Booze News: Distilled in Room 215

A blog about the Baltimore City Liquor Board

What happened at the Liquor Board on March 20, 2014.

Written by Becky Witt

Chairman Fogleman and Commissioners Smith and Jones in attendance.

1:00pm docket

Applicant Poonam Suri
Business Name Roshnisuri, LLC
Trading As trade name pending
Address 3600 Belair Road
Type of License Class “A” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing Application to transfer ownership
Hearing notes

Mr. Mel Kodenski, for the applicant, his client, informed the Board that she has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Belair Edison Neighborhood Association. Mr. Ramesh Suri was also present, as the co-owner of the real property at which the establishment will be located. Kodenski informed the Board that the applicant has been a licensee at another establishment and has had no violations. The liquor store will be open from 9am to 10pm on weekdays and 9am to 12pm on weekends.

The BLLC staff employee who normally checks all of the corporate entity information of all of the applicants before the hearings was out of the office. Therefore, the Board did not have the information about the corporate entities in the file. Chairman Fogleman asked Mr. Kodenski whether he had any evidence of the existence and good standing of Roshnisuri, LLC. Fogleman noted that the Board does have articles of organization in the file but not a certificate of good standing.

Zoning B-2-2
Neighborhood Belair-Edison
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 11049 Dorsch Farm Rd, Ellicott City, MD 21042
Attorney for licensee Mr. Melvin Kodenski
# in support 2
Attorney for community None
# of protestants 0
# of inspectors 1 – Inspector Tom Karanikolas
Result of hearing Approved
Vote tally Unanimous
Portions of state law cited in decision Article 2B section 10-202(a)
Other reasons given for decision Signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the neighborhood.
Issues raised in audit present in this case or other issues observed None
Applicant Michael Seguin & Nina Gilkenson
Business Name Charm City Swing, LLC
Trading As Mobtown Ballroom
Address 861 Washington Boulevard
Type of License Class “BD7” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing Application to transfer ownership & location of a Class “BD7” BWL presently located at 4219-21 Curtis Avenue to 861 Washington Boulevard, request for live entertainment
Hearing notes

Mr. Gary Maslan represented the applicants for the applicants; he mentioned that Mr. Jon Laria of Ballard Spahr is also representing the applicants on some other legal matters related to the business. Maslan explained that Mobtown Ballroom has been a successful business in Seattle, Washington. They offer dance lessons, including swing, cha cha, salsa, “and everything you’d see on Dancing With the Stars.” Their hours of operation will be 5pm to possibly 1am. They have been a good neighbor in Pigtown since 2011. They have worked with many charitable organizations, politicians and community groups to provide space for meetings and events. Maryland State Senator Bill Ferguson and City Councilman Ed Reisinger submitted a letter in support of the liquor license transfer. Other groups, including the Pigtown Community Organization, several nearby churches, and Pigtown Main Street, are in support of the project.

One of the applicants testified that he wanted to create a “place to have a drink that is comfortable and clean and not scary.”

Mr. Maslan added that the applicants are willing to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with any community groups, but the groups haven’t yet provided any terms to put in an MOU.

The Chairman asked the applicants to amend their application to include the purchase price of the “business” — the applicants had filled out their application without the assistance of counsel and had left the section blank because their business has already been running since 2011. Fogleman asked the applicant to include the purchase price of the liquor license, which was $35,000.

Zoning R-8
Neighborhood Washington Village/Pigtown
Area demographics The Baltimore Neighborhood Indicators Alliance (BNIA) did not have demographics available for Washington Village/Pigtown.
Does corp entity exist, in good standing? Yes; yes.
Location of entity’s principal office 861 Washington Blvd, Baltimore, MD 21230
Attorney for licensee Mr. Gary Maslan
# in support ~10
Attorney for community None
# of protestants 0
# of inspectors 1 – Inspector Joann Martin
Result of hearing Approved
Vote tally Unanimous
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 None.
Applicant Jennifer Whalen, William Spann & Michael Kirlin
Business Name SARJG, Inc.
Trading As Le Garage
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

This address was not scheduled on the March 20 docket; it had been scheduled for March 13 but had not been called.

