Booze News: Distilled in Room 215

A blog about the Baltimore City Liquor Board

What happened at the Liquor Board on April 10, 2014.

Written by Becky Witt

Chairman Fogleman and Commissioners Smith and Jones in attendance.

Chairman Fogleman started off the hearing with a brief preamble, in response to last week’s Bill’s Cafe posts on the Baltimore Brew and on Booze News. He noted that Liquor Board violation hearings are different than any other hearings, because they are akin to a criminal trial in the court system. In the last 75 years, the Board has never allowed community testimony in those hearings, because the Board has been told that allowing it would be prejudicial error. “As a courtesy to the public,” the Board has decided publicly to reconsider the Voltage decision.

Former Licensees 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 Reconsideration of March 13 decision
Hearing notes

Mr. Melvin Kodenski and Mr. Isaac Klein were present on behalf of Whiskey Jacks, LLC and Mr. Principio. Mr. Principio was not at the hearing. Mr. Kodenski presented the offer that the former licensee made to the Board: (1) Mr. Principio will dismiss the appeal of the Liquor Board’s decision currently pending in Circuit Court (2) Operation of the business shall cease on April 7 (the club has already closed) (3) Mr. Principio will have the opportunity to sell the license elsewhere, and (4) Mr. Principio will pay a fine of $3,000.

Commissioner Jones asked, in the resale of the license, will the current owner (Mr. Principio) be a part of that corporate entity that will purchase the license? Mr. Kodenski said that he was not sure and that he could not promise that Mr. Principio would not be involved. Commissioner Jones responded that he would like to see that stipulation as another restriction on the license (that Principio could not be a part of the business when the license is transferred). Mr. Kodenski said, in response, that anything that Mr. Principio would have to do would be subject to a public hearing.

Zoning M-3
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 1 North Charles Street, Suite 350, Baltimore, MD
Attorney for licensee Mr. Kodenski & Mr. Klein
# in support 0
Attorney for community N/A
# of protestants N/A
# of inspectors N/A
Result of hearing License returned under four conditions listed above (Commissioner Jones’ suggestion not among them)
Vote tally 2 in favor (Smith was not present, because she was absent for the evidentiary portion of the hearing on March 6, 2013)
Portions of state law cited in decision None
Other reasons given for decision N/A
Issues raised in audit present in this case or other issues observed

The 2013 Legislative Audit did not mention the Liquor Board’s apparently common practice of privately reconsidering and reversing public decisions. This is probably because the auditors did not know that these private reconsiderations were taking place, given the near-total lack of documentation of the meetings. Finding 17 of the Audit, however, did state: “BLLC had adopted alternatives to the Board hearing process to address licensee violations and infractions. These alternatives were essentially carrying out functions of the Board but were not officially approved by the Board. Furthermore, unlike Board hearings, these alternative processes were not open to the public. The legality of their use is questionable since they were not addressed in State law pertaining to BLLC.” This finding referred to the Board’s former practice of holding private “conferences” with the Executive Secretary, which were not public, but it certainly also would apply to private reconsiderations.

Applicant Geoffrey Danek
Business Name Holy Frijoles, Inc.
Trading As Holy Frijoles
Address 908-12 W. 36th Street
Type of License Class “D” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for Hearing Request for hardship extension under the provisions of Article 2B Section 10-504(d).
Hearing notes Mr. Danek filed a timely request for a hardship extension and is still looking for a suitable buyer for the license.
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 908 W. 36th Street
Attorney for licensee None
# 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 None
Other reasons given for decision None
Issues raised in audit present in this case or other issues observed None
Applicant Juan Moreno
Business Name None provided in the docket, but SDAT shows a “Las Tejitas Restaurant, LLC” with Juan Moreno as its resident agent
Trading As Las Tejitas
Address 422-26 S. Macon Street
Type of License Class “B” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for Hearing Application to transfer ownership.
Hearing notes

Mr. Moreno testified that he has been operating the bar for one year already. The bar is open from 10am to 2am. Prompted by his attorney, Mr. Kodenski, he testified that he had taken an alcohol management certification course, that he was familiar with the Rules and Regulations of the Liquor Board, and that he “will participate in the community.” Upon further questioning, Mr. Moreno did not know who was in charge of the community association in this neighborhood, the Greater Greektown Community Alliance.

