Booze News: Distilled in Room 215

A blog about the Baltimore City Liquor Board

What happened at the Liquor Board on October 3, 2013

Written by Becky Witt

Commissioners Fogleman, Jones, and Smith in attendance.

1:00 p.m. cases

Applicant Shailesh Pandit & Dorothea Locco
Business Name SSP Enterprises, LLC
Trading As Mughal Gardens
Address 918-20 N. Charles Street
Type of License Class “B” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing Application to transfer ownership
Hearing notes Mr. Pandit was present at the hearing; Ms. Locco was absent, and Pandit told the Board that she will never be at the establishment.

Pandit has been working at Mughal Gardens for “a couple of months.”” The restaurant makes only around 10% of its income on alcohol sales (90% on food sales). There is no live entertainment, but there are outdoor tables. Mr. Pandit has not met with the community association.

Chairman Fogleman and Commissioner Smith asked Mr. Pandit a few questions about his young age and their concern with his limited experience in the food service business. Mr. Pandit responded that he is twenty-two years old and takes classes online and that he waited tables in high school. Mughal Gardens was previously owned by his uncles, and they had owned restaurants for around 10 years. Pandit stated that he had around eight years of restaurant experience, mostly in the form of being around his family’s restaurants.

Commissioner Jones expressed concern that growing up in proximity to a family restaurant and actually working in one are two different things. He asked more specifically about what the applicant had done in the restaurant.

The applicant responded that he had worked as a waiter for three years. Commissioner Smith noted that he had previously stated that he had eight years of experience, and Mr. Pandit had only accounted for three years. Mr. Pandit adjusted his total experience down to three years, but noted that “other family and friends have owned restaurants that [he has] been very close with.”

Chairman Fogleman checked the character witnesses and found some discrepancies between the voter rolls and the names listed. He began to ask the applicant to amend the application to solve those discrepancies, but after some conversing with Mr. Kodenski, Chairman Fogleman announced that “the Board finds that the requirements of Article 2B have bene satisfied.”

Zoning B-4-2
Neighborhood Mount Vernon
Area demographics 52% White, 32% Black, 7% Asian; 3% Hispanic ethnicity; 6% households have children under age 18; median household income: $35,393
Does corp entity exist, in good standing? Yes; yes
Location of entity’s principal office 15310 Briarcliff Manor Way, Burtonsville, MD 20866
One applicant reside in Balt for 2 yrs? Yes.
Pecuniary interest of Baltimore City resident 0%
Attorney for licensee Mr. Melvin Kodenski
# in support 1
Attorney for community None.
# of protestants 0
# of inspectors 1. Agent John Howard.
Result of hearing Transfer approved.
Vote tally 2-1
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 Chairman Fogleman stated that, though the applicant does not have experience in the alcoholic beverage industry, he does have an understanding of the busines based on family members’ ownership of restaurants. Alcohol is an ancillary portion of the business of Mughal Gardens. The Chairman warned the applicant that he must familiarize himself with the rules and regulations of the Liquor Board and that the Board takes underage drinking extremely seriously.

Commissioner Smith dissented from the decision. She explained that the Board is taxed with determining the fitness of the applicant, and Mr. Pandit’s only experience was vicariously through his family. She warned the applicant that a liquor license is a serious responsibility, and that the Board wants to make sure that the applicant follows all of the Board’s rules and regulations.

Issues raised in audit present in this case None.
Applicant Walid Farousi & Mike Jissri
Business Name Walfar, Inc
Trading As J & J Bar & Liquors
Address 1801 Ramsay Street
Type of License Class “BD7” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing Application to transfer ownership
Hearing notes Mr. Farousi will be the full-time operator of and has all of the financial interest in the business. He’s a Baltimore County resident who has worked in various bars and restaurants over the years.

Mr. Jissri is a Baltimore City resident and has worked as a self-employed cab driver for fifteen years.

Chairman Fogleman checked the character witness information against Board of Elections and property ownership information.

