The owner of a West Baltimore restaurant has been charged with operating an illegal after-hours club, police said, after a triple shooting this month in which a man was killed outside the establishment.
Timothy Fraser, 58, owner of Ras-a-ter International, was charged Tuesday with two counts of operating his restaurant as an illegal bar, three counts of failing to have a licensed security firm on premises and three counts of violating capacity limits of 150.
Baltimore housing authorities say the charges, based on city zoning codes, are a first step toward halting predawn operations at the restaurant. The misdemeanor charges each carry a penalty of up to a year in jail.
There have been two shootings in the past 14 months outside Ras-a-ter, at 2103 W. North Ave. in the Easterwood neighborhood, in which one person was killed and six wounded. Fraser disputes the charges and contends that he had permission to run the establishment as he did.
"There is no violation that I broke," Fraser said.
Police are investigating how the recent shooting relates to the club.
City Councilman Nick Mosby, who has lobbied to have the club shut down, said, "When you see an establishment or a place, specifically a community business, inside a neighborhood, it should be a cornerstone or an anchor inside a community. When you see an establishment that has problem after problem, you need to take action to make sure there's no more casualties."
Ras-a-ter, which also went by Rasta's Night Club and Restaurant, is open Thursday through Sunday nights. The club, with cover charges of $15 and $20, spins reggae, hip-hop and oldies, according to a flier on the door. Other fliers said the restaurant was open until 6 a.m. and describe it as an alcohol-free establishment.
A sign taped to a door said, "No Hoodies! No Baggy Pants! No T-shirts!"
Shots were fired about 5:30 a.m. Jan. 13, killing Sean Rhodes, 25, of Franklin Square and wounding two others. Police have no suspects in the case, which remains under investigation.
In November 2011, four people, including two club employees, were shot outside the establishment at 5:30 a.m. Police arrested Kevin Shaw, also known as Karon Shaw, but prosecutors dropped the case.
During the past 90 days, Baltimore police were called to the club seven times. Most of the calls proved unfounded except for an aggravated assault at 2:46 a.m. Oct. 14 in which someone was reported cut, said police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi.
The restaurant may continue operating with live entertainment and dancing until 2 a.m., said Katy Byrne, an attorney with the Baltimore housing department.
"We have to carefully articulate [whether] businesses are associated with violence and do they have repeated incidents where people are getting hurt or killed?" Guglielmi said. "I think anyone can say a triple shooting is not something people want in their neighborhood."
According to the housing department, the club's owner never received permission to operate beyond 2 a.m.
In 2010, the Board of Municipal Zoning Appeals permitted live entertainment and dancing at the restaurant. Fraser said he was also allowed to operate into the early morning.
"They approved my floor plan to have live entertainment from 6 p.m. until 6 a.m.," he said.
According to the city, Fraser's request to operate beyond 2 a.m. was not received until Dec. 22, 2011 — a month after the quadruple shooting outside the club.
On the same day, unrelated to his request, Maryland court records show that Fraser was charged with three criminal counts, including the unlicensed sale and possession of alcohol and operating an unregistered bottle club. None of those charges was prosecuted.
A public hearing on Fraser's after-hours request was held Jan. 24, 2012, at which he was told that an after-hours club was not allowed in the club's zoning district.
Fraser requested a postponement and never rescheduled a hearing. He had until Tuesday, according to the city's statue of limitations. When he failed to reschedule, housing authorities dismissed the request Tuesday.
"There are other actions we can take, and we will," said Michael Braverman, deputy commissioner for permits and code enforcement.
A call to Fraser's lawyer was not returned Tuesday.
Baltimore Sun reporter Justin Fenton contributed to this article.
twitter.com/justingeorgeCopyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times