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Baltimore County Council Plugs In Live Music

John Lee

Live music may be coming to a restaurant or bar near you in Baltimore County.

The county council voted 5-2 Monday to approve a proposal by County Executive Johnny Olszewski to make live music legal in more Baltimore County establishments where existing zoning laws had made it illegal.

Officials say the legislation, called the New Opportunities for Tourism and Entertainment (NOTE) Act, will allow hundreds of businesses to apply for a live musical entertainment permit.

Democratic Councilman Tom Quirk said, “Live music, done properly, which I think this bill addresses, really can go a long way to bringing consumers and bringing commerce back, and helping small business when it needs it the most.”

The original legislation initially fell flat with some council members because it would have allowed authorities to shut down a business immediately that was playing loud music. Council members feared that could run some establishments out of business.

The legislation was amended so that authorities can only order the business to stop the music for that night.

“We’re not talking Woodstock,” said Democratic Councilman Julian Jones. “We’re talking about a quartet, piano player, or somebody in a restaurant playing a little music for a Sunday brunch.”

Under the legislation, an establishment can only apply for a live music permit if it makes at least 50% of its gross revenue before 9 pm.

“Which means it’s going to be restaurants,” Jones said.

The live music license can be revoked if the business is a repeat offender when it comes to creating a nuisance. That decision can be appealed.

The county-wide legislation is modeled after a pilot program that passed in 2019 for Catonsville and Arbutus. Councilman Quirk, who represents those communities, said it has been a success.

“I didn’t have one complaint,” Quirk said.

Several other council members said they had heard no opposition to the legislation from their constituents.

Democratic Councilman Izzy Patoka voted against establishing live music permits, saying he had heard complaints in his district about it.

Before the vote, Patoka proposed having the legislation sunset after one year and the council could examine it again. That idea went nowhere with his fellow council members.

Republican Councilman Todd Crandell also voted against the legislation. He did not speak to the proposal Tuesday night, but at last week’s council meeting, he said he is concerned the legislation could have unintended consequences.

“I’m not sure this bill’s ready for prime time,” Crandell said.

The legislation takes effect May 2.

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