Booze News: Distilled in Room 215

A blog about the Baltimore City Liquor Board

What happened at the Liquor Board on July 31, 2014.

Written by Becky Witt

Hearings began, with all three Commissioners present, at 11:05am.

You can watch the July 31 hearings on YouTube embedded below or at this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JbA4xV8NLvk.

11:00 a.m. cases

Amendments to licenses

Applicants Ernst Valery & Mauro Daigle
Business Name Milk & Honey, LLC
Trading As The Chesapeake
Address 1701-05 N. Charles Street
Type of License Class “B” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing Request to add second floor for business
Hearing notes

Mr. Melvin Kodenski represented the licensees and submitted a letter in favor of the application from the Charles North Community Association, a signed Memorandum of Understanding with the community association, and two letters of support from city councilmembers: from Carl Stokes and Jack Young.

Licensee Ernst Valery testified that he has been in business for one year and agrees to be bound by the terms and restrictions of the MOU. Commissioner Moore asked, “what is the plan for the second floor?” Valery replied that he plans to use it for banquet space to hold private parties. Judge Ward noted that the former Chesapeake restaurant used the upstairs space in this way.

Zoning B-5-2
Neighborhood Charles North
Area demographics 53% White, 32% Black, 8% Asian, 3% 2 or more races; 4% Hispanic ethnicity; 6% households have children under age 18; median household income: $38,331; 5.5% households live below poverty line.
Does corp entity exist, in good standing? Yes; yes.
Location of entity’s principal office 816 Cathedral St, Baltimore, MD
Attorney for licensee Mr. Melvin Kodesnki
# in support 2
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 Commissioner Moore joked, “in spite of the support of Carl Stokes, I agree [with the other Commissioners to approve the application].”
Issues raised in audit present in this case or other issues observed None
Applicants Bruce Richardson & Michael White
Business Name Sobo Taco Spot, LLC
Trading As Banditos
Address 1118 S. Charles Street
Type of License Class “D” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing Application for Special Amusement License
Hearing notes

The case was set aside when it was first called, because the applicants were not present; they thought their case was scheduled for the 1:00 docket. The case was re-called when the applicants and their attorney, Mr. Peter Prevas, arrived. Mr. Michael White, licensee, and Mr. Andrew Dunlap (a current manager) testified.

Mr. Prevas explained that he was requesting to transform the current Class D license with live entertainment privileges into a special amusement license. The effect of this transformation would be that the license would change from a 6-day to a 7-day license and would be allowed to be open until 2am every day instead of its current 1am restriction.

Chairman Ward noted that there were community letters of opposition, saying that there are too many licenses in the immediate vicinity. The community testimony says that the Board doesn’t have the personnel to regulate so many licenses in such a small area. One of the community groups has decided to take no position on the transfer. Ward went on to read from the letter from the 46th district delegation, which raised the same issue, that there are too many 2am licenses in the area.

Prevas responded that the licensees have met several times with the South Baltimore Neighborhood Association (SBNA), which has direct jurisdiction over this issue. SBNA has decided to neither support nor oppose the application. Prevas pointed to the July 10, 2014 hearing in which the Board granted the Illusions Magic Bar & Theater application for the same thing. The community associations in the Illusions case also took no position, and the Board granted the license. (In the Illusions case, however, there was no community opposition on file, as opposed to the case before the Board for Banditos.) Prevas pointed out that he was the one who had realized that licensees could apply for this kind of license: Banditos was the first such application, and Illusions was actually the second, following Banditos’ lead. It was a fluke that Illusions’ hearing was held before Banditos’.

Mr. Charles Thomas, a community member who lives “100 yards away” appeared in opposition to the application. He said that Banditos is asking for a “blank check” with what they mean by “special amusement.” With Illusions, on the other hand, the community knew what “special amusement” meant. Thomas pointed out that the Board has not issued any regulations regarding special amusement licenses, which makes the community members uncomfortable about approving the application. Thomas added that Banditos has been accused of violating the conditions of their liquor license (patrons were drinking after 2am) and are scheduled for a violation hearing next week (August 7).

Prevas stated that the license would not be a blank check, because Banditos has a signed Memorandum of Understanding with the community associations in the area that limits the entertainment to three entertainers, three nights per week. The licensees are not planning to change the nature of the live entertainment; they are just seeking the extra day per week (6 days to 7 days) and to be open until 2am. They will also have a lower yearly renewal fee under the special amusement license.

At this point, State Delegate Brian McHale arrived at the hearing and was sworn in. He testified that the issue is very new to him, though he has been a state delegate for a long time. He is concerned that the provision of Article 2B will become an avenue to convert 6-day licenses to 7-day licenses without any real purpose. He explained that the Federal Hill and South Baltimore neighborhood residents feel saturated by the availabiity of liquor establishments. There is a broad position that there are more than adequate days and hours of operation of liquor licenses. He said that the special amusement provision is “obscure,” that “[he] didn’t know it existed, because it hasn’t been used.”

Commissioner Jones was concerned about enforcement, asking “how do we enforce three nights per week and these entertainers? We need to have the manpower to make sure you are in alignment with what the law wants you to be.”

Commissioner Moore said, “my concern is that there’s already twenty-seven liquor licenses in the area. When you talk about saturation, it’s not just a word, it’s a reality. … I think that’s a concern. We should be cautious as we go forward and thoughtful and considerate. What really has concerned me about this special amusement license is the lack of regulations on our part. I don’t feel like this board has done its homework. I don’t want to have to apologize for what we do here today.”

Prevas brought up the fact that the state legislature had created a whole new 24-hour, 7-day license for the Horseshoe Casino, less than a mile away from the proposed location. He went on to explain the scarcity of special amusement licenses. According to Prevas, in 1966 or 1967, the state legislature created the BD-7 license. The state took all existing Class B and Class D Special Amusement licenses and allowed them to apply to transform into a BD-7. The Liquor Board has always taken the position that Class D licenses, in order to be converted to a BD-7, would have had to have been converted back in 1967. So the reason that there aren’t any Class D Special Amusement licenses today is that they were absorbed into BD-7s in the late 60s. This law, however, was never taken off the books.

Michael White and Andrew Dunlap then testified about the operations of the business. Mr. Dunlap resides above Banditos in an apartment in the same building and is the full-time operator. One of the restrictions on the license is that the business has to bring in at least 40% of its revenue in food sales. He submitted a petition in favor of the application with 225 signatures. The Federal Hill Hospitality Association (a business association) submitted a letter of support. Generally, the live entertainment is acoustic music, and there haven’t been complaints. He also testified that Eric Costello, president of the Federal Hill Neighborhood Association had asked SBNA not to take a position on the transfer.

Commissioner Moore pointed out that many of the signatures from the petition are not from the community, which is “very confusing.”

All three commissioners voted no. Prevas asked, “is this going to have any impact on the prior decision [in the Illusions case]?” Ward replied, “no.” Prevas muttered, “we were sandbagged.”

