On April 19th, Dana and Donald Owens, co-owners of Club Bunns, Baltimore’s last remaining nightclub catering to the black same-gender loving / sexual and gender minority community, appeared before Baltimore City’s Liquor Board to defend a challenge brought against them by the University of Maryland in an effort to have their liquor license revoked. With its excellent record of good community relations, the club prevailed for now against the school.
The university presented a petition to request the review of the license, which barely received the number of signatures required to qualify, and even then, only after the Liquor Board chair gave them a great deal of leeway, with several signatures being thrown out as invalid.
After the board threw out the majority of the complaints made by the university in their petition as invalid for a variety of reasons, the university was left with a handful of incidents to justify their case. When presenting a case for those incidents, the Liquor Board noted several problems that made it difficult to see actions by Club Bunns that had contributed to them.
Club Bunns’s counsel contended that the allegations against the club were specious and arbitrary, and rooted in the university’s desire over many years to buy the building that Club Bunns leases. The university owns all the other adjacent properties to the business and has made numerous offers to the building’s owner to purchase the property. They have not however made a good faith offer that would allow Club Bunns to relocate to another location.
The Liquor Board ruled that there was no evidence that justified revocation of Club Bunns’s license. They cited the fact that in the past 12 months only a single 311 call related to the property had been logged, and that there were zero related Baltimore City Police reports. The board noted that there had not been an incident complaint reported to them related to Club Bunns since 2012.
This event is “another chapter in our history since the early 1990s, of the University of Baltimore attacking our community just to gain our property,” said Club Bunns co-owner Dana Owens. “It’s not fair as we serve a diverse group of people in the city of Baltimore and the DMV.”
The Liquor Board did request, and the club’s owners agreed, to reach out to the other businesses in the area to work out their issues. Counsel for Club Bunns noted that all the other businesses in the Lexington Street Business Association supported the renewal. They also noted the large number of community organizations with whom Club Bunns collaborates in the area of HIV prevention and community support. “Club Bunns will work with any organization whose interest is to uplift the LGBTQ / SGL community,” said Owens. We’ve been doing it over 30 years and will continue to do it.”
Several dozen people attended the hearing at Baltimore City Hall to support Club Bunns, practically filling the room. “Thank you to all the community supporters who came out in solidarity to support Club Bunns,” said Dana Owens. “From the bottom of my heart, and from my staff, we thank you and appreciate you.”