Booze News: Distilled in Room 215

A blog about the Baltimore City Liquor Board

What happened at the Liquor Board on June 13, 2013

Written by Kristine Dunkerton

The Commissioners arrived at 1:26 pm for the 1:00 pm docket.  Hearings began immediately.

1:00 pm Docket:

Establishment address: 3638 South Hanover Street [This address was inaccurately listed as 3639 South Hanover Street on the public docket]

Establishment Trade name: Brooklyn House

Hearing time: POSTPONED

License type: BD7 Beer, Wine & Liquor (Tavern, alcohol may be sold for consumption on site or off premises, privilege granted from 6 am to 2 am)

Reason for hearing: Transfer license ownership and location (license currently located at 300 S. Oldham Street in Greektown)

Zoning (according to Baltimore CityView): B-2-2 (Community Business District)

Neighborhood (according to Baltimore CityView): Brooklyn

Area demographics (as of 2010, from Baltimore Neighborhood Indicators Alliance (BNIA)): 48% White, 36% Black, 4% 2 or more races; 10% Hispanic ethnicity; 40% households have children under age 18; median household income: $33,644; 22% households live below the poverty line

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Establishment address: 1100-06 S. Charles Street

Establishment Trade name: [Pending]

Hearing time: POSTPONED

License type: D Beer, Wine & Liquor (Tavern license, beer and wine may be sold from 6 am to 1 am, no Sunday sales)

Reason for hearing: Transfer ownership and location of license currently located at 1400 Light Street in South Baltimore

Zoning (according to CityView): B-2-3 (Community Business District)

Neighborhood (according to CityView):  Federal Hill

Area demographics (as of 2010, from BNIA): 80% White, 11% Black, 4% Asian; 3% Hispanic ethnicity; 11% households have children under age 18; median household income: $78,578; 12% households live below the poverty line

__________

Establishment address: 1171-73 W. Hamburg Street

Establishment Trade name: Touch Down

Hearing time: 1:46 – 1:57 pm

License type: BD7 Beer, Wine & Liquor (Tavern, alcohol may be sold for consumption on site or off premises, privilege granted from 6 am to 2 am)

Reason for hearing: Transfer license from secured creditor [address of license unknown], add live entertainment, and add outdoor table service

Zoning (according to CityView): R-8 (General Residence District)

Neighborhood (according to CityView):  Washington Village/Pigtown

Area demographics (as of 2010, from BNIA): 49% Black, 40% White, 5% Asian, 2% 2 or more races; 3% Hispanic ethnicity; 28% households have children under age 18; median household income: $44,795; 23% households live below the poverty line

Name of associated corporate entity: Touch Down, LLC

Does the associated corporate entity exist and is it in good standing (according to SDAT’s website)?  Yes, yes

Location of corporation’s principal office:  Baltimore City

Does at least one of the applicants reside in Baltimore City?   Yes

% pecuniary interest of Baltimore City resident in establishment: 100

Attorney for licensee: Melvin Kodenski

# of people there in support of licensee: 1

Attorney for community:  N/A

# of protestants: 0

# of inspectors present: 1 (She said the property was posted in January, and the hearing had been postponed so the applicant could talk with the community.)

Notes from hearing:  The applicant bought the property at auction.  According to his attorney, he met with 2 community groups in the neighborhood.  He presented a letter of support from Citizens of Pigtown, a signed agreement with Citizens of Pigtown, and a petition with 90 names.  He has not yet taken the required alcohol awareness course, but will do so.  There will be 4 – 5 employees at the establishment.  The applicant will participate in the community, as evidenced by the multiple meetings he has already had with community members.

Live entertainment: The applicant described his live entertainment as “just music,” and said he will also have a DJ at times. 

Outdoor seating:  The applicant said he will have 2 – 3 tables outside on the sidewalk, which was estimated to be 14 x 50 feet.  Upon questioning by Commissioner Jones, the applicant said the tables will not be on the sidewalk right-of-way – he said that the side of the building was part of his property.  The inspector stepped in at this point and said she didn’t understand how the side of the property (Austin Street) could be private property.  Everyone agreed that this issue will be resolved when the applicant goes to get zoning approval.

Result of hearing: Transfer, live entertainment, and outdoor table service granted.

What the vote was: ?

Portions of state law and/or Board Rules and Regulations Commissioners cited in decision:

Md Code Article 2B § 10-202(a)(2)(i) (“Before approving an application and issuing a license, the board shall consider: 1) The public need and desire for the license; 2) The number and location of existing licensees and the potential effect on existing licensees of the license applied for; 3) The potential commonality or uniqueness of the services and products to be offered by the applicant’s business; 4) The impact on the general health, safety, and welfare of the community, including issues relating to crime, traffic conditions, parking, or convenience; and 5) Any other necessary factors as determined by the board.”)

