BALTIMORE — Ten of the 13 club owners from The Block gathered Wednesday ahead of their meeting with Senate President Bill Ferguson. This was their first official meeting where a “true majority” of business owners met with the politician.
The group was expected to voice their concerns over his proposed bill impacting businesses on The Block. They were also expected to address the so called “agreement that was reached between him and business.
As WMAR-2 News reported, last week Ferguson tweeted out saying an agreement with a majority of the clubs had been reached which included:
- The consistent use of cameras and sharing of footage
- A dedicated deployment of police at peak hours paid for by the clubs
- The incorporation of security plans approved by the BLLC in consultation with the BPD
Clubs told WMAR that was a lie. So why meet with a politician they may not be able to trust?
“We own our businesses. We want to save our businesses. We don’t have a choice. We have an investment in Baltimore City. I mean, we don’t wanna lose nothing. This is our life,” Club Pussycat owner Bill Wantland said with legislation still on the table.
Prior to the meeting club owners still felt as though they were being unfairly targeted.
“I think that we might be open to concession or something,” said John Sachs, owner of Chez Joey. “However, we are not going to pay more money. We pay more money than any other bar or entertainment venue in the city.”
After addressing the media, the owners went inside Ferguson's office. Despite the clubs inviting members of the media in as their guests the legislator’s camp barred us from attending.
“We’ll send a statement,” said one staff member.
For an hour the parties met.
Upon leaving the meeting, Jules Gordon, owner of Circus Bar said the meeting was productive.
“Senator Ferguson got our attention,” he said.
So, what was discussed?
Owners say it was much of the same information that was shared in Ferguson’s original tweet.
“I think one of the points that we drove home was that our tax dollars should go towards paying the police,” said Sachs, “Not us paying more out of pocket.”
We’re told no amendments were officially agreed upon.
The Block's spokesperson said clubs even asked Ferguson to kill the bill, saying data shows the Block is safer than he otherwise suggested.
WMAR reached out to Ferguson’s camp for comment but have not heard back. It’s unclear what comes next regarding the controversial legislation originally proposed.