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Dock of the Bay Fined $4,000 by Liquor Board

Liquor commissioners rule the waterside restaurant's musical entertainment violated county regulations, judge's order.

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.

Talonya June 24, 2011 at 04:45 PM
Elaine, I hear about how great it was all the time and about Pleasure Island. I would have loved to of seen it then. I bet it a lot of fun. And bet your bottom dollar, that if it was like that now, I would be the first to stand up and advocate to keep it that way. You old timers come on here and talk about all this, but OBVIOUSLY not ONE of you stood up for your community and advocate to keep it that way. As most are doing now. You think it's awful now, imagine no one standing up to Thanner and it turning into a little city in another 10 years! What then? The reality of it is... Things change and different generations come in and do different things. You're so for what it USED to be like, but yet it sounds to me that you don't care what Thanner is doing. I still find MI a friendly place full of fun things to do on the water. We fish, we crab, we take the boat out. My daughter and her friends go swimming and hang out. And sometimes we'll walk up to The Islander and have dinner and drinks. It's awesome to live there! And let me not forget to mention we have a low crim rate (LOL, like none). And the residents are not going to let Thanner ruin it. The morale there is much better than most think or the news media leads people to believe.
Elaine Summerhill June 25, 2011 at 07:56 PM
Were you around back then? Obviously not if you assume that none of the old timers stood up for their vision of the community. The biggest battle that comes to mind is the fight that was put up over the proposed plans to dike Hart-Millers Island and fill it with dredged sludge from Baltimore's harbor. That was back in the 70's, hon. We lost that fight. BTW, you do know what the word, ASSUME, means, right? Stop being such a putz. The world doesn't revolve around you & only you.
music ismylife June 28, 2011 at 05:00 PM
It's not really about the music. It never REALLY was! Yes, of course, in the beginning the music was loud late into the night, after most families prefer to be asleep. However, several of those closest to the bar approached Mr. Thanner with those concerns on more than one occasion requesting he simply lower the volume after a reasonable hour. In fact, the previous owners of DOTB (prior to its destruction in Hurricane Isabel) had live music nearly every weekend in the summer. It was wonderful!! Steel drums, acoustic guitar duos, etc. but the outside music never went later than 8:00 p.m. and was always kept to a reasonable volume inside and out. Those owners were very respectful of the small community that "they had moved into." Yes, Millers Island has always been known for its many bars and vacation like atmosphere. As one who has been around for a long time, I wouldn't want to live anyplace else! Let it be known that of all the people involved in this battle, Mr. Thanner was the last one to move into the community, as he quoted "Taking advantage of someone's misfortune", after Isabel destroyed the restaurant. These neighbors have been living next to Fisherman's Inn, and Dock of the Bay before Mr. Thanner came along. Perhaps if Mr. Thanner had responded differently to those inital requests, we wouldn't be reading this today. The people went to him out of respect for his business and all they got was grief. Keep the music - get rid of the owner. Please!!
music ismylife June 28, 2011 at 05:47 PM
Copied from a comment to a Baltimore Sun article 6/14/2009 - attesting to Mr. Thanner's character - nice guy, huh? Mr. Thanner purchased the restaurant after Hurricane Isabel. At that time, Mr. Thanner stated (on TV) that he took advantage of someone's misfortune by buying the restaurant after it was completely destroyed. He did in fact remodel and create a nice place to enjoy the Baltimore County waterfront. It's just very unfortunate that he has no respect for the community that has surrounded it many years prior. He also stated that if he has to stop the entertainment, he would file a formal complaint against every restaurant in Baltimore County that plays music.
mdb May 23, 2012 at 07:01 PM
OMG Tawanda seriously! My family lived on Miller's Island - but at that time (1940's) it was ALL businesses. The folks who ran them lived on the island in small shacks! My father, & grand parents all lived in a one room shack! These businesses were on Miller's Island LONG before those homes were even built. I used to work for DOB. I'm NOT a Larry Thanner fan. I find him to be an arrogant, sweaty old perv of a man. We didn't see eye to eye on most things. I can assure you that when I left my shift at 10PM & walked onto the parking lot to get into my car, I could hear the music...but barely to the point that it would disturb neighbor behind the walls of their homes. I have always felt that this constant battle between DOB and a "few" of the residents was more of a personal vendetta. One of the main petitioners built a home NEXT to DOB right after it was sold to Mr. Thanner...If you build a house next to a bar and you expect peace and quiet your a MORON! Mr. Thanner also owns additional property on Cuckold Pt. Road. I recall an episode while I was working there where a resident wrote "Larry Sucks @i$%" in spray paint on the sign. Very mature fellow MI residents. One day you will get your wish and MI, Sparrows Pt. & Edgemere will be a ghost town. It won't be adventageous for business owners to set up shop in the area. People will lose their jobs, you will have to drive 10 miles to the closed gas station....etc. One day you will get exactly what you're looking for.

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