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 1118 S. Charles St, Baltimore, MD
Attorney for licensee Mr. Peter Prevas
# in support 2
Attorney for community None
# of protestants 2
# of inspectors 0
Result of hearing Denied
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

The section of the code in question in this hearing is Article 2B section 8-203(c). Subsection (1)(ii) of that section states: “The Board may issue a license to the holders of Class D beer, wine and liquor licenses who regularly specialize in the entertainment of their patrons by providing approved types of amusement such as singing, dancing, music (other than recorded music or radio programs), floor shows, acrobatic acts, theatricals or moving pictures.”

One major difference between the Banditos case and the Illusions hearing held on July 10 is that there was community opposition in the Banditos case. For Illusions, Frank Shaulis had informed the Board that the South Baltimore Neighborhood Association supported the project.

Transfers

Applicants Vladimir Semerey & Emre Bektas
Business Name 900 Pizza, LLC
Trading As Trade name pending
Address 900 S. Kenwood Avenue
Type of License Class “BD7” Beer, Wine & Liquor
Reason for hearing Application to transfer ownership, request for outdoor table service and live entertainment
Hearing notes

Mr. Kodenski represented the two applicants; there were no protestants at the hearing. Mr. Kodenski noted, “You may remember last week or two weeks ago, we asked for an extension for Semper Fi.” (For more on the July 10 Semper Fi hearing, clickf here.) The application to transfer ownership was pending and the licensees have now had time to meet with the community. Kodenski submitted a letter of support signed by Mr. Daniel Tracy of the Canton Community Association. Kodenski also submitted the CCA’s outdoor seating guidelines, which the applicants agreed to be bound by. The applicants only intend to do trivia nights as their live entertainment.

Commissioner Moore asked whether the transfer will take place entirely within 180 days. Kodenski said that he would apply for a hardship extension if required and referred again to the Semper Fi case decided earlier. Moore interrupted him, saying, “let’s not talk about Semper Fi. If it were called again, I would vote differently. Just so [the applicants are] clear on what’s expected.”

Zoning R-8
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 900 S. Kenwood Ave, Baltimore, MD 21224
Attorney for licensee Mr. Melvin Kodenski
# in support 2
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 Dennis Hall
Business Name Serenity Lounge, LLC
Trading As Serenity Lounge
Address 1173-75 Sargeant Street
Type of License Class “BD7” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing Application to transfer ownership
Hearing notes

Mr. Kodenski represented the applicant before the Board, and Mr. Heinz Murray, Vice President of the Citizens of Pigtown, represented the Pigtown neighborhood.

Kodenski informed the Board that he has requested a postponement of the case in order to figure out the license’s chronology. The community organization is arguing that the license is expired under Article 2B section 10-504, but there is also a section 10-506 issue, because the previous licensee died. [Section 10-506 gives extra time when a licensee dies, to give time for the estate to transfer the license elsewhere. Murray, for the protestants, objected to the postponement, since a large number of community members were present to oppose the transfer, and it is difficult for them to take more time off work.

Judge Ward asked Murray whether there might be an opportunity to work out differences with the applicant, and Murray said that talking further would not change the opinion of the community.

The applicant, Mr. Dennis Hall, then testified. He said that he would like to keep the establishment the same, with an older crowd, 40 and over. He said, “there’s no place for us to go without the younger generation trying to take over.” Ward asked, “what do you mean by the younger crowd?” Hall replied, “the 25 and under crowd, the youth of today.” He wants the place to be a music venue for jazz and blues, among other genres. He plans to be open 11am-2am, seven days/week, with seven employees.

Kodenski attempted to explain the chronology of the license. The licensee died in July 2012. No one asked for an extension of time under Article 2B section 10-506 (which would have given the licensee’s estate up to 18 months to transfer the license). Richard Cohen bought the license as a “contract purchaser” and then sold it to Mr. Hall, the current applicant.

Executive Secretary Michelle Bailey-Hedgepeth stated that the Board did renew the license under the contract purchaser’s name this year.

Commissioner Jones asked, “how do we prove whether [the failure to grant the 18-month extension] was a staff oversight or whether the person didn’t do what he needed to do [to apply for the extension]? Ms. Bailey-Hedgepeth did not know. She offered more information: the renewal was processed late, on July 18, 2013. The last time that the establishment was operation was April 2013, according to an inspection conducted by inspector Sylvia Williams. The transfer application to Mr. Hall was filed on July 23, 2013.

Mr. Murray, for Citizens of Pigtown, testified that the neighbors surrounding the place would like the building to remain residential, as it is currently zoned. The license is expired, and the neighbors have felt much better off since the business has been closed. There is already another nonconforming bar 100 feet away. There are already plenty of establishments that serve alcohol within Pigtown’s boundaries.

Kodenski cross-examined Mr. Murray, asking “how long have you lived in that area?” Murray replied, “since 2007.” Kodenski asked, “has there always been a bar there?” Murray said yes. Kodenski pointed out that it was his understanding that there had been a bar at this location since the end of Prohibition, in 1934.

Murray pointed out that the transfer of ownership to Richard Cohen was never completed. Kodenski disagreed, saying that contract purchasers are not allowed to operate the place. Rather, they hold the license to be able to sell it to someone else.

Hearing the complexity of the timeline and the statutory provisions involved (as well as the possible Liquor Board staff error), Judge Ward changed his mind and allowed Kodenski to postpone the hearing to submit a written memorandum on the facts of the case as applied to Article 2B. Upon hearing the protest of Mr. Murray, Ward explained, “we have a two-step process.” The first part of the analysis is to decide whether the license is valid or expired under the law. Mr. Kodenski has to submit a memorandum to the Board to explain why the license is valid. If the license is valid, then the community can present testimony as to why they are opposed to the bar in this location.

The Board postponed the case until August 21.

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 1173-75 Sargeant St, Baltimore, MD
Attorney for licensee Mr. Melvin Kodenski
# in support 1
Attorney for community None
# of protestants 15
# of inspectors 0
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 or other issues observed

Article 2B section 10-506 states:

“Upon the death of the holder of any license, … the license shall expire. However, upon application to the … local licensing board, … and upon the payment of a fee of one dollar ($1.00), made by the executors or administrators of the deceased licensee … a certificate of permission may be granted for the continuation of the business in the name of the executors or administrators for the benefit of the estate of the deceased. The certificate of permission may be granted for a period not exceeding 18 months from the date of the granted permission.”

According to the testimony at this hearing, the executor or administrator of the deceased licensee’s estate never made any such application to the Liquor Board. If the testimony is accurate, this license expired upon the death of the licensee. (Strangely, section 10-506 does not provide a time limit within which the executor/administrator must submit this application for additional time, except in Carroll County, in which the time limit is 60 days (Article 2B section 10-506(c)(2). The Board might consider adding a time limit for 10-506 to their Rules and Regulations when the Board updates them this fall.)

If the executor did make the application required under Article 2B section 10-506, then the 180-day time period is stayed under Article 2B section 10-504(d)(2)(ii). Upon the transfer to the “contract purchaser” described by Mr. Kodenski, however, the 180-day clock would then re-start.

Applicant Sergio Colon
Business Name Restaurante Don Pancho Corp.
Trading As Restaurante Don Pancho
Address 4707 Eastern Avenue
Type of License Class “D” Beer & Wine License
Reason for hearing Application to transfer ownership & location for a “D” BW license presently located at 717 S. Broadway to 4707 Eastern Avenue
Hearing notes

Mr. Peter Prevas represented the applicant. Prevas corrected the corporate entity name in the docket, explaining that the applicant submitted his application before he retained Mr. Prevas as his attorney.

