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March 3, 2011

Baltimore Liquor Board punts on Tiki Barge decision

After a four-hour hearing to decide on the fate of the Tiki Barge, the Baltimore Liquor Board punted on a verdict Thursday.

The board members instead ordered Team Tiki and Team No-Tiki to meet, hash out their differences, and reconvene before the board in three weeks with some kind of agreement.

"We’re going to urge the party to come together, and if they don’t, we’ll make a decision based on the evidence,” said Stephan Fogleman, chairman of the board. 

The hearing was not a record one, Fogleman said; "Maybe top 12." But it must have set a benchmark for the highest number of times  the phrase "public urination" was uttered out loud by fully-grown adults.

I was there for all four, mind-numbing hours. Here's my dispatch:

The hearing started at 3 p.m. at room #215 of City Hall.

Throughout, Mel Kodenski, an attorney who often represents bars before the liquor board, spoke for the barge, and Matthew Klaiber, a neigbhbor represented the petitioners against it.

In attendance was a crowd of some 40 people, all sworn in in unison, though only about ten testified.

If you didn't read Wednesday's story, some of the barge's neighbors - eventually 40 - joined a petition accusing the patrons of the Tiki Barge of everything from public nudity to public urination; one of the more head-scratching complaints accused a patron of "simulated sex with a potted palm tree."

The petition also included a picture of a bosomy brunette who critics say was goaded into taking off her top, which, if you ask me, would have suggested a classic New York Post headline: "Topless woman at the Tiki Barge."

Team No-Tiki went first on Thursday. There was Marie Washington, a 62-year-old woman who lives at the Townes of Harborview, who said the bar's patron's tend to congregate outside her house.

"My problem is that it creates a safety issue for me," she said. She added that noise is also a problem: "I've been woken up by individuals on weekends late night who are intruding into my ability to enjoy my own home," she said. 

Four others spoke against the barge, then Team Tiki came on. I'll save you the sparring over license minutiae; early in the meeting Fogleman dismissed the petitioners' claim that the barge's liquor license was only limited to Tabrizi's and Sorso Cafe.

Kim Acton, the former owner of Locust Point’s Pazza Luna, and a resident in the area for six years - she's now at Harborview Tower - said she's been coming to the Tiki Barge since it opened.

It's given the neighborhood a nightlife anchor it didn't have before, she said. 

“There was nothing here before,” she said. “This gave it life.” 

The 51-year-old also helped set aside the notion that the Tiki Barge is only enjoyed by fratty, young people.

"I've entertained family, guests, I've never had an unpleasant experience," she said. "They've given me a place to be proud of."

Bud Craven, the bar’s manager also spoke in support of the bar. If it re-opens, he said it will include an expanded menu. Richard Swirnow, who developed much of this area, also defended it.

Kodenski said the barge’s owners taken precautions, like hiring off-duty police, to monitor patrons. He also noted the barge hasn’t caught the attention of law enforcement.

A spokesman for Baltimore Police described the area around the bar as “quiet” earlier this week.

Over the course of the meeting, certain phrases made the sleepy crowd perk up. "How can you differentiate between animal and human urine?" an incredulous Tiki supporter said at one point. The hearing's stenographer had to drily intervene at another: "Can we keep the joking to a minimum? It's killing me."

The meeting finally came to a close at 7 p.m., an hour earlier than the hearing a few weeks earlier on Club Reality.

Alas, the potted palm tree never made an appearance.

Because of the sheer amount of evidence, and the copious testimony, Fogleman said the board members needed more time to review it all, and will reconvene in three weeks on the issue.

In that time, supporters and detractors can come up with an agreement among themselves about the barge. And if they don't, the board will make a decision for them once and for all.

Photo: The Tiki Barge last March (Gene Sweeney Jr./Baltimore Sun)

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Posted by Erik Maza at 9:09 PM | | Comments (5)
Categories: News


heh that sounds like my hearing against Jim Rouse and the Downtown Partnership. The liquor board told us to leave meet and come back with an agreement. We agreed to close by 1am, not sell package goods and not have strippers. They agreed not to assume that every black person in downtown Baltimore after dark was a patron of our establishment. Case closed.

Palm Tree Humnpers of the World - Unite!

Fight for your right to be a public nuisance.

Whoa! That headline contains a sports reference!

I'm pretty sure "public urination" is a term only used by fully grown adults.

The Tiki Barge is a great idea and makes living in South Baltimore a lot more fun. Harbor View is a very nice place to live with a marina and nice amenities. Mixing the two was not a great idea. The owners of Harbor View Marina have a history of doing what they want to make a buck and disregard the right thing to do for their neighbors and customers. The right thing to do here is to simply move the Tiki Barge (it does move) to the bulkhead near Little Havanna so the patrons of The Tiki Barge do not need to disturb the residential community at Harbor View. Simple

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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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