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Quick and Dirty

Tried as an Adult Club

By David Morley | Posted 9/14/2005

Aaron Shulman, owner of Erotica, a strip club on the corner of Eastern Avenue and Washington Street in Fells Point, came under fire this week before the Baltimore City Board of Liquor License Commissioners for several violations of his adult-entertainment license.

In two separate hearings on Sept. 8—one to hear the plaintiff’s and defendant’s sides of the story regarding the alleged violations and another to discuss Erotica’s pending liquor-license renewal—the liquor board heard testimony and complaints from the bar’s neighbors and from officers who conducted a sting operation for violation of adult-entertainment laws there last spring.

Just before the hearings, Shulman attempted to stop them from taking place by presenting bankruptcy lawyer Robert Grossbart, who requested the hearings be dismissed, explaining that Shulman had filed for bankruptcy “approximately an hour ago.” In doing so, Shulman tried to take advantage of a legal loophole that puts a freeze on property, including liquor licenses for adult-entertainment establishments, while the bankruptcy process proceeds. However, liquor board commissioner Edward Smith Jr. denied the request to dismiss Erotica’s cases, and the board proceeded to hear almost six hours of testimony, during which officers and neighbors charged that Erotica’s patrons were allowed to touch the dancers, that the club’s lap-dance areas did not adhere to rules requiring them to take place on a stage raised at least 18 inches off the floor, and that solicitation for sex happened at the club.

Erotica, formerly called Chubbies, was fined a total of $3,000 and must suspend operations for 30 days, starting Sept. 15.

Liquor board Chairman Marc Foster says the decision on whether or not to renew the club’s liquor license will be withheld until the legal issues surrounding the bankruptcy filing are worked out.

Speaking for Shulman, Andrew Alley—who owns the property in the 2000 block of Eastern Avenue where Erotica is located—says that “everything’s going to be appealed,” from the fine and suspension to the board’s future decision on the liquor-license renewal. He and Shulman are also meeting with City Councilman James Kraft (D-1st District) “so that we can work with the community on this,” Alley says.

More than a dozen members of the community showed up to provide testimony against Shulman’s business, though, including resident Bill Pearson, who moved to his Washington Street home three years ago. He says that strip clubs are “a definite downgrade to the community,” especially when they’ve got a “huge list of violations.” And in cases like this, he says, it is members of the community who must serve as the watchdogs to protect their neighborhoods.

“That’s the good and tough thing about community activism,” he says.

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