The current manager, Mr. Jose Luis Navarro testified about his restaurant. He serves Mexican food and has been a cook and a baker for ten years. The restaurant has ten tables and is open (currently, without a liquor license) for lunch and dinner. The kitchen closes at 10pm. Mr. Navarro would like to be able to serve beer and wine with food. The restaurant fits forty people; they cannot use the second floor. There is a little jukebox, but there will not be any live entertainment.

Judge Ward noted that there are three letters of opposition in the file from Mr. James Pringle. Prevas attempted to address the issues in the letter, though there were no community members at the hearing. He explained that the neighborhood believes that the applicant should apply for a Class B (restaurant) license, not a Class D tavern license. Prevas said that the licensee would agree to restrict his license to essentially function as a Class B restaurant license. The community association had expressed concern that the restrictions agreed to would disappear if the applicant sold the license; Prevas said that this is not his interpretation of the law. He believes that any restrictions would transfer with the license. However, the applicant could not come to an agreement with the community because they were interpreting the law differently. The applicant would be willing to agree to the restriction that his gross receipts would be at least 51% from sale of food.

Judge Ward reiterated that he was concerned about the opposition letters, which came from many in the Greektown community. He noted that the letters say that there are too many licenses in the area. There are fifteen liquor licensed establishments in a neighborhood of 3,000 residents. He quoted from one of the letters, which said, “Greektown does not need another liquor license” and noted that they have some “pretty powerful opposition.” Prevas replied that the address is in a business district, reiterating that there will be no sales of liquor. “I don’t think it has any impact other than his customers being able to drink a beer,” said Prevas.

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? Yes; no.
Location of entity’s principal office 4707 Eastern Ave. Baltimore, MD
Attorney for licensee Mr. Peter Prevas
# in support 2
Attorney for community None
# of protestants 0
# of inspectors 0
Result of hearing Application denied
Vote tally 2-1 (Ward & Jones against; Moore in favor)
Portions of state law cited in decision None
Other reasons given for decision Commissioner Moore said, “I wish that the opposition were here.” She voted yes on the application, given the applicant’s willingness to limit their Class D license to the terms of a Class B restaurant license via voluntary restrictions on the license.
Issues raised in audit present in this case or other issues observed None
Applicants Nimesh Shah & Jigna Patel
Business Name Reema Enterprises, Inc.
Trading As Trade name pending
Address 4419-B York Road
Type of License Class “A” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing Application to transfer ownership & location of a class “A” BWL license presently located at 5518 Hillen Road to 4419-B York Road
Hearing notes

About 25 protestants were led by Councilmember Bill Henry, who told the Board that the proposed location is within 300 feet of “both a school and a church and so we were kind of wondering do we have to say anything more than that?” Kodenski chimed in, “I don’t have any proof that that’s correct.” Executive Secretary Michelle Bailey-Hedgepeth said, according to the inspectors’ measurements, the location is within 300 feet of a school but not of a church. Insepctor John Howard measured with a laser measurement device that the building is 279 feet from the Guilford Elementary School and 342 feet from the nearest church.

Kodenski then explained that the licensee has agreed to take only the southern portion of the 4419 York Road building, which would make the building further than 300 feet away. Kodenski asked where Mr. Howard took his measurements from, and Ms. Bailey-Hedgepeth said that he didn’t specify. Kodenski said, “that’s going to be a problem.” He explained that this problem had arisen in Baltimore County, and Judge Joseph Murphy had ruled that inspectors must be precise about where they take their measurements. Chairman Ward said, “I think the Board has the right to adopt its own investigations. We must accept our own inspectors’ testimony as long as there’s no evidence to the contrary.”

Councilmember Henry pointed out that the building has not been subdivided, so “this 4419B address has no reality.” If the applicants were to formally separate the building and the city assigned a new address, that would be a conversation to be had in the future. Right now, there is no 4419B York Road, and there is no application for subdivision of the building pending.

Chairman Ward decided that, if the school is within 300 feet, and there is no evidence to the contrary, then the application cannot be approved. However, he decided to also hear all of the testimony, because he didn’t want to reschedule the hearing if the inspector was somehow found to be 10 feet off in his measurements.

The applicant then testified that he has been a licensee on Hillen Road since 2003. His building was purchased by BG&E, so he has to move his license within his legislative district. The store will be 900 square feet, so he is downsizing from his 3,200 foot store on Hillen Road. He was active in the community at his previous location; he submitted letters of commendation from community groups, a petition in favor of the transfer signed by 540 people, and a list of names of people present in favor of the transfer. Mr. Shah then submitted photographs of other York Road liquor stores, pointing out that many people were loitering near the entrance; he told the Board, “my store never has loitering. I am very strict about that; I try to keep it clean.” He promised to have no adverse effect on trash or the neighborhood crime rate.

Mr. Timothy Chriss, attorney for the Guilford Association, told the Board that he represents Guilford, a neighborhood with 800 single family residences located west of subject premises. He reiterated that 4419 York Road is within 300 feet of a school and pointed out that the law prohibits the building from being within 300 feet of a school, not the premises within the building. Judge Ward reminded Mr. Chriss that he already agrees with the community groups on the 300-foot rule. Commissioner Jones said that he agreed with Judge Ward.

Councilmember Henry pointed out that the applicant, Mr. Shah, had submitted photographs of two blocks of York Road in which there are already three liquor stores. He said that there are another three existing stores closer to the proposed location than those depicted in those photographs. According to Henry, there is no public need for yet one more at this location. He added that the applicants’ former location on Hillen Road was also in his district. He has met with the applicant in the past and will continue to meet to find some other location that would better serve the community than this location. He also said that the community does not doubt Mr. Shah’s good character.

Mr. Chriss agreed with Mr. Henry, saying, “we believe that York Road contains more than enough liquor establishments. This particular one is right at the entrace of Northway into the Guilford community.” The Guilford Association and the other York Road Corridor neighborhoods have spent long hours and a lot of effort in attempting to stabilize and enhance York Road. It is a very difficult task, and they are committed to it.

Representatives from the York Road Partnership also testified in opposition to the transfer. Karen DeCamp, chair of the liquor committee for YRP, said that their opposition was not personal, but that a liquor store is just not needed in the location. Chris Forrest, President of YRP, told the Board that there are many churches and another school close by. Mr. Shah does not have loiterers, because people do not loiter in front of convenience stores like they do in front of liquor stores. Representatives from the Wilson Park Community Association and the Richnor Springs Neighborhood Association testified about the children who attend Guilford Elementary School, many of whom have to walk directly past the proposed establishment to get home. Other community residents brought up concerns about safety and crime. Mr. Curt Schwartz, from Richnor Springs, said that the community would welcome any other kind of business on York Road: a grocery store, a bank, a podiatrist, a retail shop, a doctor’s office, a veterinarian’s office, “all the things that help build a community.” He added, “you can’t throw a dead cat without hitting a liquor store.”

