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Barracuda's goes before board

April 18, 2002|BY KIMBERLY YAKOWSKI

kimy@herald-mail.com

Barracuda Surf Bar officials appeared before the Washington County liquor board Wednesday to respond to allegations the bar violated a county ordinance by allowing patrons on stage with dancers clad in G-strings during a recent all-male dance revue.

Inspector Robert Shoemaker told the Board of License Commissioners that he went to the bar on Feb. 28 and found about 200 people watching a performance of Hunk-A-Mania, a traveling male dance show.

Many of the patrons were "highly intoxicated" and going up on stage, dancing with the performers and sticking money in their G-strings, he said.

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He said the dancers were simulating sexual acts and "the women were not acting appropriately."

The performance violated the county nudity ordinance by allowing customers on stage, allowing patrons to touch the performers and not keeping patrons back 6 feet from the stage, he said.

Richard Mitchler, the bar manager, said the dance revue had performed at Barracuda's under previous owners and he wasn't aware the bar was breaking any ordinances by allowing Hunk-A-Mania's show to go on.

Mitchler said he spoke with officials at Hunk-A-Mania after learning of the parameters of the ordinance and the dancers refused to alter their show, so they won't be rehired.

The liquor board took no action during the hearing. Board Chairman Donald Mellott said the panel has 30 days to make a decision about alleged violations.

Hagerstown City Police officers testified that there were other February incidents at Barracuda's in which fights broke out, resulting in three arrests.

Police officers reported that several people involved in each of the three incidents were intoxicated, Lt. William Carvel Wright III said.

Wright told the liquor board he was concerned about the possibility of over-serving or allowing intoxicated people to enter the bar.

"In either case, it's a concern that I know we want to prevent," Wright said.

Wright and Shoemaker said they think owning a bar isn't easy and that Barracuda's is taking steps to correct the problems.

In February, Barracuda's owner Bill Burruss agreed to make changes, including sending bartenders for additional training to help them identify the right time to cut off drinkers, charging people a cover charge each time they enter the bar from outside and stopping serving "high-octane" alcohol such as brandy in response to complaints lodged by the liquor board.

Barracuda's attorney Bruce Poole said that the Clarion Hotel, which operates the bar, has started paying off-duty police officers to check identification at the bar's front door. He said many of the ongoing problems are typical of the industry.

Mellott suggested the bar's staff take a Children's Village-sponsored course that helps bartenders identify drunken patrons.

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