Booze News: Distilled in Room 215

A blog about the Baltimore City Liquor Board

What happened at the Liquor Board on September 5, 2013.

Written by Becky Witt

Commissioners Smith, Fogleman, and Jones in attendance.

Two cases were postponed, because they were “incomplete as to form and legal sufficiency;” specifically, the applications did not include valid signatures from three character witnesses who are both (1) registered voters and (2) property owners in Baltimore City. The Board has implemented a new policy which requires Board staff to cross-check character witness names and addresses against official information gathered from State Department of Assessments and Taxation and the Board of Elections. The Board has consistently applied the policy in the last two hearings.

1:00 p.m. cases

Applicant Nina Lattimore
Business Name Not provided in the docket. Rumors, Inc. is the current owner’s (Cheryl Saunders’) business name.
Trading As Rumors Bar & Grill
Address 2600 E. Monument Street
Type of License Class “BD7” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing Review of a pending transfer under the provisions of Article 2B Section 10-503(d)(4)
Hearing notes Commissioner Smith recused herself from the hearing, because she is personally acquainted with the current licensee, Cheryl Saunders. Chairman Fogleman went through the list of character witnesses on the application; the applicant appeared to not know the witnesses well. Only two of the four witnesses own property in Baltimore City, according to the State Department of Assessments and Taxation (SDAT); since the application requires three witnesses, Chairman Fogleman informed the applicant that she must amend her application before her license is “released.”In response to Mr. Kodenski’s objections to the new processes to verify character witnesses’ voter registration and property ownership, Chairman Fogleman replied, “well, it’s a new day here.
Zoning B-2-2.
Neighborhood Madison-East End
Area demographics 3% White, 90% Black, 1% Asian.  4% Hispanic ethnicity.  51% households have children under age 18.  Median household income: $33,352.
Does corp entity exist, in good standing? Yes; no (for Rumors, Inc.). Not in good standing, due to failure to file personal property return for 2013. Charter was forfeited in October 2009 for failure to file personal property return; was revived over a year later, in December 2010. Ms. Lattimore did not provide a corporate entity in her liquor license transfer application.
Location of entity’s principal office 2600 E. Monument St. Baltimore, MD 21205
One applicant reside in Balt for 2 yrs? Yes.
Pecuniary interest of Baltimore City resident 100%
Attorney for licensee Melvin Kodenski
# in support 1
Attorney for community N/A
# of protestants 0
# of inspectors 1
Result of hearing Board granted 180-day extension from hearing date (though applicant had not requested an extension).
Vote tally Fogleman & Jones in favor, Smith recused herself.
Portions of state law cited in decision Chairman Fogleman stated that the hearing was “a transfer review under 2B §10-503(d)(4).” [This section of the code states, in its entirety: “A transfer of any license shall be completed not more than 180 days after the Board approves the transfer.”]
Other reasons given for decision “The Board has spoken to Ms. Lattimore. She seems to be a fit and proper person to possess liquor license in the City of Baltimore.”
Issues raised in audit present in this case Finding 3 of the Audit states that “BLLC [the Liquor Board] lacked documentation that certain State law and BLLC licensing requirements were met.” In 11 out of 30 applications the auditors tested, the applications were not completely filled out. In this case, the three requisite citizen signatures did not meet the requirements of Md Code Art. 2B § 10-104(d). Finding 6 of the Audit found that “BLLC did not always ensure that license transfers were completed within 180 days of receiving Board approval.” In this case, as of the September 5, 2013 hearing, 674 days had passed since the license transfer was approved on November 1, 2011. The BLLC file for this property contained no requests for hardship extensions; instead, the Board granted hardship extensions to the applicant without her even asking for them.The applicant also failed to attend a BLLC hearing on March 7, 2013 on the pending transfer; the Board rescheduled her hearing with no penalties or consequences for this failure to appear, and the Board did not mention her March failure to appear at the September 5 hearing. Finding 17 of the Audit says that “BLLC used alternatives to the Board hearing process to address violations and infractions and the Board had not formally approved these alternatives.” In this case, the original transfer of the license from Ms. Saunders to Ms. Lattimore took place in a private conference with former Board Executive Secretary Samuel Daniels on November 1, 2011. According to the Audit, this “conference” alternative to normal public hearing processes was not officially approved by the Board and was not open to the public.

