Booze News: Distilled in Room 215

A blog about the Baltimore City Liquor Board

What happened at the Liquor Board on January 16, 2014.

Written by Becky Witt

Chairman Fogleman and Commissioner Jones in attendance. Commissioner Smith was ill and not in attendance on January 16, 2014. Chairman Fogleman noted that if any applicant or licensee had a problem with her case being heard by only two of the three commissioners, that she would be permitted to postpone her hearing until a later date.

Chairman Fogleman announced that the hearing for Juan Moreno, trading as Las Tejitas, 422-26 S Macon Street had been postponed due to insufficient information in the application.

1:00PM cases

Applicant John Zorzit – Secured Creditor
Business Name N/A
Trading As N/A
Address 291 South Pulaski Street
Type of License Class “BD7” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for Hearing Request for a hardship extension under the provisions of Article 2B Section 10-504(d)
Hearing notes

Mr. Shawn Harby appeared on behalf of his client John Zorzit; he submitted a second hardship extension request in writing on December 7, 2013. Mr. Zorzit had previously received his first hardship extension for his interest in this license on June 27, 2013. According to the request, the secured creditor has been diligently attempting to sell the license to a responsible licensee but needs more time to do so.

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? N/A – Secured Creditor
Location of entity’s principal office N/A
Attorney for licensee Mr. Shawn Harby
# in support 0
Attorney for community None
# of protestants 0
# of inspectors 0
Result of hearing One “final” hardship extension granted – 180 days from today’s date (July 15, 2014).
Vote tally Fogleman & Jones in favor.
Portions of state law cited in decision None
Other reasons given for decision None
Issues raised in audit present in this case or other issues observed Article 2B section 10-504(d) states that: “The licensee or other appropriate interested parties may make a written request to the Board for an extension of the life of the license due to undue hardship, for a time period of no more than a cumulative period of 360 days after the date of closing or cessation of alcoholic beverages business operations of the business for whic the license is held.” According to the file, the licensed establishment has been closed since before January 9, 2013. 360 days from January 9, 2013 is January 4, 2014. The license has already expired as a matter of law under Article 2B, and the Board did not have the authority to grant the hardship extension.
Applicant Jae Ran Chong & Soo Il Kim
Business Name JC Star, LLC
Trading As Red Fox Liquors
Address 2733 Pennsylvania Avenue
Type of License Class “BD7” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for Hearing Application to transfer ownership
Hearing notes

Mr. Maslan spoke on behalf of his client, Ms. Chong. She is the 100% stockholder in the business and has been working at the establishment for four months. She is alcohol management certified and has met with community representatives to address some concerns that the community has had with this establishment. According to Mr. Maslan, the community was unhappy with one employee in particular, whose employment has been terminated. The establishment has been at this address for many years, going back to Prohibition.

Chairman Fogleman looked through the file and pointed out a historical note in the file from 1968 that the store had been looted during the famous riots in that year. He also saw notes from one underage drinking violation from over four years ago.

Baltimore City Inspector Jeff Ray testified regarding the posting of the sign giving notice of the public hearing. He also testified that he had been to this establishment regularly for his normal inspection duties and that several times he has turned in reports that occasionally the tavern/bar section of the establishment is closed when the package goods section was open. Liquor Board Rule 5.03(b) says, “The bar/lounge area must be operative for business at all times the premises is open to the public.” Chairman Fogleman asked Mr. Ray whether he had issued violation notices for these instances, and Mr. Ray replied that he wrote up reports on the violations and turned the reports in to his supervisor. None of these reports showing rule violations was in the file at the Liquor Board offices when checked by CLC staff on January 17, 2014. Commissioner Jones asked the applicant and Mr. Ray to speak privately after the hearing to ensure that the applicant understands the rules surrounding BD-7 licenses, as she did not appear to understand what Mr. Ray was saying or the rule that her store was in violation of.

