A Millers Island bar owner’s unusual iPod accessory has landed him in hot water with the county Board of Liquor License Commissioners.
The three-member panel Monday fined Larry Thanner, co-owner and operator of Dock of the Bay, $2,000 on each of two counts related to his use of a barge to play music outside his bar.
During his testimony, Thanner said he was being unfairly singled out by the liquor board, and said many nearby restaurants on the water play much louder music than his bar.
“I’m the only restaurant in Baltimore County that can’t have music,” Thanner said.
The four-hour show cause hearing in Towson was the latest in an ongoing six-year dispute between Thanner and several local residents over the volume of music at his restaurant and bar, including a contempt order issued last year by a Baltimore County Circuit Court Judge.
Thanner built the small barge in the water off his outdoor patio this spring as a way of circumventing that order.
Judge Robert N. Dugan in November ordered Thanner to dismantle the Dock of the Bay's outdoor speaker system. He also issued a ban on live bands, music, D.J., karaoke and all other forms of music on site.
The basis of the contempt order was that the Dock of the Bay was not zoned as a nightclub.
Thanner built the barge for his iPod. From there, he played Jimmy Buffett and other “island music” for customers over Memorial Day weekend.
Thanner said he did not believe Dugan had jurisdiction over the water near his restaurant and bar. Additionally, he said he did not interpret the contempt order to include soft rock “house music” piped inside while guests ate lunch or dinner.
“I don’t consider that entertainment,” Thanner said.
Residents who live near the bar and one county official disagreed.
Charles Wolinski, Brad Metheny and Kay Sessa wrote complaint letters June 1 about the music over Memorial Day weekend. All three testified, along with Miller’s Island Community Association President Denise Haas, that the bar violated Dugan’s order and that the music was loud enough to be heard in their homes.
Michael Mohler, chief administrator for the liquor board, in a written report, said he heard soft rock music playing on speakers inside the restaurant on the afternoon of May 19 while visiting the restaurant about a separate issue. Mohler stated during his testimony that he believed Dugan’s contempt order banned the playing of any music whatsoever on the premises.
Several Dock of the Bay employees testified that the music from the barge was not loud and could not be heard in some places in and around the restaurant.
The three-member board found Thanner and his bar violated county regulations prohibiting bars from disturbing the peace of the neighborhood in which they are located. They also ruled that the bar violated the judge’s order.
The $2,000 for each violation represents the maximum amount the board can legally impose.
The ruling left both sides unhappy.
Thanner’s attorney, David F. Mister, said Thanner has 30 days to file an appeal in circuit court. Mister said a decision to appeal has not yet been made.
Sessa said she was not satisfied that the board, which has the power to suspend or revoke a liquor license, had merely levied fines against Thanner.
“I’m not happy with it,” Sessa said, adding that she believes Thanner will try playing music again and everyone will be back before the board again at some point.