Mr. Prevas, on behalf of the applicants, explained to the Board that the hearing was a “re-do” of a previous license approval at the same location. On September 5, 2013, the Board had approved a license for this address under a different applicant name, Ms. Shannon Wood. Ms. Wood is currently a licensee at Wine Works, at 1340 Smith Avenue in Mount Washington. She had intended to transfer that license to someone else in order to add her name to this license, but she was unable to sell it. Therefore, the business had to find a new applicant and had to re-file and hold a new public hearing. Ms. Wood has had to divest herself of her ownership interest in the business at 911 W. 36th Street. The establishment plans to open in the next month.

The concept is essentially the same as in the first application. The applicants have agreed not to sell alcohol for carryout other than bottled wine and “craft beer.” Chairman Fogleman had added the “craft beer” category himself in September, even though the community letter had agreed to bottled wine but had not mentioned craft beer at all.

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
Attorney for licensee Mr. Peter Prevas
# in support ~5
Attorney for community None
# of protestants 0
# of inspectors 1 – Jeff Ray
Result of hearing Approved
Vote tally Unanimous
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 None
Applicant Yvonne Dornic
Business Name Dornic & Dornic, Inc.
Trading As Ze Mean Bean Café
Address 1739-41 Fleet Street
Type of License Class “B” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing

Violation of Rule 3.02 “Licensees shall cooperate with representatives of the Board, members of the Police Department, Health Department, Building Engineer’s Office, Grand Jury and representative of other governmental agencies whenever any such persons are on official business.” (Re: May 14, 2013, licensee uncooperative with Liquor Board Inspector Brooks)

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 statue, law or ordinance or against the public peace, safety, health, welfare, quiet or morals.” (Re: May 14, 2013, Liquor Board Inspector observed customers with alcoholic beverages when 2013 liquor license had not been picked up)

Hearing notes

Chairman Fogleman called the case, but the licensees were not present. He looked through the file in front of him and noted that the licensees had not shown up for hearings on the May 14 charges on December 5 and on January 30. Inspector Karen Brooks informed the Chairman that the day before both of the previous hearings, the licensee had requested and been granted a postponement. The Chairman found proof in the file that notice of the hearing had been served on the cook at the establishment on February 27, 2014, at 3:08pm.

Zoning B-2-2
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; no
Attorney for licensee None
# in support 0
Attorney for community None
# of protestants 0
# of inspectors 1 – Karen Brooks
Result of hearing License ordered seized from establishment for failure to appear.
Vote tally Unanimous
Portions of state law cited in decision None
Other reasons given for decision The Chairman noted that “this case is getting old and that an allegation like noncooperation always concerns the Board. The Board has no choice but for the license to be immediately picked up and to remain in our possession.
Issues raised in audit present in this case or other issues observed None
Applicant Dhruba Raj Onta & Daoud Faddoul
Business Name BDU Nepal, LLC
Trading As Bristol Liquors
Address 507 S. Broadway
Type of License Class “BD7” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing Application to transfer ownership & location of a Class “BD7” BWL presently located at 300 S. Oldham Street to 507 S. Broadway, transfer ownership is from a Secured Creditor
Hearing notes

Mr. Abraham Hurdle represented the applicants; Ms. Joanne Masopust, President of the Fells Point Community Organization (FPCO), represented the Fells Point community, as a volunteer and community leader, not an attorney.

Mr. Hurdle submitted letters in support of the transfer, as well as 300+ signatures on a petition in support. Ms. Masopust pointed out that many of the signatories on the application do not live nearby; she made an asterisk next to all of the illegible signatures or signatories from outside of the neighborhood. He said that the applicants have met with different members of the community and have tried to reach out to community associations but have been unsuccessful. The applicants want to add five bar stool seats (and the additional day to sell alcohol that a BD7 license has). The applicants agree that if the transfer is approved, the current license will be moved outside of the Fells Point area. Mr. Hurdle called Ms. Birdie Mitchell, who lives nearby and has been a customer since 2006. She testified that she wants the establishment to be open 7 days per week because she would go there every day if it were open 7 days. Mr. Chad Tabor also testified very briefly in favor of the application.

Ms. Masopust asked the licensee about the floor plan of his store and whether it would conform to zoning requirements for a tavern and the Rules and Regulations of the BLLC. There was some confusion, because the applicant did not understand her questions due to a language barrier. He called a family member up to help translate between English and Nepali. The applicant replied that the floor plan just shows the current plan; once the applicants get the license, they will have someone come in and change the plan. Ms. Masopust followed up, “why isn’t the diagram in the file an accurate description of what you’re going to be providing?” The applicant replied that he didn’t know it would be an issue.