Chairman Fogleman also noted that the applicant interview form in the file was incomplete, because Ms. Chong did not fully fill out her employment history, including the required dates. The Chairman asked Ms. Chong to amend her application to make sure it was complete. Mr. Maslan agreed to help his client to complete the application.

Zoning B-1-2
Neighborhood Penn North
Area Demographics 90% Black, 6% White, 1% Hispanic, 0% Asian, 2% two or more races; 28% households have children under age 18; median household income: $28,502.54; 28% households live below the poverty line.
Does corp entity exist, in good standing? Yes; Yes
Location of entity’s principal office 2733 Pennsylvania Avenue
Attorney for licensee Mr. Gary Maslan
# in support 1
Attorney for community None
# of protestants 0
# of inspectors 1 – Jeffrey Ray.
Result of hearing Approved
Vote tally Fogleman & Jones in favor
Portions of state law cited in decision Article 2B section 10-202(a)
Other reasons given for decision None
Issues raised in audit present in this case or other issues observed

Finding 8 of the Audit states that the “BLLC lacked comprehensive written policies and procedures over the inspection process.” Finding 9 of the Audit states that the “BLLC lacked an automated method to monitor inspections performed, inspection outcomes and related enforcement and disciplinary actions taken.” Finding 12 of the Audit states that “Inspection Division supervisors did not document duties performed and did not account for completed Inspector’s Reports.”

It is unclear from Inspector Ray’s testimony where the problem was in following up with this persistent problem at this licensed establishment. He told the Chairman that he submitted reports detailing the violation of the Rules and Regulations to his supervisor, but there were no such documents in the file at the Liquor Board offices. Therefore, it’s unclear whether this failure was one of policies and procedures or lack of followthrough from Mr. Ray’s supervisor. Obviously, however, there was a failure of communication and followthrough somewhere in the process.

Applicant Kendrick Goden & Inniss Goden
Business Name Elite Lounge, LLC
Trading As Elite Lounge
Address 1569-71 Ridgely Street
Type of License Class “D” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for Hearing Application to transfer ownership; request for outdoor table service and live entertainment
Hearing notes

Mr. Kodenski, for his client, Kendrick Goden, stated that he is withdrawing his original requests for expansion, outdoor table service, and live entertainment.

Mr. Len Bush, who introduced himself as Len the Plumber, was there to protest the outdoor table service and live entertainment but to support the application to transfer ownership. Mr. Bush’s offices are across the street from the proposed establishment.

Mr. Goden has met with people from the community. He submitted a business plan and a petition with 41 signatures in favor of the project. The proposed hours are 6AM to 12AM, Monday through Saturday. He plans to hire six or seven employees, from the community wherever possible. He also has a security plan, including cameras and outside lighting.

The “city resident” for this application is Mr. Goden’s father, who was not present at the hearing.

Mr. Goden has no experience in alcohol management. The Board asked Mr. Goden whether he was familiar with the Board’s Rules and Regulations, and Mr. Goden replied, “some of it.” Chairman Fogleman replied that the Board takes violations of the rules, such as underage drinking, very seriously.

Commissioner Jones asked Mr. Goden who will be managing the restaurant, and Mr. Goden replied that he is currently reviewing applications for a manager position.

Chairman Fogleman then went through letters in the file from community members. Most of the letters were in opposition to the live entertainment and outdoor table service aspects of the application, which had been withdrawn.