Commissioner Smith, who had taken on the role of Chairperson, since Chairman Fogleman had stepped out, asked about the uniqueness of the services of the bar. (Article 2B section 10-202(a)(3) requires the Board to consider, among other things, “the potential commonality or uniqueness of the services and products to be offered by the applicant’s business.”) Mr. Moreno at first testified that his services and products would not be unique, but, after further prompting by Commissioner Smith and Mr. Kodenski, he testified that he would be serving Hispanic food, such as pupusas, tacos, and enchiladas.

Commissioner Jones inquired about the capacity of the business; Mr. Moreno replied that the capacity was 86 people and that he would have two employees. Commissioner Jones asked whether there would be sufficient parking, and Mr. Moreno replied that there was a parking lot across the street.

Throughout the hearing, Mr. Moreno appeared to have a difficult time understanding many of the commissioners’ questions; noting this, Commissioner Smith told him to make sure to read the Liquor Board’s Rules and Regulations translated into Spanish.

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? Unclear; there was no business entity on the docket, but SDAT shows a “Las Tejitas Restaurant LLC” with Mr. Moreno as its resident agent. Las Tejitas Restaurant LLC is not in good standing with the state; they have not filed their Personal Property Returns for 2013 or 2014.
Location of entity’s principal office 426 S. Macon St, Baltimore, MD
Attorney for licensee Mr. Melvin Kodenski
# in support 1
Attorney for community None
# of protestants 0
# of inspectors 1 – Edward Owens
Result of hearing Approved
Vote tally 2 in favor; Chairman was not present (unexplained).
Portions of state law cited in decision None
Other reasons given for decision None
Issues raised in audit present in this case None

In the brief break between the hearings, Commissioner Smith told the attendees that she would be serving as Chairperson until a new Chairperson is appointed to replace Chairman Fogleman. She noted that she is fully committed to restoring the public trust and increasing transparency.

Applicants Barbara Bollack & Dennis Hagan
Business Name Bab’s, Inc.
Trading As B.G.’s Pub
Address 617-19 Oldham Street
Type of License Class “BD7” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for Hearing Request for hardship extension under the provisions of Article 2B Section 10-504(d).
Hearing notes

Ms. Bollack was present at the hearing, unrepresented. She testified that she had tried to sell her liquor license and had had a couple of potential buyers, but both deals had fallen through. Ms. Bollack had been renting space in a building, but the building was sold, and the new owners of the building seem to have terminated the lease.

Commissioner Smith asked, “when is the last time that you were in operation?” Ms. Bollack replied, “March 2012.” Commissioner Smith asked whether there was a transfer of ownership pending at some point between the closure and today, and Ms. Bollack said that there was a transfer of ownership pending in March 2013. Commissioner Smith double-checked with Ms. Bollack that the bar had not been open even one day between March 2012 and the date of the hearing; Ms. Bollack replied that the bar had not been open at all.

Commissioner Smith then pronounced that based on Ms. Bollack’s testimony, her license is dead as a matter of law. “There’s no license to grant a hardship extension to.” She added that if Ms. Bollack was not satisfied with the Board’s decision, she can request reconsideration from the Board or appeal to the Circuit Court for Baltimore City.