Ms. Masopust testified as a community leader that FPCO is neither anti-bar nor anti-alcohol. Rather, FPCO is concerned with an oversaturation of liquor licenses in the community. FPCO opposes any new class A or BD7 license coming into the neighborhood from outside the Fells Point area. There are currently 71 operational establishments within the Fells Point boundaries and 24 operational BD7 licenses.

Mr. Michael Snidal, Director of Community Engagement at the Citizens Planning and Housing Association, testified against BD7 tavern establishments that act like packaged goods stores. He argued that adding five bar stools would not make this a tavern, just a packaged goods store that is open seven days per week (instead of six days allowed to Class A liquor stores). He called these establishments “pseudo-taverns” and argued that they have a negative impact on communities.

Mr. Victor Corbin, President of the Fells Prospect Community Association, testified about an encounter that he had with Bristol Liquors on Halloween 2013. Passing by the store, he saw a large group of people congregating around Bristol Liquors. He texted Retired Police Major Davis to tell him that there were people drinking alcohol on the sidewalk. He also filed a 311 complaint, of which he submitted a copy.

Baltimore City Police Officer Lawrence (Larry) Fasano testified on behalf of the neighborhood about his experience after Victor Corbin’s Halloween text. Ed Davis directed him to follow up on the complaint, and he saw people “shoulder to shoulder, bumper to bumper” in a “very small, tight area.” 25 people. The police demanded that the establishment be shut down for the night to protect public safety. He saw people drinking freely out on the sidewalk in front of Bristol Liquors. Officer Fasano testified that he has had to remove people passed out in front of Bristol Liquors and has seen people with open containers. He said that they do serve inebriants sometimes and that he has brought it to their attention several times.

Zoning B-2-2
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 507 S. Broadway, Baltimore, MD
Attorney for licensee Mr. Abraham Hurdle
# in support ~20
Attorney for community None
# of protestants ~5
# of inspectors 1 – Inspector Karen Brooks
Result of hearing Approved
Vote tally 2-1
Portions of state law cited in decision None
Other reasons given for decision Commissioners Smith and Jones voted for the transfer; Chairman Fogleman dissented, stating: “I do believe that the residents have the right to self-determination when it comes to picking their establishments. I believe those residents who are there at 1 and 2am. I don’t find a public need and desire in this situation. The majority believes that the public is the public. In the petition there are plenty of residents who would be considered Southeast Baltimore residents. 2-1 decision. The majority felt more comfortable granting this decision knowing that you agreed to the condition. The license has been there since 2006 with little deleterious activity on our record. It may be adding 1/6th more problems. I don’t see the 5 bar stools as the issue, I see the seventh day as the issue. There won’t be any net gain of liquor licenses in the neighborhood, but there will be a BD7.”
Issues raised in audit present in this case or other issues observed None

2:00pm docket

The 2:00 docket originally had eleven hearings scheduled. Only the two below were heard; the other nine were not mentioned by the Board.

Applicant John Han Chae & Han Bok Chae
Business Name Chae Brothers, LLC
Trading As Fireside North Liquors
Address 2201 W. North Avenue
Type of License Class “BD7” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing Violation of Rule 5.03(a) “The holder of a Class BD7 Beer, Wine and Liquor license must operate an on-premises consumption establishment with on premise service at a bar, tables or other suitable furniture. Package goods, if sold, must be sold over a bar and not in a separate package goods store department, and/or section unless otherwise previously approved pursuant to subsection (2) of this rule. A separate package goods store, department and/or section is defined as an area within the licensed premises which has as its primary activity the sale of package good and in which no on-premises consumption regularly takes place.” (Re: December 4, 2013, police denied entrance to the bar area of establishment)
Hearing notes

Baltimore Police Detective Olufemi Akinwande testified from his report: he tried to enter the bar side of the establishment on December 4, 2013 and was denied access while the packaged goods side was open for business. He left the establishment, and his partner, Sheldon Jones also, separately, tried to enter the bar and was denied access.