Zoning R-8
Neighborhood Carrollton Ridge
Area demographics 17% White, 76% Black, 1% Asian; 4% Hispanic ethnicity; 36% households have children under age 18; median household income: $28,513.80; 30% households live below the poverty line
Does corp entity exist, in good standing? Yes; yes
Location of entity’s principal office 1801 Ramsay Street, Baltimore, MD 21223
One applicant reside in Balt for 2 yrs? Yes.
Pecuniary interest of Baltimore City resident 0%
Attorney for licensee Mr. Frank Shaulis
# in support 2
Attorney for community N/A
# of protestants 0
# of inspectors 0
Result of hearing Approved
Vote tally Unanimous
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 None.
Issues raised in audit present in this case None.
Applicant Eric Levitt & Patrick Morrow
Business Name 38 Cross, LLC
Trading As No Way Jose Café
Address 38 E. Cross Street
Type of License Class “B” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing Application to transfer ownership
Hearing notes The restaurant is currently trading as No Way Jose. They’ve brought in Patrick Morrow to help them upgrade the menu. They may or may not stick with the Mexican theme. They want to make the restaurant more upscale, with fresher ingredients. They’re still evaluating which direction to go in.

Eric Levitt runs a successful commercial real estate business and owns many properties in Baltimore.

The licensees submitted an MOU and letter of support from the community association, the Federal Hill Neighborhood Association.

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; yes
Location of entity’s principal office 38 E. Cross St, Baltimore, MD 21230
One applicant reside in Balt for 2 yrs? Yes.
Pecuniary interest of Baltimore City resident 0%
Attorney for licensee Mr. Charles Marek
# in support 3, including Eric Costello, president of the Federal Hill Neighborhood Association
Attorney for community None.
# of protestants 0
# of inspectors 1 – Agent Fosler, who posted the sign on August 12, 2013.
Result of hearing Approved, subject to the MOU.
Vote tally Unanimous.
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 executed MOU and letter of support from the Federal Hill Neighborhood Association.
Issues raised in audit present in this case None.

2:00 p.m. cases

Applicants Sanjiv Suri & Ronald Sokal
Business Name Surijatin, Inc.
Trading As M & J Discount Liquors
Address 5500 Park Heights Avenue
Type of License Class “A” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing Application to transfer ownership
Hearing notes The applicants are purchasing both the real property and the business for $700,000. Mr. Suri has worked in a liquor store on Monument Street owned by his brother for five years and has not had any problems or violations. Mr. Sokal is the Baltimore City resident for the application.

Mr. Kodenski offered a letter into evidence from the current licensee, Mr. Siegel, stating that he does not think that there are any community associations in the area to contact about the license transfer. He also mentioned that no community member has voiced any objections in response to the notice sign placed in front of the store.

Commissioner Smith mused that this address might be represented by the Hilltop Improvement Association. Mr. Kodenski responded that Mr. Siegel has been the licensee at the address since 1981 and that “he should know better than anybody else.”

A search for this address on Baltimore City’s CityView database and in Baltimore City’s Community Association Directory brought up twelve neighborhood groups, including: Reisterstown/Park Heights Southern Team, Park Heights Community Council, Cottage/Park Heights/Violet/Springhill/Ulman Avenues Non-Profit Association, JNNRL Neighborhood Association, Northwestern District Police-Community Relations Council, Pimlico Community Council, Development Corporation of Northwest Baltimore-(TDC), Northwest Zoning Committee, Garrison Restorative Action and Community Empowerment, Northwest Community Action Center, Fellowship Outreach Corporation, Inc., and Park Heights Renaissance, Inc.

Zoning B-2-2
Neighborhood Arlington
Area demographics 2% White, 94% Black, 0% Asian; 1% Hispanic ethnicity; 63% households have children under age 18; median household income: $28,815.
Does corp entity exist, in good standing? Yes; yes
Location of entity’s principal office 1148 E. North Ave, Baltimore, MD 21202
One applicant reside in Balt for 2 yrs? ?
Pecuniary interest of Baltimore City resident 0%
Attorney for licensee Mr. Melvin Kodenski
# in support 2
Attorney for community None.
# of protestants 0
# of inspectors 1 – Inspector Ray. Posted the sign on September 8, 2013.
Result of hearing Approved subject to the condition that the licensees ask around to find out if there is a community association that represents the area. If there is, the licensee(s) must attend a meeting of that community association and introduce themselves.
Vote tally Unanimous.
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 Board cannot take Mr. Siegel’s statement as expert testimony on community associations.
Issues raised in audit present in this case None.
Applicant Roberto Gomez
Business Name Roberto’s Wine Deli & Grocery, LLC
Trading As Kim’s Food Market
Address 3123 Elmora Avenue
Type of License Class “A” Beer & Wine License
Reason for hearing Application to transfer ownership
Hearing notes The licensee lives in Baltimore City and has never been convicted of a felony. He has not worked in an establishment with a liquor license.

