BALTIMORE (WJZ) – If Rushern Baker is elected Maryland’s next governor, he would veto a bill imposing a curfew on “The Block,” the Democratic gubernatorial candidate said Monday.

The former Prince George’s County executive told business owners that he does not support legislation that would limit the hours of operation for strip clubs and bars in that part of Baltimore.

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“If you shut down in one part of of the city, (crime) goes elsewhere,” Baker said. “This is a distraction. That’s why I oppose it.”

Senate Bill 222, a piece of legislation introduced Jan. 12 by Senate President Bill Ferguson, would require businesses in the 400 block of East Baltimore Street that hold liquor or adult entertainment licenses to close their doors by 10 p.m.

Ferguson has cited city violence and a “disproportionate deployment of officers from BPD’s Central District” as his primary reasons for sponsoring the legislation.

The legislation is the result of a joint effort by Sen. Ferguson, 46th District Dels. Luke Clippinger, Robyn Lewis and Brooke Lierman, City Councilman Eric Costello and the Baltimore Police Department, which is headquartered nearby.

“We’re trying to make sure that half of our entire Central District police deployment is not targeting one block to prevent someone from getting shot tonight,” Costello said last month.

When the legislation was first announced, Baltimore Police Commissioner Michael Harrison said violence has “drastically increased in recent months despite a robust and consistent deployment” of officers.

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Harrison said there were eight shootings with 11 victims on “The Block” in 2021.

As of Monday afternoon, the city police department could not provide up-to-date deployment figures for the area.

Business owners have repeatedly spoken out against the legislation, saying a curfew on their hours of operation would threaten their bottom lines and livelihoods.

Owners of bars and clubs in the area told WJZ on Monday that they have rarely seen a large police presence. They say the legislation is about forcing them out of business.

“It’s always been about the property. They don’t want to give you fair market value. They want to bleed you,” Bill Wantland, owner of Club Pussycat, said. “This is just one more tactic they’re using to put us out of business and take our properties.”

At a lunch on Monday, club managers and owners showed videos through the weekend of the lack of police on the block.

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“They’re not deploying extra police down there. They’re not there,” Wantland said. “Where are they at? Because they’re not at Baltimore Street.”

Paul Gessler