Zoning M-2-3
Neighborhood Carroll-Camden Industrial Area
Area Demographics
Does corp entity exist, in good standing? Yes; Yes
Location of entity’s principal office 10830 Olde Woods Way, Columbia, MD 21044
Attorney for licensee Mr. Melvin Kodenski
# in support 2
Attorney for community None
# of protestants 0
# of inspectors 1 – Joann Martin
Result of hearing Transfer of ownership approved.
Vote tally Fogleman and Jones in support.
Portions of state law cited in decision Article 2B section 10-202(a)
Other reasons given for decision Chairman Fogleman made note of the “small maelstrom” that the applicant experienced when he applied for live entertainment. He observed that the letters against the project were almost all in opposition to the live entertainment and outdoor tables, which the applicant has withdrawn. He also noted that the community seems to now be in support of the amended project.
Issues raised in audit present in this case or other issues observed Article 2B section 9-101(c)(1) states that, for an application for a license by an LLC, “the license shall be applied for by and be issued to 3 of the authorized persons of that limited liability company, as individuals … at least 1 of whom shall be a registered voter and taxpayer of the county or city … and shall also have resided there at least 2 years before the application.” To comply with this statutory requirement, out-of-City applicants for a Baltimore City liquor license often designate one person who does not have anything to do with running the liquor licensed establishment but is merely on the license to satisfy the statutory prerequisite. The Board and the applicants often refer to this person as “the Baltimore City Resident.” However, BLLC Rule 3.01 states: “Each licensee shall be the actual owner and operator of the business conducted on the licensed premises,” which contradicts this practice.

2:00pm cases

The Board called the following case, but the licensee was not present at the hearing: Brian Beaven, Morning Edition, Inc. T/a Morning Edition Café, 153 N. Patterson Park Avenue – Class “BD7” Beer, Wine & Liquor License – Request for a hardship extension under the provisions of Article 2B Section 10-504(d).

Applicant Gerber Sorto
Business Name Esperanza Corporation
Trading As Habernero Grill
Address 4701-03 Eastern Avenue
Type of License Class “D” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for Hearing Request to reopen after being closed for more than 90 days under the provisions of Article 2B Section 10-504(d)
Hearing notes

Mr. Kodenski informed the Board that there was a problem with the renewal of the establishment’s beer and wine license. He submitted a petition in favor of his client’s request to reopen signed by neighbors and customers. The Greektown Community Development Corporation also submitted a letter in favor of the licensee.

The licensee, Mr. Sorto, was not present at the hearing, because he had a family emergency in El Salvador. He sent his cousin in his place, who has no explained connection with the licensed business.

Chairman Fogleman noted that the Board wants to make sure that the Esperanza Corporation is in good standing. Mr. Kodenski had no information on the corporate entity; neither did the licensee’s cousin. A quick search of the State Department of Assessments and Taxation’s website showed that Esperanza Corporation has not filed a Maryland Form 1 tax return since 2010 and its corporate charter has been forfeited since October 2011.

The file for this license at the Liquor Board offices contained several letters dating from 2010-2012 from the Board to the licensee, asking him to explain his corporate charter’s lack of good standing. See the letter from Deputy Executive Secretary dated February 15, 2012 and the two show cause orders from the Board, scheduled for hearings on December 18, 2010 and June 28, 2012. The corporate charter remained forfeited, and the Board somehow issued new licenses each year to the licensee.

Zoning B-2-2
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, the corporate entity has been forfeited since 2010.
Location of entity’s principal office 4701 Eastern Avenue
Attorney for licensee Mr. Melvin Kodenski
# in support 1 – the cousin of the licensee
Attorney for community None
# of protestants 0
# of inspectors 0
Result of hearing Approved
Vote tally Fogleman and Jones in favor.
Portions of state law cited in decision Article 2B section 10-301(j)(4)
Other reasons given for decision None
Issues raised in audit present in this case As laid out in the hearing notes, the corporate charter for this license was forfeited by the state in October 2011 for failure to pay personal property taxes and has remained forfeited since then. The Board has threatened action against the licensee several times, but the licensee has somehow kept his license and has successfully renewed it twice. In the present hearing on January 16, 2014, admittedly for an unrelated matter, the licensee’s attorney and his representative had no information for the Board on the good standing of the corporate charter. The Board had no information in its file on the good standing of the corporation (and plenty of information to suggest that the corporation was not in good standing), but the Board held the hearing anyway and approved the licensee and his nonexistent corporation to reopen for business.

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