Above: A patron dances with a waitress on a recent Saturday night at Mi Patio on Queens Chapel Road in West Hyattsville.
The politics of entertainment return before the Hyattsville City Council tonight when city leaders will consider holding a public hearing to gather feedback from residents regarding a West Hyattsville restaurant's request before state authorities to allow live and deejayed music on premises.
The restaurant, Mi Patio, located in the Queens Chapel Town Center at 5420 Queens Chapel Road, has applied for a Special Entertainment Permit from the Maryland Board of License Commissioners, informally known as the Liquor Control Board.
On the surface, the situation resembles last month's debate over dancing at Acapulco Spirit, another Queens Chapel Town Center restaurant located around the corner from Mi Patio.
But where last month, the city council had de-facto veto power over Acapulco Spirit's application, this time around, Hyattsville's elected leaders will have a lot less direct control over whether or not Mi Patio's entertainment permit application is approved, according to a report in the March edition of The Hyattsville Life and Times.
"It comes down to differences in a byzantine licensing system, where the separate responsibilities of city, county and state are murky at best. Overlapping roles can make it hard to identify where the jurisdiction of one ends and another begins." - Hyattsville Life and Times, March 2013
The main difference appears to be which activities are regulated by whom. According to Linda Lowe, public information specialist for the Prince George's County Department of Environmental Resources, the department which issues dance hall licenses, county authorities only regulate dancing. The state liquor board regulates other types of entertainment like karaoke, deejayed music and live entertainment options.
Mi Patio currently has a temporary exemption to special entertainment permit from the liquor board, according to the Hyattsville Life and Times, but has since been found to be in violation of the terms of the exemption, which forbid charging admission, carding and searching patrons. A recent visit to Mi Patio on a Saturday night found patrons dancing to throbbing salsa music into the early morning hours.
County dance hall licenses force applicants to plead their case directly to their local city councils, if located in a municipality. If the city council declines to support the dance hall license application, then county authorities must deny the license.
City council's do not have that power over special entertainment permit applicants, who only have to get their application approved by the county liquor board after that body holds a public hearing on the issue.
Mi Patio's public hearing before the liquor board is scheduled for May 1, 2013 in hearing room 200 of the County Service Building at 5012 Rhode Island Avenue in Hyattsville.
At tonight's city council meeting, city leaders will consider holding a public hearing on Monday, April 1, 2013 at 7 p.m. in the Hyattsville Municipal Building on Gallatin Street to get the reaction of city residents on the record.
Once local feedback is gathered, the city council is expected to take action, most likely in the form of a letter to the liquor board voicing their opinion on the matter, at the April 15, 2013 council meeting.
Tonight's city council meeting begins at 8 p.m. in the Hyattsville Municipal Building. The meeting is broadcast on Comcast channel 71 and Verizon channel 12.