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? Yes; No
Location of entity’s principal office 617-19 Oldham St, Baltimore, MD
Attorney for licensee None
# in support 1
Attorney for community None
# of protestants 0
# of inspectors 0
Result of hearing Hardship extension denied; license is dead as a matter of law.
Vote tally Smith & Jones in favor of denying extension; Fogleman not present.
Portions of state law cited in decision None.
Other reasons given for decision None.
Issues raised in audit present in this case None
Applicants Dilbag Singh & George Mooney
Business Name 6701 Holabird, Inc.
Trading As Bill’s Cafe
Address 6701-03 Holabird Avenue
Type of License Class “BD7” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for Hearing Application to transfer ownership.
Hearing notes

Ms. Susan Hughes, Community Law Center staff attorney, on behalf of the Southeastern District Police Community Relations Council (SDPCRC) began by stating for the record that the Board does not have authority to reverse privately a previous public revocation. She added that the group believes that the Board should have held a formal hearing on the record at which testimony should have been received from all parties. Ms. Hughes went on to say that the community group had met with the applicants and their attorney. If the Board moves forward with the transfer of ownership, the community would agree, subject to restrictions on the license.

Commissioner Smith replied, the Rules of Civil Procedure allow for a judge to alter his decision in sentencing, and the Board mirrors that process. However, she agreed that the Board should have given the community and the police department an opportunity to be involved in handing off the business. She also noted that, with the passage of the Liquor Board Reform bill, all future actions that the Board takes must be on the record.

Ms. Hughes then went through the license restrictions that the applicants had agreed to: that alcohol may only be served or sold 11am-11pm Monday through Thursday and 11am-1am Friday-Sunday. The licensee will install and maintain video surveillance cameras which can view and record all areas where alcohol beverages are sold and consumed. The data from the cameras should be of sufficient image resolution for police to use, and the data must be able to be transferred to portable media and indexed by date and time. Data must be preserved for seven days and stored in secure manner. The applicants have agreed actively to discourage illegal activity and to report illegal activity in and around the building. The applicants will meet with the Southeastern District council and with police officers to address any issues. The applicants will also provide security personnel as needed and shall not operate under name “Bill’s Cafe.”

Mr. Kodenski added, on his clients’ behalf, that this family has owned several Subway restaurants in the area and that they are “going to try to add a food component” to the business at 6701 Holabird Avenue. The hours of operation of the business have been restricted under the agreement with the community group, and they will try to hire from the community if possible. Kodenski said that the place is “not going to be a gourmet restaurant, but it’s not going to be a Subway either.” He added that, since Amazon.com is planning to build a facility in southeast Baltimore, this transfer of ownership will “provide a place for people to be able to come.”

Ms. Hughes added that the community is hopeful that these applicants will operate as positive members of the community and will remain in contact with the police department and the police council.

Zoning B-2-2
Neighborhood Graceland Park
Area Demographics 44% White, 25% Black, 2% 2 or more races; 20% Hispanic ethnicity; 32% households have children under age 18; median household income: $30,864.31; 22% households live below the poverty line.
Does corp entity exist, in good standing? Yes;Yes
Location of entity’s principal office 6701 Holabird Avenue
Attorney for licensee Mr. Melvin Kodenski
# in support 2
Attorney for community Ms. Susan Hughes, Community Law Center
# of protestants 2
# of inspectors 0 – unclear why no inspectors testified about posting signs
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 The Board has heard from the community.
Issues raised in audit present in this case

This case brings up the same issue as was raised in the Voltage reconsideration hearing above:

The 2013 Legislative Audit did not mention the Liquor Board’s apparently common practice of privately reconsidering and reversing public decisions. This is probably because the auditors did not know that these private reconsiderations were taking place, given the near-total lack of documentation of the meetings. Finding 17 of the Audit, however, did state: “BLLC had adopted alternatives to the Board hearing process to address licensee violations and infractions. These alternatives were essentially carrying out functions of the Board but were not officially approved by the Board. Furthermore, unlike Board hearings, these alternative processes were not open to the public. The legality of their use is questionable since they were not addressed in State law pertaining to BLLC.” This finding referred to the Board’s former practice of holding private “conferences” with the Executive Secretary, which were not public, but it certainly also would apply to private reconsiderations.

2:00pm cases

Applicant Matthew Cahill & Jeffrey Cahill
Business Name Mac Hospitality Group, LLC
Trading As Lime
Address 801 E. Fort Avenue
Type of License Class “D” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for Hearing Request for hardship extension under the provisions of Article 2B Section 10-504(d)
Hearing notes

Mr. Jeff Cahill was present, unrepresented. He informed the Board that he has been restructuring his LLC and that he will reopen in a month and a half.

