Baltimore City Council bill could raise penalties on businesses violating curfew rules for minors

Published 1/9/2023 7:13 p.m. EST, Updated 1/9/2023 7:25 p.m. EST

Edmondson Village Shopping Center in Baltimore, Monday, October 17, 2022.

Councilman Kristerfer Burnett introduced a bill Monday that will raise penalties for businesses that violate a curfew policy for minors, following a shooting last week at the Edmondson Village Shopping Center that left one Edmondson-Westside High School student dead.

A portion of city code prohibits minors under the age of 16 from being in “any public place or any establishment” between 7:30 a.m. and 3 p.m., when they should be in school. It also establishes a nighttime curfew.

Parents or business operators, as well as their employees, can be cited and fined if they are found to “knowingly permit any minor to remain on the premises” during those hours. Under the current law, the offense is a misdemeanor, and if convicted, a business operator can be fined up to $500.

Parents who violate the policy for the first time can be issued a civil citation with a $50 fine, or agree to go to family counseling sessions with their child. Ensuing violations can be fined up to $500.

But that amount, Burnett said Monday, clearly “isn’t motivating businesses to follow Baltimore City law.”

Burnett hopes to change behavior, he said, by either raising the fine associated with violations or by taking other action in committee. “Whatever we can come up with to change the behavior of businesses serving young people during the school day,” he said Monday. “Something has to change,” he added.

The bill follows a shooting outside Popeyes at the Edmondson Village Shopping Center last week, which killed a 16-year-old boy and injured four others. All five were students at Edmondson-Westside High School, which is across the street, and were on lunch break, officials said.

Officials believe two shooters opened fire on the group as they stood in front of the restaurant.

The incident raised questions about the curfew policy for surrounding businesses, and about why students left school during the day. The curfew would not have applied to the students, who were all ages 16 or older.

Burnett said that school leaders and community members have employed a myriad of efforts to keep students on campus during school hours, including the enforcement of the codified curfew.

“You’d have a hard time finding a single shop in that business that isn’t aware of the curfew law, and I can only say this because I’ve been in every single one of them, posting signage, talking to the cashiers, talking to the management, talking to the owners, about what the current law is,” Burnett said Monday.

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Most, he has previously said, were receptive to the conversations. But some turned heated: “From their perspective, they’re refusing money,” he said.

Baltimore City Public Schools CEO Sonja Santelises told the Banner Wednesday that Edmondson-Westside’s principal, Karl Perry, had also asked businesses around the school not to serve students during school hours because students tend to be less safe if they leave campus.

Edmondson-Westside has employed other measures to keep students on campus, Burnett said, like arranging for food trucks to visit the parking lot during lunch periods and hiring school monitors who keep tabs on students’ comings and goings.

Some businesses have been fined for failing to adhere to the code. Records reviewed by The Baltimore Banner show that on Halloween of last year, Popeyes was cited for being in violation of the daytime curfew code.

BPD gave other establishments in the shopping center a verbal warning on the same day, including Kimmy’s, America’s Best Wings, Royal Carryout, and Bryan’s Chicken.

Burnett said Monday that “everybody bears some responsibility” for keeping young people safe, “my office included, this body included,” he added.

“But at the end of the day we need the business community to be partners as well,” he said. “And I’m hopeful that this bill will spur conversation, will spur dialogue about how we can better work together to protect the young people here.”