Two government leaders offered different responses to the announcement of the Recher Theatre's planned conversion to a nightclub called Torrent Lounge.
County Executive Kevin Kamenetz lauded the Rechers for their efforts, and voiced his support for the initiative.
"I am delighted that the Recher family plans to continue their tradition of reinvesting in downtown Towson with a half-million dollar project to create an attractive upscale nightclub," Kamenetz said in a statement. "I am confident that the Rechers will comply with all County rules and regulations and that this will be yet another positive addition to Towson."
Kamenetz previously criticized Recher Theatre follow fights that occurred outside the venue in September 2012. After the Baltimore County Liquor Board determined the Rechers were not responsible for the incident, the county executive stood by the decision.
Ellen Kobler, a county spokeswoman, said Kamenetz's statement reflects that he does not believe that an incident like the melee will repeat itself.
In contrast, Councilman David Marks, a Perry Hall Republican who represents Towson, fired off a statement expressing ire regarding the conversion soon after reading a Patch article that broke the story:
"I have been an enthusiastic booster for Downtown Towson over the past two years.
There are so many positive developments, including new restaurants, businesses, and homes.
But I am not going to sugar-coat what many of us learned for the first time [Wednesday]: given recent history, residents have every right to be apprehensive about a new nightcclub in the downtown core.
Ten years ago, the Generation Xtremes Under 21 Dance Club dumped hundreds of kids onto the streets of Downtown Towson. Residents compared it to a riot zone.
I won't tolerate that and will do everything in my power to set higher standards for Downtown Towson.
In the short term, I look forward to learning about how the management of the Recher Theatre will deal with issues such as outdoor loitering and public safety.
Over the long term, I have been repeatedly said that we need more police officers in Downtown Towson. My constituents demand it. If the county won't provide police, then it's even more urgent that we create a Business Improvement District to supplement existing security. I have a committee exploring options, and want to speed up that process.
Many of us defended the Recher Theatre after last summer's shooting. We called it an isolated incident, which it was.
We didn't expect public thanks, but a heads-up about this change would have been appreciated."
After meeting with the Rechers Thursday, Marks softened his tune. He said they had a good conversation, and that he learned the Rechers would have 15 people on staff working at Torrent Lounge.
"I'll have to take their word for it," he said.
Marks sent Patch the following statement:
"This afternoon, I met with police and representatives from the Recher Theatre regarding the proposal for a night club at the theatre.
I have previously stood by the Recher family and applaud their longtime investment in the community. I will continue to keep in touch with the Recher family.
I do believe that the regulation associated with a liquor license will lead to tougher enforcement of good standards at this business.
As Councilman for the Towson area, my job is to ask questions and to expect that all businesses do their part to make Downtown Towson a safe place.
Many residents are skeptical about public safety in the Towson core. We simply need more security, whether it's from the Police Department or an entity such as a Business Improvement District, which I still strongly support."
Marks said Thursday that the Rechers are "good citizens of Towson," but was dismayed by the lack of communication.
"I'm very upset that it came about the way it did," he said.
Kobler also noted that Rechers' decision to turn the concert venue into a nightclub was within the permitted use of its zoning and does not require further consideration from the county.