“Fit and proper applicant” (Md Code Article 2B § 10-202(a)(2)(ii) (“The application shall be disapproved and the license for which application is made shall be refused if the Board of License Commissioners for the City….determines that: .…2) The applicant is not a fit person to receive the license for which application is made…”))

Other reasons Commissioners gave for decision: The applicant met with Citizens of Pigtown and the Historic Pigtown Community Association.

Issues raised in the audit present in this case:

 

Zoning:  Audit Finding 3 states that “detailed testing of the licensing process disclosed that BLLC lacked documentation that certain State law and BLLC licensing requirements were met” and recommends that “all licensee files include documentation of compliance with zoning laws that has been reviewed and verified by BLLC personnel.”  Maryland law (Article 2B  § 9-103) provides that “[n]o license….shall be issued in violation of any zoning rule or regulation.”  The audit found that in 2 out of 10 transfer files tested, there was no zoning approval documented on the application.  In this case, the property is located in a residential district that does not allow for taverns.  According the Baltimore City Zoning office, this property’s permitted use is a single family dwelling.  An application to use the property as a tavern was submitted in 2012, but permission was never granted, and there is no pending application.

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Establishment address: 5721-23 York Road

Establishment Trade name: Santorini Greek & Italian Cuisine

Hearing time: 2:09 – 2:28 pm

License type: B Beer, Wine & Liquor (Restaurant license, all alcohol may be sold from 6 am to 2 am)

Reason for hearing: Application for new license

Zoning (according to CityView): B-2-2

Neighborhood (according to CityView):  Belvedere

Area demographics (as of 2010, from BNIA): 69% Black, 23% White; 4% Hispanic ethnicity; 30% households have children under age 18; median household income: $44,853; 6% households live below the poverty line

Name of associated corporate entity: Santorini Greek & Italian Cuisine, Inc.

Does the associated corporate entity exist and is it in good standing (according to SDAT’s website)?  Yes, yes

Location of corporation’s principal office: Baltimore City

Does at least one of the applicants reside in Baltimore City (and has resided in Baltimore for at least 2 years)?   Yes (according to the application); No (according to the applicant’s testimony)

% pecuniary interest of Baltimore City resident in establishment: N/A (the sole applicant testified that he lives in Eldersburg, MD)

Attorney for licensee: Melvin Kodenski

# of people there in support of licensee: 2 (licensee and Councilman Bill Henry)

Attorney for community:  N/A

# of protestants: 0

# of inspectors present: 1 (Inspector Hyde said he posted the sign on April 15.  He met the manager and “everything was good there” – the property was being remodeled.) 

Notes from hearing:  This is the location of the former Old Fields Tavern.  The applicant is bringing a new liquor license to the property, as the Old Fields license has expired.  The York Road Partnership supports this application and has an agreement in place with the applicant.  The applicant presented the Commissioners with a menu, a floor plan that showed 190 seats at tables – no bar seats, and a petition with the names of people who live along York Road.  The establishment will operate 7 days a week: the restaurant will be open from 6 am – 11 pm and the bar will be open from 11 until the applicant is required to close.  The applicant said that the manager of a parking lot nearby said that his patrons can park there.  There will not be any packaged goods at the establishment. 

Capital investment:  As state law requires a $200,000 capital investment in an establishment before a new license may be granted, Chairman Fogleman asked the applicant why he did not have an estimate from an appraiser.  The applicant responded that the receipts he presented the Board were for money he had already spent.  Chairman Fogleman clarified that some of the documents presented were proposals and estimates, and the applicant confirmed that he would follow through with the work in these proposals and estimates.  The applicant said that the restaurant should be open next week, but he’s not sure when the bar will open – that depends on how everything goes.

Residency:  Commissioner Smith asked the applicant about a discrepancy in the address on his application and the address he gave at the hearing.  She asked if the applicant was a City resident, and he said he was not, though he does own the City property listed on his application as a residence.  Commissioner Smith said, “We need to have an accurate application.  This needs to be amended.”  Chairman Fogleman told the applicant’s attorney to care of the issue after the hearing. 

The Liquor Board received a letter in May from a resident of Bellona Avenue opposing bars and liquor stores along York Road.

Chairman Fogleman announced that if the license is granted, the MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) with York Road Partnership will become part of the license as voluntary restrictions placed on it.

