Wed June 2 Liquor Board Hearing for Rio Bar // Recap

Please also see the Rio information archive and 13501 Baltimore Ave timeline. Factual corrections are welcome by email.
Update June 23, 2010:
Here is the Liquor Board's comprehensive, consolidated list of conditions on Rio's liquor license as of June 2, 2010.
Update June 14, 2010:
June 7, 2010 Liquor Board letter documenting its decisions at its June 2 hearing for Rio Bar. The letter includes full wording of Rio's new Security Plan, which the Liquor Board made a condition of Rio's liquor license. This letter does not include a comprehensive list of all current conditions on Rio's license, resulting from the past few Liquor Board hearings.
Update June 3, 2010:
Pending a forthcoming letter from the Liquor Board documenting its decisions at its June 2 hearing for Rio Bar, the following is a preliminary recap of that hearing by Ted Agres, Coalition for Laurel Area Safety and Prosperity (CLASP), who testified very ably at the hearing on behalf of our community -- for which we owe him considerable thanks.
Thanks also to our elected officials who sent opposition letters to the Liquor Board: Maryland District 21 (1), District 23/A (2), and County Council Chair Dernoga (3) and other opposition letters and emails from organizations and individuals to the Liquor Board for the June 2 hearing:
(1) MD District 21 Senator - Jim Rosapepe (Carolyn Brenner, Keisha Brown)
     MD District 21 Delegate - Barbara Frush
     MD District 21 Delegate - Ben Barnes
     MD District 21 Delegate - Joseline Peña-Melnyk (Mary Lehman) 

(2) MD District 23 Senator - Douglas Peters 
     MD District 23A Delegate - Gerron Levi 
     MD District 23A Delegate - James Hubbard
(3) Prince George's County District 1 Councilman & Chair - Tom Dernoga (Laura Moore)

Ted's Recap: The Liquor Board approved Rio’s request for live music with patron dancing on special occasions no more than twice a month and patron dancing on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights with a DJ, as per Rio’s request. The security plan  that Rio submitted [to the Liquor Board on June 2] [negotiated with county police and community representatives] will be incorporated as a condition on the liquor license. The board will hold a hearing 6 months from now “to see what kind of establishment you are running,” the chairman said. Thus, the review is likely to encompass a range of issues.

Rio is allowed to have live bands for both private parties as well as the public. Private parties should also accommodate outside customers. Rio agreed to give the Prince George’s county police de facto veto authority over choice of live bands by virtue of the police not permitting its officers to serve off-duty for certain bands (this is part of the security plan). Rio is not allowed to collect cover charges when a DJ is performing Thurs, Fri, Sat nights, but is allowed to collect cover charges for private events. Rio proferred that they would not allow hip hop or go-go music by a DJ or live bands (although the chairman stated that if a DJ happened to play a hip-hop song at a private party, he did not want the community to complain that the license had been violated. “I do not want to be seen as having zero tolerance,” he said. He did admonish Mr. Yoon to not let the music interfere with running a restaurant. “Music should be an enhancement, not a deterrent” to customers, he said. Commissioners Son and Howard both admonished Mr. Yoon to run a tight ship. “This is a one-time trust,” Mr, Howard said. “If busted, you know what will happen.” Mr. Son said: “This is very sensitive. You are on notice that if any restrictions are violated, you will not see me” supporting you.

Update May 28, 2010
Dear Residents of South Laurel and neaby communities,

June 2 is Our Last Chance to Prevent Violence at the Nearby Rio Bar

Please share this short web link with all concerned: J.MP/rio2010june
For further background please see J.MP/rio2010may

Please consider sending an email/letter/FAX l to the Liquor Board by 3 pm Wed June 2 expressing your own views about their pending decision on June 2 -- An example letter is at the end of this message.

Please also consider attending that June 2 7 pm public Liquor Board hearing, as described below

1)    What is at stake:
At 13501 Baltimore Ave, the cavernous Rio bar is hidden within a large industrial complex, obscured from street view behind the Sakura Japanese Steak House at Rt. 1 and Contee Rd. (aerial photo, Rio at Blue Pin ). The long history of violence at that location associated with Live Music/Entertainment (especially Go-Go/Hip-Hop) and Patron Dancing goes back to 1996 with shooting incidents and assaults at the Dinosaurs Club and Club Amazon (April 2006). Such violent incidents spilled into nearby Route 1 shopping areas, and raised the general level of insecurity across our Laurel-area community. Prince George's County Police and City of Laurel Police had to respond, which prevented them from providing security elsewhere -- in your own neighborhood.