Zoning B-2-2
Neighborhood Riverside
Area Demographics 90% White, 3% Black, 3% Asian. 3% Hispanic ethnicity. 15% households have children under age 18. Median household income: $73,342. 8% households live below poverty line.
Does corp entity exist, in good standing? Yes; Yes
Location of entity’s principal office 132 Spa Drive, Annapolis, MD 21403
Attorney for licensee None
# in support 1
Attorney for community None
# of protestants 0
# of inspectors 1 – Joann Martin, but she did not testify.
Result of hearing Approved
Vote tally Smith and Jones in favor; Fogleman absent.
Portions of state law cited in decision None
Other reasons given for decision None
Issues raised in audit present in this case None
Applicant Scott Schleupner
Business Name SCS Holdings, LLC
Trading As Social
Address 25 E. Cross Street
Type of License Class “BD7” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for Hearing Application to transfer ownership with request for outdoor table service.
Hearing notes

The applicant informed the Board that he had successfully negotiated a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the South Baltimore Neighborhood Association (SBNA), but there was no copy of the document present at the hearing. The applicant has worked for Armadillo’s Bar and Grill in Annapolis for twelve years. He will withdraw the request for outdoor table service, but he will contact SBNA if he decides to apply for it in the future. He will employ 20+ employees, and he will be open Monday-Thursday 5-11pm and Friday-Sunday 11:30am-2am.

The Commissioners pointed out that the application section requiring the terms of the real property was incomplete; the applicant added in the term of $7500/month rent at the hearing.

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 40 Amberstone Court, Annapolis, MD 21403
Attorney for licensee None
# 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 Article 2B section 10-202(a)
Other reasons given for decision None
Issues raised in audit present in this case None
Applicant Myong Friley & Brian Knight
Business Name AZ Plus, Inc.
Trading As Cocky Lou’s
Address 2101-03 E. North Avenue
Type of License Class “BD7” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for Hearing Violation of 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.” (Re: January 24, 2014, alcoholic beverage sold to an underage police cadet).
Hearing notes

The licensee admitted the violation. Baltimore Police Detective Akunwande testified that Police Cadet Gregory McCoy, under the age of 21, purchased a Bud Ice.

The licensees explained that he had put up signs saying that no one under 21 would be served. The employee who served Cadet McCoy is no longer working with Cocky Lou’s, and the licensees have instructed all employees to check IDs.

Zoning R-7
Neighborhood Broadway East
Area Demographics 1% White, 96% Black, 0% Asian, 1% 2 or more races; 1% Hispanic ethnicity; 35% of households have children under age 18; Median Household Income: $26,431.68; 21% households live below poverty line
Does corp entity exist, in good standing? Yes; No
Location of entity’s principal office 2101-03 E. North Avenue
Attorney for licensee None
# in support 1
Attorney for community N/A
# of protestants N/A
# of inspectors N/A
Result of hearing Guilty of one Rule 4.01(a) violation.
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
Applicant Jung Choi
Business Name Frankford Garden Liquor, Inc.
Trading As Frankford Garden Liquors
Address 5418-20 Sinclair Lane
Type of License Class “A” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for Hearing Violation of 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.” (Re: January 24, 2014, alcoholic beverage sold to an underage police cadet).
Hearing notes

Mr. Jason Ha translated for licensee Jung Choi. Mr. Choi admitted the violation.

Baltimore Police Detective LC Greenhill read from his report that Police Cadet Gregory McCoy, under the age of 21, had purchased a 40oz Colt 45 beer.

The commissioners noted that the community association had filed a protest of renewal a few years ago, but that the petition had been withdrawn.

The licensee, through his interpreter, said that the employees are more alert, working more carefully, and taking every precaution to make sure they don’t commit another violation.