 

2:00 p.m. cases

Applicant Mehari Mengistab & Michael Baldwin
Business Name Docket: 542 Luzerne Inc., which does not exist, according to SDAT.LLC name which is registered to bar’s address: Club Luzerne, LLC.
Trading As Club Luzerne
Address 542 N. Luzerne Avenue
Type of License Class “BD7” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing Application to transfer ownership, request for live entertainment
Hearing notes Mr. Baldwin has been the licensee for this establishment since 2001; the application adds Mr. Mehari Mengistab to the license. Councilman Branch testified in support of the application, and provided a letter of support from McElderry Park Community Association in favor of the bar. The applicant withdrew his application for live entertainment, so the Board did not hear any testimony or ask any questions about entertainment.
Zoning R-8
Neighborhood McElderry Park
Area demographics 3% White, 90% Black, 1% Asian.  4% Hispanic ethnicity.  51% households have children under age 18.  Median household income: $33,352.
Does corp entity exist, in good standing? Yes; no. Club Luzerne, LLC hasn’t filed its personal property return for 2013 and therefore is not in good standing.542 Luzerne Inc. does not exist, according to SDAT.
Location of entity’s principal office 542 Luzerne Ave. Baltimore MD 21205
One applicant reside in Balt for 2 yrs? Yes.
Pecuniary interest of Baltimore City resident 0%. Mehari Mengistab, a D.C. resident, holds 100% of the financial interest in this bar, but he testified during the hearing that he plans to move to Baltimore to live in the apartment on the second floor, above the bar.
Attorney for licensee Melvin Kodenski
# in support 4
Attorney for community N/A
# of protestants 0
# of inspectors 1.
Result of hearing Request for live entertainment withdrawn; application to transfer ownership approved.
Vote tally Unanimous in favor.
Portions of state law cited in decision Md Code Article 2B § 10-202(a) (“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.”)
Other reasons given for decision The current licensee has proven to be a good licensee; letter of support from Councilman Branch.
Issues raised in audit present in this case Findings 2 and 3 of the Audit state that BLLC frequently issued licenses without receiving all required documentation from licensees or applicants and that BLLC lacked documentation that state law and BLLC licensing requirements were met. In this case, the LLC entered as the business name of the bar did not exist, there was no SDAT information on the LLC, and the Board did not notice or remark on it. The Board has attempted to distinguish between “approving” the license at the hearing and “issuing” the license to the applicant afterwards; however, there is no evidence to suggest that the Board collecting all of the required information after the hearing and before issuance of the license.

 

Applicant Randy Shayotovich & Joan Dolina
Business Name The Arthouse, LLC
Trading As Arthouse
Address 1115 W. 36th Street
Type of License Class “D” Beer & Wine License
Reason for hearing Application to transfer ownership & location of a Class “A” BWL license presently located at 1017-19 W. 36th Street to 1115 W. 36th Street; Change a Class “A” Beer, Wine & Liquor license to a Class “D” Beer & Wine license
Hearing notes Mr. Kodenski, for the applicants, mentioned that the applicants had been approved for a new class B license in 2010, but due to some building constraints, they could not fit 75+ seats in the establishment. Kodenski introduced the Liquor Board records from the 2010 hearing; Chairman Fogleman stated that the Board would incorporate the records by reference.The licensees testified that they are ready to open within the month and that nothing has changed in their business plans since 2010.
Zoning B-2-2
Neighborhood Hampden
Area demographics 77% White, 12% Black, 5% Asian; 4% Hispanic ethnicity; 18% households have children under age 18; median household income: $54,278
Does corp entity exist, in good standing? Yes; yes.
Location of entity’s principal office 6310 Blackburn Ct, Baltimore, MD 21212
One applicant reside in Balt for 2 yrs? Yes.
Pecuniary interest of Baltimore City resident 50%
Attorney for licensee Melvin Kodenski
# in support 3
Attorney for community None.
# of protestants 0
# of inspectors 1. Inspector Ray.
Result of hearing License transferred & converted from A to D.
Vote tally Unanimous in favor.
Portions of state law cited in decision Md Code Article 2B § 10-202(a) (“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.”)
Other reasons given for decision Menus & business plan for prior project.
Issues raised in audit present in this case None.

 

Applicant Michael White & Bruce Richardson
Business Name The Sobo Taco Spot, LLC
Trading As Banditos
Address 1118 S. Charles Street
Type of License Class “D” Beer & Wine License
Reason for hearing Request to add live entertainment
Hearing notes Mr. Prevas, for the licensees, entered a Memorandum of Understanding between the applicants and the local community association: the South Baltimore Improvement Association.Commissioner Smith asked Mr. Prevas about whether the applicants had communicated with other local community associations, like Federal Hill. Mr. Prevas stated that he believed that the applicants only negotiated with South Baltimore Improvement Association. Chairman Fogleman added that it was his understanding that the two neighborhood associations communicate with each other and know what the other is doing.Prevas stated that the MOU provides for no more than 3 live entertainers – acoustic/rock entertainment. He stated that the business owners are in constant communication with their landlord and the community association about the sound level.

Commissioner Jones asked how the applicants will make sure that the rights of the residents who live very close to the restaurant will be represented. Prevas responded that the South Baltimore Improvement Association is in contact with the licensees on almost a weekly basis and is extremely active & involved.

