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Nightclub back in court over code violations

A small group of Millers Island residents came to Baltimore County Circuit Court on Tuesday hoping that a local restaurant would be forced to stop its live music and karaoke, ending a source of a years-long annoyance.

Instead, Judge Robert N. Dugan said he would need some time to review the case history before deciding if and how Dock of the Bay should be held in contempt for violating the county zoning code.

The contempt hearing came after the Court of Special Appeals affirmed in July that Dock of the Bay violated the county zoning code by turning into a nightclub when it offers live music and karaoke. The appellate court upheld county administrative rulings that Dock of the Bay meets six of the eight criteria for nightclubs set out in commentary to the county building code.

Adam Rosenblatt, an assistant county attorney, said Tuesday that Dock of the Bay continues to offer live music and karaoke in spite of all the rulings against it, much to the neighbors’ chagrin.

“The playing of the music is substantially interfering with their lives,” Rosenblatt said.

Lawrence J. Thanner Jr., the restaurant’s owner, said he stopped playing outdoor music in September. But Rosenblatt asked Dugan to find the restaurant and Thanner in contempt and order both indoor and outdoor music to cease within 10 days.

John W. Nowicki, the restaurant’s lawyer, countered the zoning violation does not mean the restaurant is prohibited from having music inside.

“That would seem like you can’t have a music box in any place in the county,” said Nowicki, a Sparrows Point solo practitioner.

Nowicki also submitted a Court of Appeals decision from May stating the Baltimore County Board of Liquor License Commissioners exceeded its authority when it banned Dock of the Bay from playing outdoor music in July 2007.

Rosenblatt said the liquor board matter is a separate track, so it should not affect the zoning matter.

The music “is such a problem for neighbors that the county was doing everything in its power to make it stop,” he added.

Dock of the Bay began offering music and karaoke at night on the weekends in 2005. The county, acting on complaints by neighbors, began fining the restaurant the following year for violating its Business Local zoning designation by operating as a nightclub in the evenings.