Zoning B-2-1
Neighborhood Frankford
Area Demographics 15% White, 79% Black, 2% Asian; 2% Hispanic ethnicity; 35% households have children under age 18; 15% households below poverty line; median household income: $39,144.11
Does corp entity exist, in good standing? Yes; Yes
Location of entity’s principal office 5418 Sinclair Lane
Attorney for licensee None
# in support 2
Attorney for community N/A
# of protestants N/A
# of inspectors N/A
Result of hearing Guilty of one violation of Rule 4.01(a).
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
Applicant Jung Min Kwon
Business Name Dohnbulja, Inc.
Trading As Bermuda Bar & Liquors
Address 1801-03 E. North Avenue
Type of License Class “BD7” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for Hearing Violation of 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.” (Re: January 24, 2014, alcoholic beverage sold to an underage police cadet).
Hearing notes

Baltimore Police Detective LC Greenhill read from his report that Police Cadet Gregory McCoy, under the age of 21, purchased Jack Daniels Whiskey.

The licensee was present at the hearing, unrepresented, with the manager who was on duty at the time, Mr. Ho Jin Choo. Mr. Choo said that, at the time, he was by himself in the store, and that he normally checks IDs every time he makes a sale.

Zoning R-7
Neighborhood Broadway East
Area Demographics 1% White, 96% Black, 0% Asian, 1% 2 or more races; 1% Hispanic ethnicity; 35% of households have children under age 18; Median Household Income: $26,431.68; 21% households live below poverty line
Does corp entity exist, in good standing? Yes; No
Location of entity’s principal office 1801-1803 E. North Avenue
Attorney for licensee None
# in support 2
Attorney for community N/A
# of protestants N/A
# of inspectors N/A
Result of hearing Guilty of Rule 4.01(a) — $500 fine.
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
Applicant Rory Yanes
Business Name Compadres-1, LLC
Trading As El Antro
Address 4020 E. Lombard Street
Type of License Class “BD7” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for Hearing Violation of 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.” (Re: December 12, 2013, alcoholic beverage sold to an underage police cadet).
Hearing notes

Mr. Shawn Harby, on behalf of his client, denied the charges.

Baltimore Police Detective LC Greenhill read from his report that Baltimore Police Cadet Jones had ordered shot of Malibu rum. At no time did the server ask for ID.

Mr. Harby argued that, since Detective Greenhill wasn’t present at the time, he didn’t know that Ms. Cruz did not ask for ID. Detective Greenhill replied that Cadet Philip Jones had told him what happened.

Mr. Harby asked Detective Greenhill whether he had any firsthand knowledge that the liquid in the glass was alcohol. Detective Greenhill said no.

Cadet Jones, under further questioning from Mr. Harby, testified that he doesn’t remember how much the drink cost but that it was under $20. He doesn’t remember exactly when he purchased the drink, but it was very late at night, possibly around 11:30pm. Cadet Jones communicated with the bartender in English, and he believes that she understood him when he asked for Malibu rum.

The police officers took a photo of Cadet Jones with the alcoholic beverage, but they did not have the photo present with them for the hearing.

Mr. Harby then informed the board that the bartender in question does have alcohol awareness certification and that the licensee has placed more signage at the bar to discourage underage drinkers. The licensee is “civic-minded” and conducts fundraisers for politicians like (City Council President) Jack Young and (City Councilman) Brandon Scott.

Chairman Fogleman found the licensee guilty of selling alcohol to a minor. There was a first offense for underage sale of alcohol on April 16, 2011, so this was a second offense within three years. The fine for a second offense is $1500.

Zoning M-3
Neighborhood Baltimore Highlands
Area Demographics 52% White, 12% Black, 3% Asian, 2% 2 or more races, 30% Hispanic ethnicity, 30% households have children under age 18; Median Household Income: $39,874.02; 18% households live below the poverty line.
Does corp entity exist, in good standing? Yes; Yes
Location of entity’s principal office 4020 E. Lombard Street, Baltimore, MD
Attorney for licensee Mr. Shawn Harby
# in support 1
Attorney for community N/A
# of protestants N/A
# of inspectors N/A
Result of hearing Guilty of second Rule 4.01(a) violation within three years – $1500 fine.
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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