Samuel Daniels, consultant to the licensees and former Executive Director of the BLLC, asked the Board for a “summary dismissal based on due process and jeopardy.” Detective Akinwande had filled out the police report with two different dates: December 4 and 5. Mr. Daniels said that, “under due process, it’s impossible for us to deal with this fatal flaw.”

The Board did not agree. Chairman Fogleman said that they believe the detective’s testimony and that the report may have been produced the next morning. The minor flaw was not fatal, and Mr. Daniels did not even cross-examine the officer to determine whether he was mistaken.

Mr. Daniels continued with the cross-examination of officer. He’s been a police officer for seven years and a detective for five. Mr. Akinwande saw items on the bar that were not supposed to be there, such as a rice cooker. He was wearing blue jeans and a gray hoodie when he attempted to enter, without his vest or service weapon.

The licensee then testified that the detective hadn’t correctly answered questions about his own identification information (such as his birthday year), so Mr. Chae denied him access.

Mr. Daniels then tried to submit an internal BLLC policy guide for tavern compliance from April 2008. The policy included the right to deny entry to any person for any reason. Chairman Fogleman refused to accept the document as evidence, since it was not relevant.

The Board held that the licensee was guilty of one violation of Rule 5.03(a). The Chairman explained that there was no reason to disbelieve Detective Akinwande. The Board imposed a five-day suspension of the license, from May 1-5, because the Commissioners felt as though a fine was not a serious enough sanction for this offense.

Zoning R-8
Neighborhood Coppin Heights/Ash-Co-East
Area demographics 1% White, 97% Black, 0% Asian; 1% Hispanic ethnicity; 35% households have children under age 18; median household income: $26,682.89; 26% households live below the poverty line
Does corp entity exist, in good standing? Yes; yes
Location of entity’s principal office 2313 Mt Hebron Dr, Ellicott City, MD 21042
Attorney for licensee None, but Mr. Sam Daniels (former Executive Secretary, not an attorney) represented the licensee as a consultant
# in support 1
Attorney for community N/A
# of protestants N/A
# of inspectors 0
Result of hearing Guilty of one violation of Rule 5.03(a) – license suspended for 5 days.
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 or other issues observed None
Applicant Wesley Ivey & Western Ivey
Business Name Ivey Corporation
Trading As Royal Casino
Address 1515-19 Pennsylvania Avenue
Type of License Class “BD7” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing Violation of Rule 5.03(a) “The holder of a Class BD7 Beer, Wine and Liquor license must operate an on-premises consumption establishment with on-premise service at a bar, tables or other suitable furniture. Package goods, if sold, must be sold over a bar and not in a separate package goods store department, and/or section unless otherwise previously approved pursuant to subsection (2) of this rule. A separate package goods store, department and/or section is defined as an area within the licensed premises which has as its primary activity the sale of package good and in which no on-premises consumption regularly takes place.” ( Re: December 4, 2013, police denied entrance to the bar area of establishment)
Hearing notes

The licensees represented themselves in the hearing.

Baltimore Police Detective Gatto testified first. He and his fellow officers had received complaints from community members in the area that local BD7 tavern establishments have not been allowing people into the bar sections of their establishments, as required by law. Detective Akinwande attempted to enter the bar area of the Royal Casino, and an employee stopped him and told him that the bar is closed today. When Detective Akinwande returned with fellow officers and confronted the employee, he apologized and told the officers that it was his fault, that he had made a mistake.

The licensees and their employee testified that Detective Akinwande had frightened their employee by his strange manner and clothing, that he had his hood on over his head, and that his clothing did not comply with the licensees’ dress code for their bar.

At this point in the hearing, Commissioner Jones recused himself, because his cousin used to work at the establishment.

The Board held that the licensees were guilty of one violation of Rule 5.03. The Board assessed a five-day suspension, May 1-5. The Board decided to take back two of the five days since the employees apologized.

Zoning B-2-2
Neighborhood Upton
Area demographics 92% Black, 4% White; 32% households have children under age 18; median household income: $13,835; 51% households live below the poverty line
Does corp entity exist, in good standing? Yes; yes.
Location of entity’s principal office 5513 Elderon Ave, Baltimore, MD 21215
Attorney for licensee None
# in support 3
Attorney for community N/A
# of protestants N/A
# of inspectors 0
Result of hearing Guilty of one violation of Rule 5.03(a) – 3 day suspension of license.
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 or other issues observed None

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