Mr. Gomez purchased the real estate and the business together: the real property cost $30,000, and the business cost $45,000. Chairman Fogleman asked the applicant to amend his application to fill in question five, which asks for the costs of the real property and the terms of the financing.

Chairman Fogleman also stated that the Board had checked the State Department of Assessments and Taxation’s website to ensure that the LLC was in good standing, which is a step that the Board has not historically completed regularly.

Zoning R-7
Neighborhood Four by Four
Area demographics 10% White, 87% Black, 1% Asian; 1% Hispanic ethnicity; 41% households have children under age 18; median household income: $42,920.80; 10% households live below the poverty line
Does corp entity exist, in good standing? Yes; yes.
Location of entity’s principal office 3123 Elmora
One applicant reside in Balt for 2 yrs? Yes
Pecuniary interest of Baltimore City resident 100%
Attorney for licensee Mr. David Woo
# in support 1
Attorney for community None.
# of protestants 0
# of inspectors 1
Result of hearing Approved.
Vote tally Unanimous
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 None.
Issues raised in audit present in this case None.
Applicants William Larney & Rodney Scardina
Business Name MEFBMS, Inc.
Trading As Looney’s Pub
Address 2900 O’Donnell Street
Type of License Class “BD7” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing Request to add live entertainment
Hearing notes The licensees have been at this location for twenty years. They’ve applied for and received permission for live entertainment from the Board of Municipal Zoning Appeals (BMZA), with restrictions agreed on between the licensees and the Canton Community Association.

Chairman Fogleman asked, “yes, but what about the other community association in Canton?” Mr. Kodenski replied that the other group did not respond.

Chairman Fogleman stated that the Board does not believe the law requires the applicants to obtain three character witness signatures for a request for live entertainment, but the Board does want to know whether the corporation is in good standing. Mr. Kodenski said that he would retrieve the information from SDAT and submit it to the Board the next day.

Zoning B-2-2
Neighborhood Canton
Area demographics 86% White, 4% Black, 3% Asian; 5% Hispanic ethnicity; 9% households have children under age 18; median household income: $82,130
Does corp entity exist, in good standing? Yes; yes
Location of entity’s principal office 2900 O’Donnell Street
One applicant reside in Balt for 2 yrs? Yes
Pecuniary interest of Baltimore City resident 10%
Attorney for licensee Mr. Melvin Kodenski
# in support 2
Attorney for community None.
# of protestants 0
# of inspectors 1 – Inspector Owens, who placed the notice sign on the establishment on September 9, 2013.
Result of hearing Approved.
Vote tally Unanimous.
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 Chairman Fogleman cited the MOU with the Canton Community Association and added that he doesn’t see any reason why two people in business together for years need to get character witness signatures in order to have live entertainment.
Issues raised in audit present in this case None.
Applicant Rebecca Lang
Business Name None provided in the docket.
Trading As Sportsman Spot
Address 501 S. Lehigh Street
Type of License Class “BD7” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing Application to transfer ownership
Hearing notes Ms. Lang’s sister works at the bar at 501 S. Lehigh Street, and she let Ms. Lang know that the owner was looking to sell the business. Ms. Lang has previous experience in the liquor industry. The bar has a “mature clientele,” mostly people in their forties, fifties and sixties.

Chairman Fogleman noted that the file contained a letter from the CEO of the Greektown Community Development Corporation in support of the transfer of ownership. The Chairman also checked all the character witness names, who were all property owners and registered voters in Baltimore City. He added that “there is no LLC to consider at this point.”

Zoning R-8
Neighborhood Greektown
Area demographics 52% White, 12% Black, 3% Asian; 30% Hispanic ethnicity; 30% households have children under age 18; median household income: $38,987.50
Does corp entity exist, in good standing? No, does not exist.
Location of entity’s principal office Entity does not exist.
One applicant reside in Balt for 2 yrs? Yes
Pecuniary interest of Baltimore City resident 100%
Attorney for licensee Mr. Dennis Cuomo
# in support 1
Attorney for community None.
# of protestants 0
# of inspectors 0
Result of hearing Approved.
Vote tally Unanimous.
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 None.
Issues raised in audit present in this case Finding 2 of the Audit stated that the BLLC frequently issued licenses without receiving all required documentation from licensees or applicants. Finding 3 of the Audit noted that BLLC lacked documentation that State law and BLLC licensing requirements were met. In this case, the Board approved a license to be transferred to an LLC that did not exist; the Board Chairman even noted that the LLC had not yet been created.
Applicant Doug Atwell
Business Name Dukie Ellington’s, LLC
Trading As Ellington’s
Address 805 S. Broadway
Type of License Class “BD7” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing Application to transfer ownership of a Class “BD7” BWL license presently located at 4219 -21 Curtis Avenue to 805 S. Broadway, request to add outdoor table service
Hearing notes The licensee and the store’s prospective manager described the proposed business as primarily a retail market, serving some prepared foods and barware as well as alcohol.

