New regulations for Prince George’s County dance halls and night clubs may help solve crime in some areas, officials say, but owners say the rules could mean some clubs will go out of business.
The county council this week unanimously passed legislation that will, among other things, require club owners to submit security plans for clubs, raise licensing fees from $300 to $1,000 a year, and give the Department of Environmental Resources the right to suspend or revoke applications or licenses. Clubs would also be prohibited from operating between 2 a.m. and 11 a.m.
Karen Toles (D-Dist. 7) of Suitland introduced the legislation after an outcry from residents and police, who said dance halls were a magnet for crime in the community. The legislation could be enforced as early as this summer.
Officials from the county police department and state’s attorney's office praised the legislation as an aid to cutting back on crime in communities where clubs exist. According to Prince George’s County police, since 2007, about 40 murders have occurred near clubs in the county. Communities have complained of crimes, fighting and littering near the clubs.
“With increased security comes increased accountability,” said Prince George's Police Chief Mark Magaw. “We have to look at this issue to make a decision.”
But club owners and promoters said they felt railroaded by the legislation.
“I think the bill needs tweaking,” said Doc Hayes, who owns Club Elite in Temple Hills. “We feel like [the legislation] is a broad brush stroke when you say that our businesses are operating outside the law.”
Hayes said the additional requirements, including licensing fees and penalties, could force some clubs to go out of business. In the past, he said, officials had been more open to discussing legislation with the club and dancehall community. This time, however, he said the industry was shut out.
“I strongly encourage the council to step back and allow the industry to weigh in,” he said.
Ron Motter, a former club promoter, told the council that clubs bring hundreds of jobs to the community and give youth something to do.
“[The] only thing that happens is that [clubs and club-goers] get pushed to another place,” he said.