Booze News: Distilled in Room 215

A blog about the Baltimore City Liquor Board

What happened at the Liquor Board on March 6, 2014.

Written by Becky Witt

Chairman Fogleman and Commissioner Jones in attendance. Commissioner Smith was not present for this hearing.

Applicant Lois Finifter
Business Name M.M. & T., Inc.
Trading As Joe’s Place
Address 6200 Reisterstown Road
Type of License Class “BD7” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for Hearing Application to transfer of ownership from personal representative
Hearing notes Ms. Finifter reappeared to cure the two issues with her application identified on February 27, 2014. On the first issue, Ms. Finifter presented the names and addresses of three registered voters and property owners serving as character witnesses. Ms. Finifter and her attorney also assured the board that any lien on the business has been resolved. Chairman Fogleman stated that the facts were heard in this case on February 27, 2014. In the Decision Phase, the Board unanimously voted to approve the transfer.
Zoning B-3-1
Neighborhood Reisterstown Station
Area Demographics 28% White, 63% Black, 1% Asian; 5% Hispanic ethnicity; 27% households have children under age 18; median household income: $37,372.32; 18% of households living below the poverty line.
Does corp entity exist, in good standing? Yes; Yes
Location of entity’s principal office 6200 Reisterstown Road, Baltimore, MD
Attorney for licensee Mr. Fred Lauer
# in support 1
Attorney for community None
# of protestants 0
# of inspectors 0
Result of hearing Approved
Vote tally 2 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 None
Applicant Louis Principio, Dudley Taylor, & Martin Manescu
Business Name Whiskey Jacks, LLC
Trading As Voltage Nightclub
Address 5625 O’Donnell Street
Type of License Class “BD7” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for Hearing Numerous violations of Rule 3.12, “Licensees shall operate their establishments in such a manner as to avoid disturbing the peace, safety, health, quiet and general welfare of the community;” Rule 4.18, “No licensee shall commit or allow the commission on his premises of any act which shall be contrary to any federal, state or local statute, law or ordinance or against the public peace, safety, health, welfare, quiet of morals;” Article 2B Section 12-108(d), “No licensee, proprietor, or operator of any establishment dispensing alcoholic bevereages shall permit the consumption or possession of any alcoholic beverages by a person under the age of twenty-one years upon said premises no matter by whom such alcoholic beverages shall have been purchased or from whom obtained…;” and Rule 4.01(a), “No licensee shall sell or furnish alcoholic beverages to any person under twenty-one years of age or to any person with the knowledge that such person is purchasing or acquiring such beverages for consumption by any person under twenty-one years of age” on November 1, 8, 14, and 22, 2013 and December 2, 2013.
Hearing notes

Licensee Louis Principio appeared, represented by three attorneys, to respond to various violation charges. Because Commissioner Elizabeth Smith was absent on March 6, Mr. Kodenski, one of the licensee’s attorneys, moved for the case to be postponed for consideration before the full Board. Mr. Prevas, another counsel for the licensee, argued that Maryland Code Article 2B does not specifically require that a full board be present, but he pointed out that it has been the Board’s policy to allow a licensee to request postponement when there were fewer than three commissioners present. Mr. Prevas further argued that, should the Board decide to deviate from this policy, an appeals court could find the decision to do so arbitrary and capricious. Chairman Fogleman conferred privately with Commissioner Jones on this issue. When they returned on the record, Chairman Fogleman denied the licensee’s motion, stating that, in the past, the Board has given permission for postponements on occasions when there is not a full board. In this instance, Chairman Fogleman said that all witnesses were present and ready to testify, the docket had been set aside for the day for this hearing, and a majority decision of a three-member board constitutes two commissioners in agreement. With a two-member board, the decision would require a unanimous vote. Therefore, the licensee was not prejudiced by the incomplete board.

The licensee’s attorneys then presented a motion to dismiss stating that the entire Board must recuse itself from this matter because there was a letter in the file, dated February 12, 2014, from Maryland State Senator Bill Ferguson and Delegates Luke Clippinger and Peter A. Hammen, requesting that the Board revoke the license. Mr. Prevus suggested that, because Mr. Ferguson is in a position to appoint members of the Liquor Board, it is inappropriate for him to communicate with the Board about this matter. Chairman Fogleman said that neither he nor Commissioner Jones had read the letter before the hearing and that community groups and agencies oftern communicate with the Board about particular licenses. Chairman Fogleman also said that there is no new appointment to the Liquor Board pending, so the concern about impartiality is unfounded.

Police officers and Liquor Board Inspectors testified to the circumstances surrounding each violation, and the licensee, Mr. Prinicipio, responded to each allegation. The violations were separated by the date of each incident.

November 1, 2013 evidence: Detective David Kincaid testified that, on the evening of October 31, 2013 into November 1, 2013, he was asked to respond to the parking lot for crowd control. He saw many intoxicated people getting into cars and driving away. A large fight started in the north part of the parking lot; Detective Kincaid estimated that 100-150 people were involved in the fight. He testified that the licensee approached the commotion on a golf cart and began to spray pepper spray into the crowd. Detective Kincaid said that Mr. Principio then sprayed pepper spray in the detective’s face. Mr. Principio, in the presentation of his case, insisted that he did not mean to mace the police officer. He said that he could not see well because it was a windy day, and he had pepper spray in his own eyes. Detective Kincaid also testified that after the crowd was dispersed, he saw Mr. Principio pepper spraying patrons who appeared to be cooperative. When asked why he did not arrest Mr. Principio, the detective responded that Mr. Principio had made a mistake and had apologized and brought him water.

