mayor to score political points with whites. I think the club remains open simply due to incompetence on the part of the city, not some racial conspiracy.


The police most certainly can harass patrons if they have the support of their commanders.

Spitting on the sidewalk? To jail.

Creating a disturbance by cussing publicly? Jail.

Jaywalking? Jail.

Open container? Jail.

Failing to move towards and orderly object or purpose i.e. smoking outside the bar? (Loitering) Jail.

They have to come and go somehow, tail light out? Failure to come to a complete stop? Tow the car. In the process conduct a lawful inventory search. Hopefully find something to take the driver to jail.

Do this for 2-3 weeks and I imagine the club will be quite sparsely populated. Almost all the charges will be abated by arrest, but that has no effect on the overall objective.

NAACP wise, just have a few black officers do it. In all seriousness.

For the record I ascribed to no racial overtones in your comments PJ


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About Erik Maza
Erik Maza is a features reporter at the Baltimore Sun. He writes for several sections of the Sun paper and contributes weekly columns on music and nightlife. He also writes and edits the Midnight Sun blog. He often covers entertainment, business, and the business of entertainment. Occasionally, he writes about Four Loko, The Block, the liquor board, and those who practice "simulated sex with a potted palm tree." Before The Sun, he was a reporter at the Miami New Times. He's also written for Miami magazine, the Orlando Sentinel, the Sarasota Herald Tribune and the Gainesville Sun. Got tips? Gripes? Pitches? He's reachable at Click here to keep up with the dumb music he's listening to.

Midnight Sun covers Baltimore music, live entertainment, and nightlife news. On the blog, you'll find, among other things, concert announcements, breaking news, bars closings and openings, up-to-date coverage of crime in nightlife, new music, round-the-clock coverage of Virgin Mobile FreeFest, handy guides on bars staying open past 2 a.m. on New Year's Eve and those that carry Natty Boh on draft. Recurring features include seven-day nightlife guides, Concert News, guest reviews of bars and concerts, Wednesday Corkboard, and photo galleries, as well as reader-submitted photos. Thanks for reading.

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