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November 23, 2009

Mayor Sheila Dixon signs the live entertainment bill

Mayor Sheila Dixon signed the live entertainment bill into law today, making it easier for certain taverns and restaurants to have bands, karaoke, DJs and such.

Though neighborhood associations haven't been big fans of the bill, I think it's a step in the right direction for Baltimore. And I live in South Baltimore, which will be affected by the zoning changes ...

This bill opens up certain zoning districts for live entertainment. Two other measures passed by the city council are intended to make it easier for neighborhood residents to monitor and protest new live entertainment licenses. That way, if their local corner bar gets a live entertainment license and suddenly becomes a major nuisance, they can sort it out. Let's hope the measures work like they're supposed to.

In the past, I've written about the bill objectively as a reporter, and also supported the idea as a blogger. There are a few sides to it, too:

  • Bars say live entertainment will make them more appealing and bring in more customers
  • Bands and DJs say they need more places to play.
  • Neighborhood associations don't want wild and crazy clubs setting up shop in formerly peaceful spots.

Thanks, Mayor Dixon, for signing the bill. And thanks to City Council President Stephanie C. Rawlings-Blake for working so hard on it over the past few years. Rawlings-Blake didn't rush this bill through -- she hammered it out with input from business owners and community members alike. I think the finished product is the right move for Baltimore.

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Posted by Sam Sessa at 3:40 PM | | Comments (24)
Categories: Bars & Clubs, Local music


You'll burn in hell for this, young man!

Damn hippies with their damn facial hair and their damn live entertainment. Time was, we could entertain ourselves with a smooth gentleman talker or a nice bar brawl on a muggy Saturday night.

Not this generation. You need to be constantly entertained like a spoiled toddler playing with his Leapfrog or his Baby Einstein or whatever they call those things that makes my grandson want to sassmouth me all the time!

I would have gotten away with it too, if it weren't for you meddling bar owners, musicians, and your dumb dog! I'll get you for this!

I think it's a good idea. I'm certainly in favor of having bad actors apprehended with fines or license revocation (and another newly passed law finally makes that legal), but those interested in putting on shows should get the benefit of the doubt until they prove unworthy.

We need to stop running this City solely for and by the No Fun Brigade.

It's On, Chris, it's on.

This exchange of comments may be the funniest I have read on this blog.


Sam, please organize a spoken word open mic for the next Midnight Sun happy hour at Mad River (second choice, Mothers).

We'll call it Mute Poetry Jam.

Well I am a damn hippy and I have damn facial hair and I like damn live entertainment, but I also have a damn brain and I can tell a poorly conceived bill when I see one. This bill is a joke. Five city agencies working together? C'mon man! You'll be lucky to get two staff members in the same agency to work together (just sitting next to each other doesn't count). If any of these restaurant liquor license toting mega bars get out of will have no viable recourse. Enjoy!

Damed hippie- you have too much time on your hands, live entertainment will bring "entertainment" into this great city of ours. Are you saying that there aren't loud bars right now, gentifcation isn't a bad thing, it will help with your home value when all is said and done. We have other things to worry about I.e. Drugs and unemployment. People just love to bitch, and you fall into that category. Go pick up some garbage or help somebody out, you old fuddy duddy!

@probinson Your post does not make any sense and does not address the point I raised in my post. If you are going to call me out for my post at least make a counter argument against it rather regurgitating the same old bar owner's spiel. Or if you would rather speak further on your topic please post a link or information to support your argument that attracting a greater number of bar patrons to these densely situated residential neighborhoods will improve the home values for the residents?

Amen, probinson!

Sam, when is this expected to become law, I am sure that there are a lot of musicians waiting for this.

Damned Hippy-

To address the point further. Why can't restaurant and bar owners and residents coexist in a small community. Why are you so quick to hate and to complain? What is up with all of the bitching, we all have choices to make. Why can't we all just get along and enjoy the fact that we live in a city with a lot of small businesses.

What is wrong with gentrification of small neighborhoods?

Viable recourse includes: calling 911, calling the liquor board, calling the health department, calling zoning. You might not get immediate action unless you call 911 or go to the business itself if you have a problem, stop hiding behind a computer.

What about restaurant patrons who want to hear live jazz, why do you always fear the worst?

All I am saying, is give this a chance, just because it is not your cup of tea doesn't mean it isn't for somebody else. The market economy dictates that if people don't like it then the business will go out of business. That is what America is based on. However if people like it, like they like the restaurants of the small neighborhoods then more will come. Then the strong will survive and the weak will go out of business. It's pretty simple.

I hope that I have answered your questions.

This is the best thing that ever happened to Baltimore. I have always felt like my experience in Baltimore lacked the culture that I know it to have. Let people from the outside see just how diverse we are, and what our community is all about. Let them hear the sounds of local musicians that have been muffled for years.

Stephen King (r bachman)- Somebody told me that it was suppose to start January 1, but I am not sure if they knew that to be correct. But even after that, restaurants and bars would have to go through a process of obtaining the permit which could take up to 6 months possibly. There will probably be one lawyer that handles a majority of the cases to get it pushed through as quickly as possible.

I think this bill means big changes for the city of Baltimore, and honestly I think they will be all for the better. This bill will help entertainment sore, and it is well deserving because Baltimore City is just full of immense talent that has not yet been discovered. This bill will help that talent to be recognized and appreciated.

