Inside Judge Roy Bean's Saloon late Friday night, 21-year-old Joe Holmes talked about the virtues of the Brentwood nightspot, its "family" atmosphere, lack of open drug sales and the saloon's "peaceful" clientele.
"There's no problem in here, not more than any other bar," said Holmes, who lives in nearby Mount Rainier. "You can come here, have a drink, make a record request . . . . " Lionel Ritchie's "Say You, Say Me" came over the loudspeakers, and Holmes put down his bottle of beer. "See. I asked them to play that about five minutes ago. Get yourself a girl to dance and see how nice this place is."
But outside of Judge Roy Bean's, there's a different view. The saloon's neighbors, who include residents of many single-family houses, see their property littered with empty beer bottles and other trash on weekends. They hear tires screeching as cars leave the saloon's parking lot at 3 a.m. on weekends. They keep their children away from windows when Prince George's County police arrive to settle a dispute between disorderly patrons.
Three weeks ago, two brothers who had been inside the saloon got into a fight in front of the bar over money, police said. One of the brothers hit his head on concrete pavement and died several hours later. No charges have been filed in the incident.
"It didn't used to be much trouble," said John Bryant, 25, who has lived two doors away from Judge Roy Bean's for three years. "Now people come out of there chasing each other up and down the street. It seems like somebody's fighting in front of my house every weekend. I'd just like to see it closed down."
Nearly 400 Brentwood residents share Bryant's view. They have organized to oppose the renewal of Judge Roy Bean's liquor license and have support from the Brentwood mayor, the Town Council, state Sen. Decatur Trotter (D-Prince George's), Del. Nathaniel Exum (D-Prince George's) and County Council member Anthony Cicoria, who represents the district.
A hearing on the license renewal before the Prince George's County Board of License Commissioners is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. tomorrow at the County Service Building in Hyattsville.
Michael Tiberio, who purchased the business from state Sen. Thomas P. O'Reilly (D-Prince George's) 19 months ago, declined comment on his liquor license renewal application. "I think it would be best to wait until after the hearing," said Tiberio, who acknowledged that the opposition is formidable. "I don't want to antagonize anyone."
O'Reilly still owns the building that has housed the bar for the past 25 years.
For much of that time, Judge Roy Bean's, at 3812 38th St., coexisted with its surroundings, including the family houses that flank the low-level, brown brick building on two sides and the few businesses across the street from the saloon. The neighborhood, nestled between Rhode Island Avenue and Bladensburg Road, remains a mixture of elderly and middle-aged couples.
What changed, according to neighbors and Brentwood council member John Farrell, is the type of entertainment at Judge Roy Bean's and the crowds it attracts. When O'Reilly ran the saloon, it offered recorded country and western music. Now, the format is Top 40 music. The saloon offers male dancers once a week, occasional wet T-shirt contests and live entertainment on some weekends.
"Male dancers and wet T-shirt contests . . . . Is this really the sort of culture you want to introduce to your neighborhood?" asked Mary Blume, whose yard is adjacent to the saloon's parking lot.
Blume, a theological student and a former Marine, said she has found all kinds of litter in her yard on Saturday and Sunday mornings, including a butcher knife, drug paraphernalia, emptied wallets and a large "pornographic doll." One night, Blume said, she overheard a woman yelling to a friend that she was "taking care of nature." The next morning, Blume said, "I found a pile of nature in our driveway."
Police do make runs to Judge Roy Bean's for disorderly conduct and assaults, said Capt. David Mitchell, commander of the Hyattsville district, but no more than they do at other nightspots in the area.
Robert Powers is the only Town Council member supporting Tiberio's license renewal application.
"It's a perfectly legitimate business that's paying taxes to the town," said Powers, a frequent patron of the saloon. "I think the opponents have used the recent death to their advantage."
Thomas Gagliardo, an attorney representing the 400 residents before the board of license commissioners, said that his clients are not opposed to having a saloon in the neighborhood. They want the rowdiness to end, he said.
"They are not going to object to a place called Judge Roy Bean's just because it's there," Gagliardo said. "They just want the problems to go away."