Kodenski, in his closing argument, chalked up the conflict to a “difference of opinion.” “Some people like things and some people don’t like them,” he said. The character of the applicant is not in doubt, and no one had anything bad to say about his convenience store. Ward said, “I think the evidence is clear: they don’t want him in this location, but they’re not attacking him personally.” Kodenski replied, “you can’t say this ‘they’ (pointing to the protestants) is better than that ‘they’ (pointing to the supporters). These are their customers.”

Commissioner Moore asked, “when school lets out, where do the children go?” Karen DeCamp, of the York Road Partnership, said that the Guilford School is located on the west side of York Road, but the majority of the students live on the east side of York Road, so they have to cross the street. Many of the 400 students that attend Guilford Elementary will have to walk by 4419 York Road every day. “They have to run a gauntlet of liquor stores to get to and from their school every day. That’s the spirit of the 300 foot rule.” Moore then asked the applicant whether he sells gum, chips, and soda to kids from his convenience store. Kodenski chimed in, upset that there seems to be some argument that it is wrong to have kids inside a licensed establishment. He said, “I grew up in the bar, I lived in the bar” though he did qualify his statements by saying, “if you sell to kids, you’re wrong.”

Zoning B-3-2
Neighborhood Wilson Park
Area demographics 5% White, 91% Black, 0% Asian; 1% Hispanic ethnicity; 34% households have children under age 18; 18% households below poverty line; median household income: $38,396.20
Does corp entity exist, in good standing? Yes; yes.
Location of entity’s principal office 4419 York Rd, Baltimore, MD
Attorney for licensee Mr. Melvin Kodenski
# in support ~20
Attorney for community Mr. Timothy Chriss
# of protestants ~20
# of inspectors 0
Result of hearing Denied.
Vote tally Unanimous
Portions of state law cited in decision None
Other reasons given for decision

The Board made two determinations: first, that the license is barred by law if it is within 300 feet of Guilford Elementary School, which the inspector’s measurements say that it is. Secondly, even if the inspector made a mistake in his measurements, the Board voted no based on the factors of Article 2B section 10-202(a). Ward said that the location is inappropriate for a license. Jones agreed, saying that the license is not needed. Moore also agreed, noting that she thinks it is great that the community members are paying so much attention to the school. Judge Ward addressed the supporters of the license, saying that the problem was not with the applicant but with the location of the proposed establishment.

Issues raised in audit present in this case or other issues observed None
Licensee Gurpreet Kaur Sandhu
Business Name #1 Discount Liquors, Inc.
Trading As Saratoga Discount Liquor
Address 211 W. Saratoga Street
Type of License None provided in docket
Reason for hearing Violation of Rule 4.10(a): “No licensee shall purchase alcoholic beverages except from a duly licensed manufacturer or wholesaler; nor shall any licensee sell to any other licensee any alcoholic beverages; and no licensee shall, at any time, keep or permit to be kept upon the licensed premises, any alcoholic beverages unless purchased in accordance with the Rule” (Re: On March 13, 2014, Agents from the Office of the Comptroller found a bottle of alcohol in the establishment that was inventory purchased by another licensed establishment)
Hearing notes

Though this case was a violation case, scheduled for 1:00, the Board called it early, before their recess.

Mr. Gary Maslan represented the licensee, Ms. Gurpreet Kaur Sandhu. The Comptroller’s agent, Mike Calvert, testified that they had inspected Ms. Sandhu’s husband’s store in Baltimore County and had found boxes with the address of the Saratoga Street store, so they also inspected Ms. Sandhu’s store. She had $343 worth of merchandise alcohol in her store which was purchased by her husband’s store; they had a practice of moving bottles back and forth between their stores, based on their needs and inventory. The Comptroller’s office has no other issues with Ms. Sandhu, and she was apologetic and cooperative when she understood her mistake. Maslan added, “she’s got the message; she’s been traumatized.”

The Chairman noted that this establishment had been found guilty of a Rule 4.01(a) (underage sale) violation on March 21, 2013; Mr. Maslan said, “that was a long time ago.”

Zoning B-4-2
Neighborhood Downtown
Area demographics 39% White, 37% Black, 16% Asian, 3% 2 or more races; 5% Hispanic ethnicity; 9% of households have children under age 18; Median Household Income: $38,146; 18% households live below poverty line
Does corp entity exist, in good standing? Yes; yes.
Location of entity’s principal office 215 W. Saratoga St, Baltimore, MD
Attorney for licensee Mr. Gary Maslan
# in support 1
Attorney for community None
# of protestants 0
# of inspectors 1
Result of hearing Responsible. $1,500 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 or other issues observed None

1:00 p.m. cases

Violations

Licensee Brian Acquavella
Business Name SF Life, Inc.
Trading As Blue Agave Restaurant
Address 1032 Light Street
Type of License Class “B” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing Violation of Rule 3.11: “Licensees shall provide containers for the disposition of garbage and refuse material that conform with the requirements of the bureau of Sanitation of Baltimore City, shall keep such containers covered at all times, and shall remove all refuse material regularly to avoid accumulation” (Re: February 21, 2014, inspector found accumulated debris at establishment)
Hearing notes

Inspector Joann Martin was present to testify, but the licensee was not. After Board staff reviewed the file, they found a request for a postponement from attorney Frank Shaulis.

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 1032 Light St, Baltimore, MD
Attorney for licensee None
# in support 0
Attorney for community None
# of protestants 0
# of inspectors 1
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 or other issues observed None
Licensees Chang Yim & Mun Sik Haberkam
Business Name Linden Bar & Liquors, Inc.
Trading As Linden Bar & Liquors
Address 904-08 W. North Avenue
Type of License Class “BD7” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing

Violation of Rule 5.03(b): “The square footage devoted to the sale of package goods must at all times be subordinate/accessory to the tavern/lounge operation which must be maintained as described in this rule. Only square footage accessible to the public shall be considered in determining compliance with this section. The Board, in consultation with the Zoning Administrator, City of Baltimore, shall have final authority in determining whether a licensee is in compliance with this section. The bar/lounge area must be operative for business at all times the premises is open to the public” (Re: June 5, 2014, Inspector found tavern portion of establishment filled with stock)

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” (Re: June 5, 2014, Inspector found exit door locked.

Hearing notes

The case was postponed for another date. The inspector who filed these charges has had a stroke and is in the hospital.

Zoning B-2-3
Neighborhood Reservoir Hill
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; no.
Location of entity’s principal office 904-8 W. North Ave., Baltimore, MD
Attorney for licensee None
# in support 0
Attorney for community None
# of protestants 0
# of inspectors 0
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 or other issues observed None
Licensees Priscilla Thompson & Thomas Thompson
Business Name K’s Korner, Inc.
Trading As K’s Korner
Address 2300 Sidney Avenue
Type of License Class “D” Beer & Wine License
Reason for hearing

Violation 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.” (Re: September 25, 2013 Liquor Board Inspector observed a large crowd loitering in front of the establishment)

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: September 25, 2013, Liquor Board Inspector observed patrons dancing and DJ playing music-providing live entertainment without permission from the board; Liquor Board Inspector observed patrons smoking inside establishment)

Hearing notes

These violations were originally scheduled for a hearing in December 2013, but the Liquor Board inspectors were not able to serve the licensees with notice of the hearing. To read more about the inspectors’ testimony from that hearing, click here.