In 2005 the Stardust Inn strip club moved there from Hyattsville (where in 2003 it had a triple homicide) to become the first Club Amazon. Our community's wide-spread protests successfully prevented Stardust/Amazon from operating as a strip club at 13501 Baltimore Ave.

That was the same kind of wide-spread community protest where at another location in South Laurel we closed the 3-homicide J's Cafe and prevented Sweet Moon Grille from getting a liquor license and bringing their violent history to South Laurel.

There have been no violent incidents at 13501 Baltimore Ave since 2005 when our community's wide-spread protest, supported by City of Laurel and our elected county and state legislators resulted in the Liquor Board imposing restrictions on any liquor license holder at that location to operate primarily as a restaurant, and in particular not to allow Live Music/Entertainment or Patron Dancing.

Through those experiences, our community has learned very well how to protest successfully.

When Rio got its license in July 2009, it made a promise to our community by accepting Liquor License conditions that required it to operate primarily as a Restaurant (that offered beer, wine, liquor). Since it opened, Rio has not operated as a real Restaurant. Rather, it has made repeated appeals to the Liquor Board that would let it operate primarily as a Late Night Dance Club.

NOW -- At a public hearing June 2, 2010 7 pm  the Liquor Board is poised to decide to allow Rio:

  • Patron/Customer dancing on Thursdays 10 pm to 1 am ; Fridays and Saturdays 10pm to 2 am; with various types of music through a DJ. / Rio shall not permit Go-Go or Hip-Hop style music to be played.
  • Live bands up to a maximum of two (2) performances per month for special events or functions / with patron/customer dancing permitted as part of the special event or function; Go-Go or Hip-Hop style bands will not be permitted to perform.

2) Please send an email/letter/FAX to the Liquor Board with you own views to prevent dangerous activities at the Rio bar -- No Later Than 3 pm June 2.

Here is an example letter:
To: Prince George's County Liquor Board, Chairman Jackson
Subject: OPPOSE Rio Restaurant Live Music/Entertainment & Patron Dancing

I, (FULL NAME), living at (FULL ADDRESS), am a Prince George's County registered voter,

I oppose allowing Live Music/Entertainment or Patron Dancing at Rio Restaurant, 13501 Baltimore Ave.

That location has a long history of violence associated with patron dancing and live music/entertainment regardless of who has owned it.

Such dangerous activities at that location are a threat to the peace and safety of me, my family, and my community.

Respectfully, [Your Signature Block]
Send by email to:

Or by Letter or FAX to:
Board of License Commissioners
County Service Building
5012 Rhode Island Avenue, Room 204
Hyattsville, Maryland 20781
Phone: (301) 699-2770
FAX: (301) 985-3548

3) Please also consider asking neighbors and friends to send their own message to the Liquor Board --- Every email, letter or FAX is Very Important. Just give them this short web address J.MP/rio2010june

Rio is collecting petition signatures from its customers, so we need to send many more emails/letters/FAXs

4) Please also consider attending the June 2 7 pm Liquor Board public hearing at the County Service Building (address above)

At the beginning of the hearing, the Liquor Board Chairman will ask everyone to stand who is opposed to Rio's request to have Live Music/Entertainment and Patron Dancing.  It's not a vote -- but it is a very effective way to show our community's strong opposition. After that you can leave whenever you need.


  • Ignore the "Public Parking" sign that seems to point to Farragut Ave (that parking entrance is now closed to the public)
  • Enter the underground garage by turning off Route 1 onto 43d Avenue (south of County Services Building).
  • The garage entrance is on your immediate right.
  • Park on Level P1 or P2 and remember your parking space number.
  • Go to the ground level and put your parking space number and money in the parking payment kiosk. (75 cents per hour, coins or credit card only -- no bills)
  • As you face the parking payment kiosk, the County Service Building is behind you (north) across the court yard.
  • If it is raining, you can follow the covered walkway.
  • Once in the County Service Building, go to the second floor. 
  • Go to Hearing Room 200 (not 204).

We hope to see you there.