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Lawyer seeks permission to hold fundraiser

Gordon says the event should not be subject to city occupancy requirements

Gordon says the event should not be subject to city occupancy requirements

May 12, 2009|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

HAGERSTOWN -- An attorney trying to open a restaurant is seeking court intervention to prevent the city of Hagerstown from shutting down a fundraising event on Friday.

Hagerstown Fire Chief Gary Hawbaker said Tuesday that Timothy Gordon's property on North Potomac Street does not meet state requirements for a fire alarm system, a sprinkler system, fire wall separation and emergency lighting.

On May 7, Douglas P. DeHaven, a city fire marshal, wrote a letter telling Gordon he can't hold his live-entertainment event until those requirements are met.

However, Gordon, as the owner and majority shareholder of Three Sons LLC, which owns 110-116 N. Potomac St., has asked for an injunction and temporary restraining order against the city.

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He says in court papers that he's holding a private Wind Down Friday fundraising event as an individual, not a business, and shouldn't be subject to city occupancy requirements.

A hearing is scheduled for 9 a.m. today before Washington County Circuit Judge M. Kenneth Long Jr.

Gordon has circulated fliers advertising Wind Down Friday, saying the event will feature a cash bar, food and two bands. Tickets cost $10 each. Proceeds will benefit Community Free Clinic, the flier says.

Earlier this month, Washington County's liquor board approved Gordon's request to sell alcohol at the event.

But in a letter dated May 8, the three members of the liquor board told Gordon they learned that the 116 N. Potomac St. building "has not been cleared by the Office of the State Fire Marshal to hold events such as the one planned" for May 15.

The letter said that the license issued for the event will be invalid "unless the building is cleared by the Fire Marshal" before May 15.

The letter, signed by liquor board members Chairman Robert L. Everhart, William F. Dunham and Charles F. Mades, notes that the license "cannot be moved to a different location and there can be no time change for the event."

Gordon's plans to renovate 116 N. Potomac St. and open Hubcaps Classic Car Cafe have been the subject of debate.

Councilwoman Penny M. Nigh questioned Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II at a recent City Council meeting about why Gordon was getting a second chance to apply for city-backed loans for his renovation project after being denied once.

Bruchey responded by saying applicants have the right to reapply.

Bruchey said after the meeting that he only guaranteed Gordon a chance to be "first in line" for consideration.

On Tuesday, City Engineer Rodney Tissue said Gordon previously applied to the city for a permit to renovate his property.

However, the request did not meet fire department and health department requirements, and was denied, Tissue said.

He said the drawings were not complete and were not revised.

Hawbaker said the fire marshal's office on April 2 denied Gordon's permit to open the restaurant because of fire-code deficiencies and Gordon didn't respond.

When the fire department heard on Thursday about Gordon's planned fundraiser, it sent another letter saying the event couldn't be held without the necessary upgrades, Hawbaker said.

In the petition for injunction and temporary restraining order that Gordon filed in Washington County Circuit Court, he said the sole issue before the court was whether requirements of a section of the Hagerstown City Code "regarding occupancy must be complied with for a private, nonprofit gathering for the benefit of charity."

He alleged in the filing that "the purpose of this intervention is more political than it is for public safety."

The event to benefit Community Free Clinic has been publicized, live entertainment has been booked, food has been donated and contributions from those planning to attend have already been received, Gordon wrote in the petition.

"Furthermore, this case is one of extraordinary hardship, given its whole purpose is to raise money for a needy organization facing dramatic cuts in public funding," Gordon wrote.

Staff writer Erin Julius contributed to this story.

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