Inspector Karen Brooks testified about what happened on September 25, 2013. Ms. Brooks arrived at the scene at 10:42pm in response to a 311 noise complaint. There was a massive, rowdy crowd outside of the establishment. There was also a DJ playing music and food served inside. Some patrons were smoking inside. The licensee came downstairs, and Ms. Brooks informed her of the violations, but while Brooks was talking to Ms. Thompson, a “melee broke out outside,” and they got distracted from their conversation. Ms. Brooks said that she did not feel safe at the establishment, so she left.

Ms. Thompson cross-examined Ms. Brooks, asking, “we were also closing, and you saw the people that were leaving?” Brooks replied, “no, they weren’t leaving.” Ms. Thompson said that the only crowd that gathered did so because Ms. Brooks announced that she was an agent of the Liquor Board. Finding it difficult to ask questions of Ms. Brooks rather than testify, Ms. Thompson said, “there was no DJ.” Brooks said that there was a DJ. Brooks testified that she saw a microphone, a computer set up, and equipment to mix music. There were far more than nine people outside the bar. She testified that Ms. Thompson was not holding the door to let people out, as she was insisting; rather, Ms. Thompson was upstairs and came from the upper level. Then, while Ms. Brooks was talking to her, Ms. Thompson got sick and couldn’t breathe, and people gathered around were asking if she needed the paramedics.

Ms. Priscilla Thompson, one of the two licensees, then testified that they always close at 11pm. She was holding the door open for a man named Chris, who was not a DJ but was just “playing CDs” to take his CDs outside. Ward noted, “you’re not charged with playing CDs. You’re charged with a large crowd.” Ms. Thompson then said there was no one smoking when Ms. Brooks arrived, and she was closing the bar at about 10 minutes to 11pm.

Ms. Thompson added that her bar has not been open since October and said that Ms. Brooks closed the bar and said they couldn’t reopen until they heard from Brooks personally. Ms. Brooks denied that statement, saying she had no idea what Ms. Thompson was talking about and that that was not the Board’s policy. Regarding the December 5 hearing, Brooks and inspector Joann Martin testified that they had called the Thompsons many times and left voicemail messages; they had sent mail to the bar’s address and to the Thompsons’ home address on file. Finally, they figured out the Thompsons’ correct address and drove out to Glen Burnie to serve them with notice of the hearings.

Zoning R-7
Neighborhood Westport
Area demographics Baltimore Neighborhood Indicators Alliance (BNIA) does not have census information for this neighborhood.
Does corp entity exist, in good standing? Yes; no.
Location of entity’s principal office 2300 Sidney Ave, Baltimore, MD
Attorney for licensee None
# in support 1
Attorney for community None
# of protestants 0
# of inspectors 2 (Inspector Brooks & Inspector Martin)
Result of hearing Responsible for the violations, but no fine.
Vote tally Unanimous.
Portions of state law cited in decision None.
Other reasons given for decision

Due to the confusion with whether or not the Thompsons were properly served and because their bar had been closed since the violation, Judge Ward said that he would suspend the fine for the violations as well as the administrative costs.

Issues raised in audit present in this case or other issues observed None
DISCLAIMER Community Law Center staff attorney Susan Hughes represented the community association in this case.
Licensee Jose Ribadeneira
Business Name Latin Palace-Uno, Inc.
Trading As Latin Palace
Address 509-13 S. Broadway
Type of License Class “BD7” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing

Violation of Rule 3.02: “Licensees shall cooperate with representative of the Board, members of the Police Department, Health Department, Building Engineer’s office, Grand Jury and representatives of other governmental agencies whenever any such persons are on official business.” (Re: December 7, 2013, licensee refused to produce identification when requested by police officer).

Violation of Rule 3.06: “Licensees shall operate their establishments at all times in accordance with the requirements of the Health Department of Baltimore City, the Building Code of Baltimore City and the rules and regulations of the Fire Department of Baltimore City.” (Re: December 7, 2013, police found exit doors locked during hours of operation).

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.” (Re: November 3, 2013, providing live entertainment without permission-patrons dancing in establishment)

Violation of Rule 3.02: “ Licensees shall cooperate with representative of the Board, members of the Police Department, Health Department, Building Engineer’s office, Grand Jury and representatives of other governmental agencies whenever any such persons are on official business.” (Re: February 20, 2014, providing live entertainment without permission-licensee held a live boxing match after he was instructed to cancel the event)

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.” (Re: February 20, 2014, providing live entertainment without permission-licensee held a live boxing match in violation of restrictions included on liquor license)

Hearing notes

When the hearing began, the licensee was not present. Judge Ward noted that he entered a “not responsible” plea on behalf of the absent licensee.

Inspector Karen Brooks testified that on February 12, 2014, at 7:19pm, she responded to a 311 sanitation complaint at the licensed premises. She did not find the complaint to be substantiated, but, while she was there, she saw an advertisement for a boxing match to take place on February 20, 2013. She advised the licensee that he did not have permission to host the boxing match, because he does not have permission to hold live entertainment under the restrictions on his liquor license. On February 20, 2014, she returned to the establishment and saw around 150 spectators, a four-sided boxing ring, and a boxing match going on. She told the licensee again that he did not have permission to hold the boxing match and told him to stop the match. Mr. Ribadeneira said that he couldn’t stop the match. Brooks then told him that he would face a noncooperation charge. She submitted photographs of the event that she took on February 20.

Baltimore Police Officer Todd Brown testified about the charges dated November 3, 2013 and December 7, 2013. He responded to the establishment on November 3 at 1:20am for a regular business check. There were 40-50 patrons dancing; when Officer Brown checked the liquor license on the wall, the license restrictions printed on the license said that there could be no live entertainment or dancing. He advised the licensee that he was in violation of the restrictions on his license. On December 7, at 1:00am, Officer Brown saw 15-20 patrons dancing in the establishment. The manager on duty did not have any ID, and he refused to take the license off the wall so that the officer could read it. The manager insisted that he had a permit for live entertainment. Mr. Ribadeneira then appeared and also refused to show any ID. Brown noticed that the exit doors of the premises were locked, which was against the code. Baltimore Police Lieutenant William Colburn, who was also present that night, concurred with Brown’s testimony. Colburn said that each time an officer has tried to tell Mr. Ribadeneira that he is in violation of his license, the licensee has responded that he had been operating this way for 16-17 years and does not intend to change his operations.