The Fells Point Residents’ Association (FPRA) had negotiated and executed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the licensee. FPRA also submitted a letter of support for their position from Councilman James Kraft.

The Fells Point Community Organization (FPCO), however, was present to oppose the transfer. FPCO had recently voted unanimously to oppose any new license transfers from outside of Fells Point into the neighborhood. FPCO believes that the Fells Point neighborhood is oversaturated with liquor licenses, and this oversaturation is becoming a problem for the neighborhood. (This particular license was being transferred from Curtis Bay.) FPCO also submitted a letter of support from Councilman Jim Kraft for their (mutually exclusive) position as well as an email in support from Maryland State Delegate Peter Hammen.

Joanne Masopust, FPCO President, called three Fells Point residents and FPCO members to testify about why they oppose any new liquor licenses in their neighborhood. FPCO would prefer more “traditional retail” over more liquor licenses. Masopust also pointed out that FPRA had voted “not to oppose” the liquor license transfer, whereas FPCO had voted to oppose. She argued that a vote “not to oppose” is not the same as a vote to support a liquor license transfer.

Mr. Kodenski pointed out that liquor establishments pay retail sales tax, so the distinction between liquor stores and “traditional retail” that Ms. Masopust was attempting to draw was not helpful.

Zoning B-3-2
Neighborhood Fells Point
Area demographics 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
Does corp entity exist, in good standing? Yes; yes
Location of entity’s principal office 805 S. Broadway, Baltimore, MD 21231
One applicant reside in Balt for 2 yrs? Yes
Pecuniary interest of Baltimore City resident 100%
Attorney for licensee Mr. Melvin Kodenski
# in support 2
Attorney for community None.
# of protestants 7
# of inspectors 0
Result of hearing Denied.
Vote tally Unanimous.
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 Chairman Fogleman agreed with FPCO that voting “not to oppose” should probably be given less weight than unanimous opposition. He also said that many of the same arguments about oversaturation of liquor establishments were made during the Crossbar hearing earlier that year, and the Board was convinced by them then.
Issues raised in audit present in this case None.

Disclosure: Ms. Susan Hughes represented the community association in the following case (N-Zone Bar and Grill, LLC, at 6589-91 St. Helena Avenue). Susan is a staff attorney at Community Law Center.

Applicant Freddie Williams, Jr. and Frankie Senegal
Business Name N-Zone Bar and Grill, LLC
Trading As None provided in the docket
Address 6589-91 St. Helena Avenue
Type of License Class “BD7” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing Application to transfer ownership from secured creditor, requests for live entertainment and off-premises catering
Hearing notes Mr. Kodenski requested a postponement, because he said that there was information placed in the file at the last minute to which he is unable to respond. Kodenski said that the applicants had attended a community meeting on September 5, and the community approved the transfer, but that the same community had voted against the transfer on October 1. Since the applicants were not present at the October 1 meeting, Mr. Kodenski requested the minutes from that meeting. Chairman Fogleman denied the request.

Ms. Hughes explained that the September 5 vote was before the community had legal counsel and that there had been very few details provided to them.

Mr. Kodenski then admonished the Board that they “shouldn’t take last-minute letters.”

Zoning R-6
Neighborhood Saint Helena
Area demographics
Does corp entity exist, in good standing? Yes; yes
Location of entity’s principal office 6589 Saint Helena Ave, Baltimore, MD 21222
Attorney for licensee Mr. Melvin Kodenski
# in support 2
Attorney for community Ms. Susan Hughes
# of protestants 5
# of inspectors None
Result of hearing Postponed
Vote tally Unanimous
Portions of state law cited in decision None
Other reasons given for decision None
Issues raised in audit present in this case None

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