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"Legal" Live Music Proposed For Baltimore County

Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski

Bands playing in bars technically illegal in much of Baltimore County

Live music is illegal in bars and restaurants in much of Baltimore County because of a zoning technicality, but it’s happening, anyway. And the county is letting it slide.

That would change under legislation being introduced Monday in the County Council.

County Executive Johnny Olszewski is proposing the New Opportunities for Tourism and Entertainment (NOTE) Act that would put live music on the up and up. It would expand a pilot program in Catonsville and Arbutus the council approved in 2019 to allow most establishments in the county to apply for a Live Music Entertainment permit.

Olszewski said the legislation would help local performers get back on their feet.

"This pandemic has upended their way of life, and this effort creates new opportunities to help them recover as quickly as possible," Olszewski said in a statement. "By helping expand the work we’ve already done in Catonsville, this legislation will create new opportunities for the small businesses and musicians across Baltimore County.”

In 2019, Democratic County Councilman Tom Quirk proposed the pilot program for Catonsville and Arbutus. Catonsville calls itself “Music City Maryland” but at the time live music technically was banned in bars restaurants and other businesses.

Evan Brown, who in 2019 had recently opened State Fare, a restaurant and bar on Frederick Road in Catonsville, said then that even though he legally was not supposed to, he had groups perform.

Once the pilot program for Catonsville became law, Brown said he applied online for the Live Music Entertainment permit, which is free. He said it was easy to do.

“They’ve done a really nice job with it,” Brown said. “They’ve made it as simple as they possibly could.”

“We haven’t done a ton of live music because obviously because of COVID, but we’re starting to roll into the spring with some plans on doing some live music then.”

John Lee is a reporter for WYPR covering Baltimore County. @JohnWesleyLee2
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