The Board then heard community testimony about Latin Palace. Ms. Joanne Masopust, president of the Fells Point Community Organization (FPCO), read from a prepared statement, which said that every year since 1999, Mr. Ribadeneira’s liquor license has listed a set of conditions and restrictions. On August 23, 2013, the licensee filed an application with the Board to have the restrictions removed. All of violations in question before the Board that day occurred after Mr. Ribadeneira asked the Board to remove the restrictions. There are other violations pending for this address. Mr. Ribadeneira has showed arrogance and disrespect to the Board, its inspectors and the community, by stating in words and actions that he is going to do whatever he wants. Mr. Ribadeneira told community members that the Liquor Board knew that he regularly held live entertainment in violation of his license restrictions, and the Board did nothing about it. When the Latin Palace opened with a capacity of 652, the community was concerned. They carefully negotiated conditions and restrictions on the license in order to protect the community. There are seventy-two operating establishments in Fells Point, and it is essential for the wellbeing of the community that the licensees adhere to their restrictions and conditions. Mr. Ribadeneira has been issued fines and suspensions and has had two compliance conferences with the Board. He has flagrantly violated the restrictions on his license. “We cannot have an establishment this large in our community that has flagrantly disregarded the rules,” said Masopust. She added that the fact that Mr. Ribadeneira didn’t show up today further displays that his arrogance and disrespect. She asked that the Board issue a substantial fine and revoke the license.

Mr. Mondell Powell, a neighbor to Latin Palace, also testified. He showed the Chairman a map of the properties, to which Chairman Ward noted, “you are certainly impacted, there’s no doubt.” When Mr. Powell purchased his property, he spoke with the previous owner about the problems that he had had with the Latin Palace and Mr. Ribadeneira. It was a “very acrimonious relationship.” Mr. Powell “decided that [he] was going to approach it a different way” and “appeal to the licensee’s business sense and corporate citizenship.” Powell spoke with Ribadeneira on numerous occasions on different issues. Powell testified that the licensee has held live entertainment every weekend for the past eight years. The last conversation that Powell had with Ribadeneira was on June 1 at 1:30am; he thought the dishes in his cabinets were going to fall out onto the floor. The music was very loud, with a very heavy bass. The licensee apologized and turned down the music a little bit, after a few minutes. Two weeks later, Mr. Ribadeneira texted Powell and said, “I apologize for inconvenience, but please keep in mind that we rely on these events to pay our bills.”

At this point, Mr. Ribadeneira arrived at the hearing. He explained that his attorney, Mr. John Pica, had told him that his hearing was postponed. Executive Secretary Michelle Bailey-Hedgepeth told Judge Ward that Mr. Ribadeneira may have gotten confused between the Liquor Board hearing and the BMZA hearing on the same issue. Ward replied, “whatever his problem is, that’s his problem.”

Mr. Ribadeneira was then given the opportunity to cross-examine Mr. Powell, though he had not heard his testimony. Ribadeneira asked, “what was the issue, the music was loud?” Powell replied, “it’s not solely me, but I’m most directly impacted by your operations and the fact that you do live entertainment on a weekly basis. With my property adjoining yours, it directly impacts me. I’ve made it a point to try to befriend you because I knew of the problems that the previous owners had. Each time, I was rebuffed. We are continually impacted by your operation, both by noise, your patrons spilling out into the streets at 2am, rowdy, boisterous, lack of parking, directly impacts not just the community but directly impacts me.”

Ms. Susan Hughes, from the Community Law Center, then presented some additional information about the parcel of land where the Latin Palace is located; the parcel is larger than just the 509-13 Broadway address. Ms. Hughes also provided documents written in Mr. Ribadeneira’s own hand that he would not offer live entertainment or dancing. She pointed out that the restriction has been printed on every license issued for this address since the 1990s.

Mr. Ribadeneira then had his chance to testify. He said that Governor Martin O’Malley has performed at the Latin Palace five times. He was not aware that he could not do what he was charged with, and he approached the Board to ask them to remove the restrictions against live entertainment. He has for many many years had visits from Liquor Board inspectors and every single time was notified that there were no violations. He asked, “what is the community? Eight people? That’s not my community.” In response to commissioners’ questioning, Ms. Masopust and Mr. Victor Corbin of the Fells Prospect Community Association testified that there were representatives from the Latino community of Fells Point present when the restrictions were created. Mr. Ribadeneira continued with his testimony; he did not deny the police officers’ or inspector’s testimony, but he said that in previous years, the inspectors had never told him that he was in violation of his license. He said, “I do have support from my community. If I would have had a chance, I would have [brought] 5,000 people [to the hearing].”

Judge Ward said, “You were told not to hold that boxing match and you went ahead and did it.” Ribadeneira responded that it was a fundraising event and that he wasn’t aware that he did not have permission to hold the match. He thought that he had asked for permission.

Commissioner Moore then told Mr. Ribadeneira that, in March 2000, she met her husband at the Latin Palace. When she drives by the Latin Palace, she tells her children about it. “It was a wonderful place,” said Moore. “But you have to operate within the laws. There are not laws for different communities; there are rules that apply to all licenses, [and] you are not excepted from those rules. It’s not about who are your friends and who is your community, it’s about the law.” Moore said that it does appear that there have been violations and that Ribadeneira has been aware of the restrictions but has operated as though they did not exist. She noted that it was difficult for her to hear the testimony against him, because she likes the Latin Palace, but the licensee cannot operate in the way he has operated. “We all have to live together,” said Moore. Commissioner Jones said, “I concur with Commissioner Moore; she said it quite nicely.”

Ms. Hughes asked Mr. Ribadeneira if he was aware that he had restrictions on his license. He responded that “it never went through [his] mind that [he] was doing something illegal.” Ms. Hughes also pointed out that his license is for a private club, but that there are no bylaws on file, as required.

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.
Location of entity’s principal office 509-13 S. Broadway, Baltimore, MD
Attorney for licensee None
# in support 1
Attorney for community Ms. Susan Hughes
# of protestants ~3
# of inspectors/police 2
Result of hearing Responsible for all charges. 2 month suspension.
Vote tally Unanimous.
Portions of state law cited in decision None.
Other reasons given for decision

Judge Ward said to Mr. Ribadeneira, “you have a major problem. Somewhere along the line, you have gotten the idea that you can do what you want to do, but you can’t.” Ward said that he would like to issue a four-month suspension. Commissioner Moore agreed that “a serious penalty needs to be imposed” but that “a four-month suspension puts [Ribadeneira] out of business.” She would prefer a two-month suspension, and she would not want to see the establishment reopened unless and until the licensee partners with someone who will guide him in the proper operation of that business. Jones agreed with Moore on the suspension, noting “there may be some other [violations] coming [the Board’s] way with [Ribadeneira’s] name on it.” He added, to the crowd, “all of you live in the same community. You do have to get along and communicate.”

Ward agreed to the two month suspension (rather than four months) and added, “if there is an appeal, the Liquor Board is opposed to the lifting of the suspension.” Moore and Jones agreed that the suspension should not be stayed pending the appeal, as has been the Board’s policy in the past. As the hearing ended, Ward remarked to Mr. Ribadeneira, “when I think of what you’ve done to your neighbor, how he could stand it for 8 years, I don’t know.”

Issues raised in audit present in this case or other issues observed

Mr. Ribadeneira’s allegation that inspectors had looked the other way and not enforced his live entertainment restrictions lines up with the devastating 2013 Legislative Audit of the BLLC. The Audit found that inspectors had gone essentially unsupervised for years and that there were few policies in place to ensure that the Board was properly enforcing the law.