Councilman Bill Henry testified with “very strong support” for the applicant and the application.  He said that the applicant has provided “all the cooperation we could ask for” and is a “textbook example of how neighborhoods can work with a prospective new business” to minimize negatives and accentuate positives in a neighborhood.  Councilman Henry and others are also very excited about having a breakfast place nearby.

Result of hearing: Application approved.  Commissioner Fogleman clarified that the application was only preliminarily approved, and that the applicant would have to bring all required documents to the Liquor Board before the license is issued.

What the vote was: ?

Portions of state law and/or Board Rules and Regulations Commissioners cited in decision: Md Code § 10-202(a). 

Other reasons Commissioners gave for decision: N/A

Issues raised in the audit present in this case:

Baltimore City Residency:  Audit Finding 2 was that “BLLC frequently issued licenses without receiving all required documentation from licensees or applicants” and Audit Finding 3 was that “detailed testing of the licensing process disclosed that BLLC lacked documentation that certain State law and BLLC licensing requirements were met.”  State law (Md Code Art. 2B § 10-103(4)(i)) requires that license applications contain “a statement that the applicant has been for two years next preceding the filing of the application a resident of the county or of the City of Baltimore in which the applicant proposes to operate under the license applied for.”  State law (Md Code Art. 2B § 10-202(a)(2)(ii)) also requires that the Board disapprove a license if “[t]he applicant has made a material false statement in his application.”  In this case, the applicant is not a Baltimore City resident, as required, and the applicant misstated on his application that he was.     

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Establishment address: 805 S. Broadway

Establishment Trade name: Ellington’s

Hearing time: 1:27 – 1:43 pm

License type: BD7 Beer, Wine & Liquor (Tavern, alcohol may be sold for consumption on site or off premises, privilege granted from 6 am to 2 am)

Reason for hearing: Transfer ownership and location of license currently located at 4219 Curtis Avenue

Zoning (according to CityView): B-3-2    

Neighborhood (according to CityView):  Fells Point

Area demographics (as of 2010, from BNIA): 70% White, 8% Black, 5% Asian; 15% Hispanic ethnicity; 11% households have children under age 18; median household income: $69,105; 11% households live below the poverty line

Name of associated corporate entity: Dukie Ellington’s, LLC

Does the associated corporate entity exist and is it in good standing (according to SDAT’s website)?  Yes, yes

Location of corporation’s principal office: Baltimore, MD

Does at least one of the applicants reside in Baltimore City?  Yes

% pecuniary interest of Baltimore City resident in establishment: 100

Attorney for licensee: Melvin Kodenski

# of people there in support of licensee: 1

Attorney for community:  N/A

# of protestants: 4

# of inspectors present: 1 (did not testify)

Notes from hearing:  Daniel Atzmon, a board member of and the Liquor Board liaison for the Fells Point Residents Association (FPRA) appeared asking for a postponement.  FPRA had written a letter of no objection to the Board in December 2011, but since then the plan for the establishment has changed, so FPRA didn’t have any position at the hearing.  Mr. Atzmon said that the applicant and his partners had been good neighbors and FPRA wanted to hear their plan.  FPRA’s next community meeting is July 10.

Joanne Masopust, president of Fells Point Community Organization (FPCO), strongly objected to the request for a postponement.  She had found out about the application at the hearing 2 weeks prior when she was at the Liquor Board on another matter, and had asked for a postponement so that FPCO could hear the applicant’s plan.  After hearing the applicant’s plan, FPCO voted to oppose it, as they consider the proposed project to be “a glorified liquor store” and it brings a new liquor license into a property that’s never had a license before.  Ms. Masopust also explained that the applicant planned on connecting the new establishment to Rye with an interior doorway, making “essentially one establishment with two liquor licenses.”  She argued that the applicant has had a year and a half since he changed his plan to present it to FPRA, and he should not be rewarded for failing to do so.

Chairman Fogleman said that normally the Board would not grant two postponements, but “the twist here is that the applicant wants a postponement.”  Chairman Fogleman asked the applicant why he hadn’t met with FPRA after the scope of the project changed.  The applicant said that his initial meeting with FPRA was to explore the option to lease the property, and he didn’t realize that adding a retail component to the plan would be so contentious. 

Result of hearing: Hearing postponed to give FPRA a chance to weigh in.  The Board ordered that the applicant attend FPRA’s July 10 meeting.

What the vote was: ?