@probinson it would appear that, apart from your rather laughable suggestion that people call four different city agencies to address a problem, you are unable to counter my original concern and have instead decided to attack my comment based upon your own preconceived notions as to who I am and what I am interested in. The rest of your post is a mess of statements and arguments against a point I did not make, although your explanation of the free market economy, “what America is based on”, and business Darwinism was certainly enlightening.

As I stated in my first post “I like damn live entertainment”. However, anyone who has had to oppose a zoning variance at the BMZA, who has fought the renewal of a problem liquor license, or who has tried to hold an unhelpful (and I'm not say all are unhelpful) bar/mega restaurant accountable for their actions will know what kind of challenges are in store for them. And good luck to the City or the residents when they come up against a bar/mega restaurant’s high priced lawyer (although I heard that expensive lawyers were not much help to some at the November Liquor Board meeting).

Again, I like live entertainment and go to see many bands, but this bill does not seem to offer the protection the residents of these areas really need.

p.s. I look forward to all of this “live jazz” that apparently will abound under the new bill. How many jazz acts will you be booking for your bar/mega restaurants?.

I have tried my best to answer your problems. It seems to me that you like "damn" entertainment but not in your backyard. Fells Point has had "damn" entertainment for years and I have not heard of too many customer complaints. Mums has had it as well as the 8 x 10 and once again I have not heard of too many complaints. I have seen bands in Canton and I see a lot of people enjoying themselves. I understand that there might not be a lot of jazz bands but I bet there will be more solo acoustic acts than 4 piece bands. I gave you 4 different agencies that you can call, you don't need to call all of them. Once again, I suggest going right to the source, most restaurant and bar ownerd seem to be easy to get in touch with around town. I am looking forward to hearing it throughout the city instead of a few select places.

Actually I enjoy living in a vibrant neighborhood with “damn live entertainment” just a short walk away. As you are so quick to label me a NIMBY I would ask you if you live in one of the neighborhoods that will be affected? I thought not. You mention Mums as having live entertainment and I wonder what the capacity of Mums is versus that of a mega restaurant such as somewhere like Ryleighs? Then multiply that number throughout the licensed establishments embedded in these dense neighborhoods (off the top of my head I think the area immediately surrounding Cross Street Market has over 20 liquor licenses) and you can see how changes to dynamics of bars/mega restaurants operating within them could have serious consequences for the residents. As they say the devil is in the details and while I would love to see the option for more live music I still don’t think this bill provides adequate protection or viable recourse.

@Damned Hippy-

What do you think is going to change if Cross Street or O'Donnell Stree or everybody else on Broadway get live entertainment?

-is it going to get any louder than it already is?

I actually live in one of the neighborhoods that is going to be affected and I am looking forward to a short walk or a cab ride to listen to live music. I can already go to the Waterfront and I enjoy it a lot. Waterfront is just as big as Ryleigh's if not bigger.

I can not see how it is going to change the dynamics of the restaurants/ "mega" bars in the area. I don't forsee Mother's Back Alley changing its name to Mother's "Live".

There might be 20 more cars in the neighborhoods of the 20 musicians that are getting paid to play.

It is not going to be any different. This bill isn't the best but it sure is a start. Let's just go with it and enjoy the music and I am sure you can find something else to complain about in a month or two.

@ probinson - I never mentioned anything about loudness so again you keep arguing against things I have not said.

I have to say that your argument that the only extra people this would attract to the area are the musicians is almost insultingly simplistic. Based upon the fervor in which some of the bar/mega restaurant owners have lobbied for this bill I would think that most would expect to see an increase in patronage, no? Otherwise are they doing their financial lobbying just for the love of music? What wonderfully altruistic business people.

Btw, if taking an active interest in trying to maintain the quality of life in my neighborhood is "complaining", "bitching" and being a "fuddy duddy" then so be it. But if the residents don't advocate on their own behalf then who will?

If you, as you say in your post, agree with me that this Bill isn't the best how would suggest it be improved?

Damned Hippy- I apologize if you haven't mention the noise, that is most's number one argument.
I feel the bar owner's want to have live entertainment as an option, that's all. It doesn't seem to me that they have spent a lot of money lobbying it at all.

Having live entertainment doesn't guarantee extra patronage, but it would be a nice option for bar and restaurant owners to have becaues a lot of customers want it. If the customers don't want it then the bar and restaurant owners would care less, agree?

You are asking me on ways of making this bill better, what about you?

I am happy that restaurants will be allowed to have it, I truly think that most people are good in nature and won't violate the laws, I don't need a cop on every corner just to make sure I don't jaywalk.

Mr. Sardonicus,

Wipe that grin off of your face. Don't drag other people through the mudd here on Midnight Sun, have some respect for yourself as well as others.

Live entertainment has nothing to do with bmccomas and his priors. You are more than welcome to blog on MS but be respectful. The only thing necessary for live entertainment in this town is going to be correct zoning and adherence to any rules and regulations set forth by the city, i.e. zoning and liquor boards. btw is comptroller's office, have a good day.

William Castle, thanks for the heads up. I'm usually good at screening comments, but somehow this one slipped through.

Mr. Sardonicus, I don't allow personal attacks on Midnight Sun. That's why I removed your comment.

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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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