Licensees Hwa Young Lee & Seon Joo Lee
Business Name Bacchus Bar & Liquors, Inc.
Trading As Bacchus Bar & Liquor
Address 1220 W. North Avenue
Type of License Class “BD7” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing Violation of Rule 5.03(a): “The holder of Class BD7 Beer, Wine and Liquor license must operate an on premise consumption establishment with on-premises consumption.” (Re: March 5, 2014, police detective was refused entrance to bar area while still providing package good service)
Hearing notes

The licensees asked for a postponement due to illness.

Zoning B-2-3
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 1220 W North Ave, Baltimore, MD
Attorney for licensee None
# in support 0
Attorney for community None
# of protestants 0
# of inspectors 0
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 or other issues observed None
Licensees Davide Parravano & Ivano Parravano
Business Name Conkling Holdings, Inc.
Trading As Los Paisanos
Address 200 S. Conkling Street
Type of License Class “BD7” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing

Violation of Rule 4.02: “No licensee shall 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 know to be a habitual drunkard or user of narcotic drugs” (Re: February 22, 2014, a male patron who had been escorted from the bar by security personnel was found extremely intoxicated by police officer)

Violation of Rule 4.16: “No licensee shall allow his premises to be used for the purpose of possession, transfer or use of any narcotic drug” (Re: February 1, 2014, Police executed a search & seizure warrant and recovered narcotics inside licensed establishment)

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 public peace, safety, health, welfare, quiet or morals” (Re: February 1, 2014, police executed a search & seizure warrant and recovered narcotics inside licensed establishment)

Violation of Rule 4.16: “No licensee shall allow his premises to be used for the purpose of possession, transfer or use of any narcotic drug” (Re: January 10, 2014, police officer observed the sale of drugs on the licensed premises)

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 public peace, safety, health, welfare, quiet or morals” (Re: January 10, 2014, police officer observed the sale of drugs on the licensed premises)

Hearing notes

The first violation, of Rule 4.02 on February 22, 2014, was postponed for another hearing. The police officer who witnessed the event and wrote the report was on vacation.

Baltimore Police Officer Israel Villodas testified about the remaining four charges. He told the Board that the police had been working with a confidential informant who informed them that a 27-year-old Hispanic male was conducting drug sales inside the bar. On January 10, 2014, the police sent the informant into the licensed premises with no contraband and departmentally marked cash to purchase drugs. The informant engaged in a short conversation with the suspected drug dealer, and he exchanged a small object for the marked departmental funds. Officer Villodas followed the informant to a nearby location and retrieved the object purchased, which was white powder in a small plastic bag, suspected to be cocaine. When the police went back into the bar, the suspected drug dealer went into the bathroom and then came out with no narcotics on him. He did have $760 on him, including the marked departmental cash. Officer Villodas said that he suspected that the man had flushed the rest of the drugs that he had down the toilet. Mr. Kodenski cross-examined the officer about his testimony, which he essentially repeated. The licensee was not present at the time of the alleged drug sale, as far as the officer knew. Kodenski asked why the man would go into the bathroom when he saw Villodas, since he was undercover, and Officer Villodas replied, “he knows me from previous… conversations.”

Villodas continued with his testimony: on February 1, 2014, at 10:30pm, the police executed a search warrant which had been signed by a judge on January 29. A raid team, including Villodas, Lieutenant William Colburn and many others, apprehended several individuals inside the establishment. One of the suspects threw a napkin on the floor which was tied around a plastic bag containing 87 small clear plastic wraps with a white powder substance inside, which the police suspected to be cocaine. Kodenski pointed out that Villodas did not have the results of the lab testing on the white powder retrieved. Villodas testified that, while he did not have the lab results, he has undergone extensive training, including 64 hours of specialized training in controlled dangerous substances (CDS). He has previously been admitted to courts as an expert witness.

Judge Ward was upset by the fact that the officer did not bring the lab results to the hearing. “I can’t believe what I’m hearing,” Ward said. Villodas explained that he had never testified at a Liquor Board hearing before and did not realize that he needed to bring the results with him. Ward asked, “in your opinion, as an expert in the field of narcotics, what do you think [the powdered substance] was?” Officer Villodas responded that he thought it was powdered cocaine.

After cross-examining the officer on his testimony regarding the evening of February 1, Mr. Kodenski, for the licensees, made a motion to dismiss the charges, since, according to his argument, there was “no evidence of what the substance was,” no one in management or security was charged with a crime, and there was no evidence that the licensee knew about the sale of drugs. Kodenski added, “people sell phony drugs, lookalikes.”

Judge Ward granted Kodenski’s motion, because he was “very disturbed” that the officer did not have proof that the powder sold was cocaine. He told Kodenski, however, that it doesn’t matter if the licensee was aware or was charged with a crime. Licensees are always responsible for the conduct of their customers.

Zoning R-8
Neighborhood Highlandtown
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 200 S Conkling St, Baltimore, MD
Attorney for licensee Mr. Melvin Kodenski
# in support ~5
Attorney for community None
# of protestants 0
# of inspectors/police 1
Result of hearing Charges dismissed.
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 The Board uses a “preponderance of the evidence” standard when deciding whether to hold a licensee liable for a violation, rather than a criminal “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard. The preponderance standard means that the Board has to decide whether it was more likely than not that the licensee was responsible for the violation. If there was a greater than 50% chance that the white powder was cocaine, the Board should have found the licensee to be responsible. Based on the officer’s testimony, the Commissioners could have reasonably decided either way on the responsibility for the charge; however, it was not necessary (and was probably improper) for the Chairman to dismiss the charges.
Licensee Brian Winfield
Business Name Eagle Entertainment, LLC
Trading As Paparazzi Night Club
Address 407 E. Saratoga 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: January 28, 2014, alcoholic beverage sold to an underage male patron)
Hearing notes

Baltimore Police Detective LC Greenhill submitted his report of what occurred on January 26, 2014, at 2am. Greenhill testified that he saw a juvenile exiting the club with a bottle of Moet champagne in his jacket. The juvenile told police that he had gotten the bottle from inside the establishment. Kodenski cross-examined Greenhill asking “you didn’t see anybody sell or furnish anything to anybody?” Greenhill replied, “correct.”

Kodenski then made a motion to dismiss the charge, because there was no evidence presented that the licensee sold or furnished alcohol to the underage individual. Chairman Ward denied the motion. Kodenski then pointed out that the docket refers to the incident as taking place on January 28, but the police testified that it happened on January 26. Ward verified this and then said, “looks to me like you’ve done it again. Motion [to dismiss] granted.”

Zoning B-5-2
Neighborhood Downtown
Area demographics 39% White, 37% Black, 16% Asian, 3% 2 or more races; 5% Hispanic ethnicity; 9% of households have children under age 18; Median Household Income: $38,146; 18% households live below poverty line
Does corp entity exist, in good standing? Yes; no.
Location of entity’s principal office 1101 North Point Blvd, Baltimore, MD 21224
Attorney for licensee Mr. Melvin Kodenski
# in support 2
Attorney for community None
# of protestants 0
# of inspectors/police 1
Result of hearing Charges dismissed due to inaccurate docket
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

Transfer

Applicant Alfredo Vazquez
Business Name El Palacio Latino, Inc.
Trading As Trade name pending
Address 35 N. Potomac Street
Type of License Class “BD7” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing Application to transfer ownership & location of a class “BD7” BWL license presently located at 105 S. Conkling Street to 35 N. Potomac Street
Hearing notes

This hearing was a do-over of the May 1 hearing before Commissioners Smith and Jones. For more on what happened at the May 1 hearing, click here.

