- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 19, 2012

Stricter regulations meant to help Prince George’s County officials crack down on problem dance venues have one establishment possibly facing sanctions for security plan violations, but authorities are still trying to determine whether a restaurant where a fatal shooting took place should be punished.

The owner of the Plaza 23 Event Center in Temple Hills could have his dance hall license suspended for violations during an Aug. 5 concert, after which a band member was fatally shot. Approximately two hours after promotional fliers said the go-go concert ended, 18-year-old Anthony Boatwright, a member of the band Heavy Impact, was shot during an altercation and possible robbery about two miles away, according to police reports and the venue owner.

The violations issued against Plaza 23 were not related to the homicide. Instead, they cite the owner’s failure to follow his own security plan and operating outside the scope of his license by hosting an event for teenagers instead of adults, according to county officials.

During a Friday hearing on the citations, County Attorney Matthew Gordon said Plaza 23 violated its security plan by not employing the proper security. By the venue’s own plan, Prince George’s County police officers needed to be there instead of officers from other agencies. Mr. Gordon recommended that, at a minimum, the Temple Hills venue’s dance hall license, which allows it to host for-profit dancing events, should be suspended until it can comply with the security plan.

The venue’s owner, Dan Richardson, argued that it is difficult to hire county police officers to work part-time as security at his business because he has no regular schedule of events and those officers often seek out security jobs with predictable hours.

The county’s Administrative Board, a three-member board comprising representatives from the police, fire and Environmental Resources departments, has two business days to rule on the violations. The Department of Environmental Resources will dole out any possible sanctions.

Under the auspices of a new public-safety law, over the past year the county has sought to better regulate nightclubs and other establishments to crack down on violent crime they say is associated with the businesses. It is unclear whether there is any further connection between the musician’s death and the venue, other than the fact he was at the club several hours prior to the shooting. Darrel Sales, 18, has been charged with second-degree murder in the shooting, but court documents filed in his case make no mention of Plaza 23.

The county’s dance hall licensing regulations, which were adopted in 2011, were meant to provide officials with a way to police places that had been the scenes of violent outbreaks, including homicides. But under the laws, any venues that want to host dancing must now comply with stricter regulations, including background checks for license seekers and reviews of detailed security plans.

While county officials quickly cracked down on the violations noted by officers at Plaza 23, it is still investigating whether a Bowie restaurant that was the scene of a killing would be subject to the same standards.

Two men were shot and one was killed outside a T.G.I. Friday’s on Aug. 10. According to police, two groups of men got into an argument at the restaurant and bar. As the men left the establishment, one group opened fire on the other, killing 19-year-old Alfred Ahmed Kamara.

The T.G.I. Friday’s, unlike Plaza 23, does not have a history of violent outbreaks so police officials said they are taking their time reviewing the incident.

“I think we have to be a little more methodical with a place that doesn’t have a history of violence,” said Cmdr. Marc Alexander of the police department’s intelligence division. “Right now, we don’t know whether or not they would be shut down.”

The county’s Joint Agency Group, which oversees the regulation of dance hall licenses, is planning to meet with management from the restaurant to discuss the events that took place that night. They also will review all of its permits.

As of Friday, Plaza 23 was the only venue with active citations for violating the county’s dance hall licensing requirements, Department of Environmental Resources Deputy Director Gary Cunningham said.



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