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Establishment address: 1114-16 Hollins Street

Establishment Trade name: Baltimore Pho

Reason for hearing: Request for hardship extension

Hearing time: 3:09 – 3:14 pm

License type: BD7 Beer, Wine & Liquor (Tavern, alcohol may be sold for consumption on site or off premises, privilege granted from 6 am to 2 am)

Zoning (according to CityView): B-2-3 (Community Business District)

Neighborhood (according to CityView):  Hollins Market

Area demographics (as of 2010, from BNIA): 83% Black, 13% White; 31% households live below the poverty line; median household income: $19,183; 38% households live below the poverty line

Name of associated corporate entity: Bundala, LLC

Does the associated corporate entity exist and is it in good standing (according to SDAT’s website)?  Yes, yes

Does at least one of the applicants reside in Baltimore City (and has resided in Baltimore for at least 2 years)?   Yes

% pecuniary interest of Baltimore City resident in establishment: 100

Attorney for licensee: N/A

# of people there in support of licensee: 1

Attorney for community:  N/A

# of protestants: 0

# of inspectors present: 2 (did not testify)

Notes from hearing:  This was a hearing on a second hardship extension request.  When the hearing was called at 3:09 pm, the licensee was not there.  The Commissioners checked that the licensee had been notified of the hearing, and then said that they were making a show cause order, meaning the licensee would have to come and tell the Board why he wasn’t there.  Two minutes later, the licensee appeared and said that he had had difficulty finding parking.  The licensee said that a transfer application had been filed and the person to whom he is selling the license has signed a lease.  The new establishment will be a Mexican restaurant.

Result of hearing: 2nd hardship extension request granted.  The applicant has 180 days from the date of the hearing to complete the transfer.

What the vote was: ?

Portions of state law and/or Board Rules and Regulations Commissioners cited in decision: N/A

Other reasons Commissioners gave for decision: N/A

Issues raised in the audit present in this case:

Expired license: Audit finding 19 states that “[s]tate law requires that, 180 days after a licensed establishment has closed or has ceased active alcoholic beverage operations, the alcoholic beverage license shall expire except under defined circumstances….Licensees may also submit a written request for a hardship extension within the 180-day period.  The law further states that its intent is that the total time for which a license may be deemed unexpired is 180 days, or 360 days if an undue hardship extension has been granted.”  The Audit also recommended “that the Board discontinue granting additional hardship extensions beyond that permitted by law.”  The Executive Secretary’s response to this Recommendation  was that the Board would “continue to rely upon balanced judgment, case law [none cited] and appellate review, until instructed to do otherwise by an appropriate legal authority.”  In response, the Auditor cited the clear language of the Md Code Article 2B § 10-504(d), stating that all licenses expire by operation of law after 360 days from the date of closure, and advised that should the Liquor Board wish “to continue its current practices, it should obtain formal independent legal advice to support its practices.”  When the Board granted a second hardship extension in this case, it kept a license alive that had expired by operation of law.

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Establishment address: 1125 S. Charles Street

Establishment Trade name: Szechuan Restaurant

Reason for hearing: Request for hardship extension

Hearing time: 3:15 – 3:17 pm

License type: D Beer & Wine

Zoning (according to CityView): B-2-3

Neighborhood (according to CityView): Federal Hill

Area demographics (as of 2010, from BNIA): 80% White, 12% Black, 4% Asian; 3% Hispanic ethnicity; 11% households have children under age 18; median household income: $78,578; 12% households live below the poverty line

Name of associated corporate entity: N/A

Does the associated corporate entity exist and is it in good standing (according to SDAT’s website)?  N/A

Does at least one of the applicants reside in Baltimore City (and has resided in Baltimore for at least 2 years)? No

% pecuniary interest of Baltimore City resident in establishment: N/A

Attorney for licensee: N/A

# of people there in support of licensee: 1 (+ 1 in audience)

Attorney for community:  N/A

# of protestants: 0

# of inspectors present: 1 (did not testify)

Notes from hearing:  The licensee said he has been trying to lease the property for a while (a March 2013 letter from the licensee to the Liquor Board states that the establishment has been closed since October 2012), and now it looks like he has a buyer.

Result of hearing: Hardship extension granted.

What the vote was: ?

Portions of state law and/or Board Rules and Regulations Commissioners cited in decision: Md Code Article 2B § 10-504(d)

Other reasons Commissioners gave for decision: N/A

Issues raised in the audit present in this case: On his 2012 renewal application for this license, the licensee states that he is not a resident of Baltimore City.  Audit Finding 3 was that “detailed testing of the licensing process disclosed that BLLC lacked documentation that certain State law and BLLC licensing requirements were met.”  State law (Md Code Art. 2B § 10-103(4)(i)) requires that license applications contain “a statement that the applicant has been for two years next preceding the filing of the application a resident of the county or of the City of Baltimore in which the applicant proposes to operate under the license applied for.” 

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