Commissioner Smith asked about the impact that the live entertainment might have on crowds and what the licensees plan to do about crowd control. Prevas stated that the licensees don’t anticipate an increase in crowds due to the live entertainment. If crowds become a problem, the licensees will hire more security personnel.

Commissioner Smith raised questions about sound issues for residents living in the building, since there is an open connection between the bar and the restaurant. Prevas responded that the MOU with the community association provides that the doors will be closed during times of music. No one from the community has requested that the restaurant add a vestibule.

Zoning B-2-3
Neighborhood Federal Hill
Area demographics 80% White, 12% Black, 4% Asian; 3% Hispanic ethnicity; 11% households have children under age 18; median household income: $78,578.
Does corp entity exist, in good standing? Yes; no.The Sobo Taco Spot, LLC hasn’t filed personal property return for 2013 and is therefore not in good standing with the state, according to SDAT.
Location of entity’s principal office 1118 S. Charles St, Baltimore, MD 21230
One applicant reside in Balt for 2 yrs? Yes.
Pecuniary interest of Baltimore City resident 100%
Attorney for licensee Peter Prevas
# in support 1
Attorney for community N/A
# of protestants 0
# of inspectors 1 – Inspector Martin.
Result of hearing Approved, subject to MOU with the community association.
Vote tally Unanimous in favor.
Portions of state law cited in decision Md Code Article 2B § 10-202(a) (“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.”)
Other reasons given for decision MOU signed by all parties.
Issues raised in audit present in this case None.

 

Applicant Shannon Wood
Business Name SARJG, Inc. (the docket misspelled the entity as SAJG, Inc.)
Trading As trade name pending
Address 911 W. 36th Street
Type of License Class “B” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing Application for a new Class “B” Beer, Wine & Liquor restaurant license under the provisions of Rule 2.08 requiring $200,000 in capital investment in restaurant fixtures and facilities and seating capacity for a minimum of 75 people
Hearing notes The applicant is requesting a new Class “B” license for a new informal French restaurant in Hampden, in the former Dogwood restaurant space on 36th Street. They’re considering the name “Rivo,” but the trade name is still pending. The restaurant will have 90 seats, and there will be a carryout area that sells frites. They hope to open in four to six months. Their capital investment in the restaurant is $450,000. Mr. Prevas noted that he had recently become aware of a new Board policy that the capital investment breakout should be in the file before the hearing. Chairman Fogleman (again) pointed out that “it’s a new day” at the Baltimore City Liquor Board. The applicant provided a letter of support from Hampden Community Council (HCC) in which HCC stated that they support the new restaurant under the condition “[t]hat the requested Class B Liquor license be amended to clearly read that the license shall not permit the carryout sales of any alcohol with the exception of bottled wine.” Mr. Prevas pointed out that the applicants would also like to sell carryout beer from the restaurant and that the letter does not mention beer. Mr. Prevas magnanimously stated that the applicants would like to “leave [the decision] up to the Board” whether or not they would be able to also sell carryout beer.Commissioner Jones asked whether the applicants had any idea about the intent of HCC with respect to carryout beer. Mr. Prevas responded that the applicants would leave it up to the Board’s discretion, and that HCC did not say that they supported carryout beer sales. Chairman Fogleman said that in making an exception for carryout bottled wine, HCC “cracked the door a little bit. … I get myself in trouble doing this, but I feel like they would say that bottled wine and craft beer would fly. There is a legal standard for craft beer.”[Note: a quick Westlaw search did not turn up any legal standard defining “craft beer” in US or Maryland state law or in any relevant case law.]
Zoning B-2-2
Neighborhood Hampden
Area demographics 77% White, 12% Black, 5% Asian; 4% Hispanic ethnicity; 18% households have children under age 18; median household income: $54,278
Does corp entity exist, in good standing? Yes; yes.
Location of entity’s principal office 10526 Willow Vista Way, Cockeysville, MD 21030.
One applicant reside in Balt for 2 yrs? No. Ms. Wood owns property on which tax is paid in her name, at 1448 Riverside Ave., Baltimore, MD 21230.
Pecuniary interest of Baltimore City resident 0%
Attorney for licensee Peter Prevas
# in support 2
Attorney for community None.
# of protestants 0
# of inspectors 1. Inspector posted July 8.
Result of hearing New Class B license approved, with the voluntary license restriction that the applicant “shall not sell for off-premises consumption any alcohol other than bottled wine and craft beer.”
Vote tally Unanimous in favor.
Portions of state law cited in decision Md Code Article 2B § 10-202(a) (“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.”)
Other reasons given for decision “[Ms. Wood] has had very serious jobs; very serious person. [R]unning a full-time restaurant will be easy compared to the other tasks you’ve taken on in your life.” The Board has looked at the menu, it looks like a “nice place” which will have “nice alcoholic beverage products to accompany … good food.”
Issues raised in audit present in this case None.

 

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