November 1, 2013 holding: For November 1, the Board found the licensee guilty of four violations of Rule 3.12 (“Licensees shall operate their establishments in such a manner as to avoid disturbing the peace, safety, health, quiet and general welfare of the community”) for the following situations: (1) Patrons fighting (2) Employees spraying mace into a crowd of patrons (3) Licensee maced a uniformed police officer and (4) Police observed a large crowd of intoxicated patrons exiting the establishment. The Board agreed to dismiss the violation of Rule 4.02 (“No licensee shall sell or furnish alcoholic beverages to any person under the influence of alcohol or narcotic drugs or who is disorderly in manner or to any person known to be a habitual drunkard or user of narcotic drugs.”) because Detective Kincaid did not see the patrons come out of the establishment. The Board also found the licensee guilty of one violation of Rule 4.18 (“No licensee shall commit or allow the commission on his premises of any act which shall be contrary to any federal, state or local statute, law or ordinance or against the public peace, safety, health, welfare, quiet or morals”) regarding the licensee’s pepper spraying the officer.

November 8, 2013 evidence: Officer Todd Brown testified that, on November 8, 2013, he was working at Voltage in the parking lot. A large fight broke out, and he located a Mr. Balzar in the parking lot, bleeding from the eye and nose. He saw a fight in the parking lot of between 20 and 30 men and women, which he broke up. The patrons appeared drunk: they were stumbling, off balance, and couldn’t walk.

November 8, 2013 holding: The Board dismissed the Rule 3.12 charge about the assaulted person in the parking lot, because there was no evidence that he was a patron.

November 7, 2013 and November 14, 2013 evidence: Baltimore City Liquor Board Agent Mark Fosler (former Chairman of the Board) testified that there had been 311 complaints about Voltage and that the Board started a special investigation of the establishment based on those complaints. Liquor Board Agent John Howard inspected the premises on the evening of November 7th, a Thursday, which Voltage advertises as College Night. Inspectors observed three minors possessing alcohol inside the building. Agent Fosler clarified that one of the minors found inside Voltage who had alcohol in hand was under the age of 18. On November 14, 2013, Agent Howard and other inspectors did a second sweep for underage patrons; the inspectors found two, one of whom was 18. Mr. Prevas cross-examined the inspectors on their recollections of the evening: where they found these underage patrons and how they knew there was alcohol in the red cups. According to the inspectors, none of the underage people had fraudulent IDs; they all had legitimate identification that showed them to be under 21. However, none of the inspectors saw the underage patrons actually purchasing the alcohol.

November 7 and 14 holdings: The Board granted the licensees’ motion to dismiss the Rule 4.01(a) (“No licensee shall sell or furnish alcoholic beverages to any person under twenty-one (21) years of age or to any person with the knowledge that such person is purchasing or acquiring such beverages for consumption by any person under twenty-one (21) years of age”) violations, because the inspectors did not see the underage patrons purchasing the alcohol. However, the Board did find the licensee guilty of breaking Article 2B section 12-108(d), which reads: “No licensee, proprietor, or operator of any establishment dispensing alcoholic beverages shall permit the consumption or possession of any alcoholic beverages by a person under the age of twenty-one years upon said premises no matter by whom such alcoholic beverages shall have been purchased or from whom obtained.”

November 22, 2013 evidence: Baltimore Police Officer Joseph Petryszak was working overtime at Voltage and observed a large group of women exiting the club. An altercation broke out and escalated within a large group of people. He estimated that over 100 people were involved. The scene was chaotic; one person was on the ground and another person was stomping on his head. Private security guards sprayed mace into the crowd, and the spray got in Officer Petryszak’s eyes. Mr. Kodenski asked the officer whether there was anything that Mr. Principio could have done differently in the situation to stop the fight and the officer replied no. Mr. Kodenski then moved to dismiss the Rule 3.12 violation. The Board denied the motion.

December 2, 2013 evidence: Another Baltimore City police officer testified that he was on patrol, sitting in a marked patrol car, when he heard two gun shots. People came running out of the club. One man came out, bleeding, and said that he was shot in the back; he was transported to the hospital and treated for a gunshot wound. The officer then went inside and secured the crime scene. Two more police officers testified that Mr. Principio does have significant security measures, compared to other places. Mr. Principio testified that someone must have slipped the gun in through an emergency exit.

December 2, 2013 holding: The Board found the licensee guilty of violations of Rule 3.12 and Rule 4.18 based on the December 2 shooting on the dance floor.

Watch 2 hours of the 4-hour hearing on YouTube:

Zoning B-2-2
Neighborhood Medford
Area Demographics 49% White, 25% Black, 2% Asian; 20% Hispanic ethnicity; 32% households have children under age 18; median household income: $30,864.31; 22% of households living below the poverty line.
Does corp entity exist, in good standing? Yes; Yes
Location of entity’s principal office Suite 401, 2002 Clipper Park Road, Baltimore, MD
Attorney for licensee Mr. Melvin Kodenski, Mr. Peter Prevas, and Mr. Isaac Klein
# in support N/A
Attorney for community N/A
# of protestants N/A
# of inspectors 2 – Agents Mark Fosler and John Howard
Result of hearing Continued until the following week.
Vote tally N/A
Portions of state law cited in decision N/A
Other reasons given for decision N/A
Issues raised in audit present in this case N/A

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