Mr. Kodenski, again representing the applicant, was present to advocate for the transfer, with around twenty people in support. Mr. H. David Leibensperger, president of and attorney for the Patterson Park Neighborhood Association (PPNA), was also present to advocate against the transfer, with twenty people in opposition. All of the previously submitted exhibits and the transcript from the May 1 hearing were submitted to the current commissioners.

Under questioning from Kodenski, Mr. Alfredo Vasquez adopted all of his previous testimony. His brother, Luis, is going to run the establishment; Luis lives above the bar at 35 N. Potomac. Alfredo will “help out.” Leibensperger cross-examined Mr. Vasquez, asking about the vermin problem at the property, Luis’s son’s criminal history, and Vasquez’s knowledge of the neighborhood.

Judge Ward asked whether the police complaints at 105 Conkling Street were due to the applicant’s actions? Mr. Vasquez responded that his brother, Luis Vasquez, worked at 105 Conkling during that time. Mr. Luis Vasquez then testified that he had nothing to do with the police calls during the previous summer and that there was no narcotic or prostitution activity while he was there, to his knowledge.

Community member William Gross testified in favor of the transfer. Mr. Gross has known Luis for a while as the manager of other establishments, such as Las Tejitas on Eastern Avenue, in Greektown. He is not familiar with Alfredo, but he is confident in Luis’s ability to manage an establishment. Commissioner Moore asked Gross, “How far is the Patterson Park Charter School from this location?” Gross was not sure. She asked, “how would you describe the area around the location? A residential street?” He replied yes, that it was a residential area. She asked whether there were any other restaurants or liquor establishments on the block. Gross replied no, but added that, in that neighborhood, there are so many end-of-the-block type of establishments. Mr. Leibensperger then cross-examined Gross, asking him how long he has lived in Patterson Park (5 years) and whether he is familiar with Teen Challenge, the church across the street from the location (he was not).

Mr. Leibensperger then called community member Robbyn Lewis to testify about her experience. She has lived on the same block as the proposed establishment for twelve years. She works as a public health researcher and consultant. When 35 Potomac Street was open as “Potomac Tavern,” between the years of 2002 to 2006 or 2007, it was a source of disruption, noise, chaos, crime and trash. The business was never an asset to the neighborhood, only a detriment. It was a source for carryout alcohol, and patrons would consume alcohol on the street or on the stoops of homeowners. There were often fights. She did not believe that there was any need or desire for a liquor store at that location. Patterson Park contains a stable population of white, black and Latino residents. “As a public health professional, I can state with confidence that the presence of bars in neighborhoods is a detriment to public health,” she said. She testified that opening an establishment in that location would create issues with parking conditions for residents, especially those who work a night shift. She said that when Potomac Tavern was open, half of the houses on the block (18 out of 36) were vacant, and now they’re all occupied, which means more cars parked on the street.

Baltimore Police Lieutenant William Colburn testified next. He stated that it is his experience that the opening of new alcohol carryout businesses, in transitional neighborhoods like Patterson Park, may draw criminal activity towards the new establishment. If the transfer goes through, he believes that it’s likely that the neighborhood will experience an increase in certain kinds of street crimes. Based on the address’s proximity to a drug shop on Curley Street between Fairmount and Fayette, as well as the existing unfortunate robbery problem along Fairmount and Fayette, Colburn expressed concerns. Carryout alcohol businesses are less likely to be a detriment in neighborhoods which are not so close to areas with criminal challenges. Baltimore Police Officer Brown also was present but did not offer any relevant testimony.

Mr. Matt Gonter then testified that the property is zoned residential (R-8). The property was last used as a “tavern” in 2009. The license was transferred to another address in 2010 or 2011, and there has been no liquor license there since 2011. Any previous zoning approval for the nonconditional use has expired by law under the zoning code. Kodenski agreed that Mr. Vasquez would need a use permit in order to operate.

Each side submitted a list of the people who were present in support or opposition. Mr. Leibensperger suggested that the Board verify whether the people in support of the transfer actually live in the Patterson Park neighborhood. PPNA also submitted a letter of opposition from Dr. Catherine Velopulos, who testified in opposition at the May 1 hearing and is a surgeon at Johns Hopkins Hospital.

In closing, Kodenski said, “I think that what we have here again is two different groups of people. When they put these studies out about alcohol, when they go to the bars they like, it’s not so terrible. … A bar by itself is not inherently evil.”

In his closing remarks, Leibensperger reiterated his zoning argument, that based on section 13-407 of the zoning code, the applicant can not apply for a use permit for a nonconforming use in a residential neighborhood that has been abandoned for more than one year. He then went through the factors listed in Article 2B section 10-202(a), which the Board is required to consider during a transfer of location. The factors from the statute are: “1. the public need and desire for the license; 2. the number and location of existing licenses 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.” Mr. Leibensperger argued that the applicant has not shown a public need and desire for the license, that there are already more than enough liquor stores and taverns nearby, that there is nothing unique about the products or services offered, and that the establishment would negatively impact the health, safety and welfare of the community.

Zoning R-8
Neighborhood Patterson Park
Area demographics BNIA did not have demographics available for Patterson Park.
Does corp entity exist, in good standing? Yes; no.
Location of entity’s principal office 35 N. Potomac St, Baltimore, MD
Attorney for licensee Mr. Melvin Kodenski
# in support ~20
Attorney for community Mr. H. David Leibensperger
# of protestants ~20
# of inspectors 0
Result of hearing Application denied.
Vote tally Unanimous.
Portions of state law cited in decision
Other reasons given for decision

Judge Ward stated that he based his decision on the entire record of the case, including the transcript from the May 1 hearing. He was convinced that the bar would not be a good thing for this stable neighborhood. He was particularly impressed with Ms. Lewis’s testimony about what had happened in the past with the previous tavern at the property.

Commissioner Jones concurred. He added that, in an R-8 district, a nonconforming use like a tavern is lost after two years of not using it. And once the property lost that tavern use, they would not be able to regain it, because the church exists across the street now.

Commissioner Moore agreed. She found the testimony from Ms. Lewis to be extremely compelling, as well as the letter from Dr. Velopulos and from Teen Challenge, the addiction recovery program across the street. She was convinced that the addition of a bar at this property would be devastating.

Issues raised in audit present in this case or other issues observed

The newly adopted section of the code, Article 2B section 10-202(a)(4), states, in part:

“(III) The Board or the Board’s designee shall examine each application for the issuance or transfer of a license within 45 days of receipt of the application to determine whether the application is complete. (IV) An application for the issuance, transfer, or renwal is not complete unless the applicant has: 1. obtained zoning approval or verification of zoning if the application is for renewal; 2. submitted all documents required in the application; and 3. paid all fines and fees that are due. (V) A license hearing may not be scheduled until the Board determines that the application is complete.”

In this case, the applicant had obviously not received zoning approval yet to operate a tavern at 35 N. Potomac Street. Therefore, this application was not complete and should not have been put on the docket until zoning approval was obtained.

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