Baumholder bars fight earlier closing times
October 20, 2007
BAUMHOLDER, Germany — A group of downtown bar owners has filed a legal appeal to challenge an effort by Baumholder city officials to establish a 2 a.m. closing time for certain hot spots where unruly behavior too often spills into the streets during early morning hours.
On Wednesday, the city announced through a notice in the local paper that the closing time would take effect this weekend, Mayor Volkmar Pees said.
The bar owners, who cater to a clientele of soldiers, quickly responded to the announcement by filing an appeal with the local administrative court in Birkenfeld. The two sides have four weeks to prepare their cases.
Mohamed Khan, an owner of one of the establishments potentially affected by the ordinance, said he and other bar owners are being used as scapegoats for problems the city is unwilling to manage.
“The city is acting like dictators. It’s going to have to go to court. We’ve done our job, which is taking care of what happens in our bars. On the streets, it’s the city’s job,” said Khan, co-owner of the Lemon Tree bar.
In the meantime, the bars will continue to conduct business as usual, Khan said.
Business as usual often means staying open until 5 or 6 a.m.
In the event that the city imposes a 2 a.m. closing time for bars, Army officials in Baumholder say they will support the effort with courtesy patrols aimed at moving soldiers away from the establishments affected by the measure.
So far, the Army hasn’t weighed in with an opinion on the latest developments between the city and bar owners.
About five establishments in an area around Bahnhof and Schubert streets would be affected by the law, which calls for a 2 a.m. closing time on weekends and 1 a.m. during the week. The rest of the city’s bars would be exempt from the measure. That’s because those bars generally close by 1 a.m. on their own, according to Pees.
By contrast, the cluster of bars, strip joints and dance clubs along Schubert and Bahnhof often stay busy until dawn.
Pees, who said he hopes a court battle can be avoided, intends to meet with residents and bar owners in an effort to reach a compromise.
“I hope that we can reach a gentleman’s agreement,” Pees said. If not, Pees said he was prepared to take the case to court and let a panel of judges decide.
Khan said he would be willing to shut down at 4 a.m. as a compromise. With a heavier police presence on the streets at that time, the crowds will be quickly cleared from the streets and the neighborhood won’t be disturbed by excessive noise, he said.
“It’s a simple fix,” Khan said. “Let Baumholder not live in two worlds. The city wants the Army here, lobbies for the Army to be here. They (the city) want the jobs and the money, but they don’t want to take care of the city. It’s a small problem. Let’s work together.”
But if a 2 a.m. closing time is established, Khan argues that soldiers will just hop in cars and travel to neighboring cities where they can continue the party.
“If they do it, they’ll be killing soldiers,” he said, referring to the risk soldiers will take to drink and drive.
They’ll also being killing business, Khan acknowledged.