Booze News: Distilled in Room 215

A blog about the Baltimore City Liquor Board

What happened at the Liquor Board on August 21, 2014.

Written by Becky Witt

11:00 a.m. cases

I. Reconsiderations

Licensee Elizer Neger
Business Name 4919 Belair, Inc.
Trading As Good Fellas Lounge
Address 4919 Belair Road
Type of License Class “BD7” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing Request for reconsideration of the Board’s decision of April 24, 2014
Hearing notes

The case was not called at all. The Board provided no explanation for whether or when this case would be rescheduled.

Zoning B-3-1
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 4919 Belair Rd, Baltimore, MD
Attorney for licensee None
# in support 0
Attorney for community None
# of protestants 0
# of inspectors/police officers 0
Result of hearing N/A
Vote tally N/A
Portions of state law cited in decision N/A
Other reasons given for decision N/A
Issues raised in audit present in this case or other issues observed

The Board has lately done a better job of explaining the reasons behind not calling cases that have been scheduled on the docket, but on August 21, the Board did not explain why it did not call the first or the last case.

II. Transfers and Amendments

Applicants Jason Sanchez, Antoine Gruver & Nina Kasniunas
Business Name Union Wharf Restaurant, LLC
Trading As trade name pending
Address 915 S. Wolfe Street
Type of License Class “B” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing Application for a new Class “B” Beer, Wine & Liquor restaurant license under the provisions of Article 2B Section 6-201 (d) (vii) $500,000 in capital investment in restaurant fixtures and facilities and seating capacity for a minimum of 75 people; requests for outdoor table service & off-premises catering
Hearing notes

Ms. Caroline Hecker and Mr. Stanley Fine, of Rosenberg Martin Greenberg, LLP, represented the applicants, who were all present. Community member Pamela Calce was present in opposition to the application for outdoor table service.

Ms. Calce testified that there is no agreement between the Fells Point community associations and the applicants. Ms. Hecker explained that the original plan and application proposed a larger number of outdoor tables and seats but that they had revised their plan to accomodate community wishes. The original plan showed 18 tables with 50 seats; the applicants revised it down to 34 outdoor seats along the sidewalk on both Thames and Wolfe streets.

Ms. Hecker presented her case first: she provided a certificate of good standing for the corporate entity. The building has been under construction for a while, but the applicants are expecting to open the restaurant in October or early November. There will be two sections of the establishment: one section will contain a market, including carryout food, and the other section will be a restaurant. There will be 126 seats, including 18 seats at the bar and 34 outdoor seats. Outdoor seating is permitted as of right under the Planned Unit Development (PUD), but the applicants have to receive permission from the BLLC in order to be able to serve alcohol at those outdoor seats. Chairman Ward pointed out that the building where the restaurant is opening used to be a concrete factory. The budget for the project is $1.3 million, which well exceeds the required capital investment of $500,000. There will be no live entertainment at this location.

Ms. Calce then had the opportunity to raise her concerns. She said that serving alcohol is always an issue in Fells Point. Outdoor tables tend to turn into drinking tables. She lives across the street, and there is a playground and park directly across the street. Calce expressed concerns about traffic levels and outdoor seating noise levels. There is also a stop sign at the intersection that people often don’t see. She said, “I would prefer to just not have the outdoor seating at all. I would prefer that alcohol not be served. It’s a little tiny slice in Fells Point that still remains family friendly.” She said that her children are in bed early and that she turns into an “angry bear mama” when their sleep is disrupted. She pointed out that the demographic of the residents of Union Wharf is very young.

Hecker responded that the applicants would agree to limit their alcohol service hours outside to 9am-10pm from Monday-Thursday and 9am-11pm on Friday and Saturday. Calce said that the closing times were too late. Her childrens’ bedrooms are nearby and sound echoes off the buildings.

Ward asked Ms. Hecker why her clients need to be able to serve alcohol outside? Hecker responded that people who come for dinner want to have a glass of wine with their meal and that it’s part of the urban experience. She noted that going out for a meal is one of the reasons that people want to live in Fells Point. The area is a B-zoned, commercial area, not in Roland Park.

Hecker submitted a petition in support of the project from 173 residents of the Union Wharf apartment building. Chuckling to himself, the Chairman asked, “aren’t you the one who had the petition passed around the law firm?” (referring to the hearing on June 26, 2014, for Cava Mezze). Hecker responded that she was.

Applicant Antoine Gruver told the Board that the applicants care about the tenants above the restaurant and the other neighbors. They plan to monitor the noise level carefully.

Chairman Ward noted that this developer has done a magnificent job of taking an industrial zone and turning it around into a very attractive residential asset to Ms. Calce’s home which certainly wasn’t an asset before. He added, “I find this case more difficult than most.” Commissioner Moore said that the plan proposed by the applicants almost assures there will be people outside at 11pm. She asked if the restaurant could stop serving alcohol one hour earlier to ensure that people would be done drinking at a reasonable time. Hecker responded that her clients don’t want to be at a competitive disadvantage from the other restaurants in the area, who can serve alcohol later. Moore quipped, “well, you’re the only ones serving roasted pig head.”

Zoning B-2-2
Neighborhood Fells Point
Area demographics 70% White, 8% Black, 5% Asian; 15% Hispanic ethnicity; 11% households have children under age 18; median household income: $69,105; 11% households live below the poverty line
Does corp entity exist, in good standing? Yes; yes.
Location of entity’s principal office 2322 Boston St, Baltimore, MD
Attorney for licensee Ms. Caroline Hecker, Rosenberg Martin Greenberg LLP
# in support 2
Attorney for community None
# of protestants 1
# of inspectors/police officers 0
Result of hearing Approved, with alcohol at outdoor tables 11:30am-9pm, Monday-Friday, and 9am-11pm, Saturday-Sunday. Ward and Moore voted for the more restricted hours. Jones voted for the hours as proposed by the application.
Vote tally 2-1 (split over hours, above)
Portions of state law cited in decision
Other reasons given for decision

Commissioner Jones said that he finds it hard to go against the applicants’ plan. There is a great investment in the building, and the applicants want to maintain their competitive edge among the other restaurants. He did note that the neighbors deserve peace and quiet; he said that he would vote yes to the applicants’ proposal, and if the neighborhood has an issue, they can bring it back to the Liquor Board.

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

In the BLLC v. Fells Point Cafe, Inc. case, the Court of Appeals of Maryland held that the Board of Liquor License Commissioners does not have the authority to impose restrictions on a license without the consent of the licensee. Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs) are enforceable, because MOU restrictions are voluntarily assumed by the licensee. In this case, however, there was no MOU. The applicant did not agree to the hours restriction laid out by Judge Ward and Commissioner Moore; therefore, it is not enforceable.

Applicants Phillip Ahn & Kenneth Bumgardner
Business Name 40 Liquors, Inc.
Trading As 40 Liquors
Address 2822 Edmondson Avenue
Type of License Class “A” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing Application to transfer ownership and location of a Class “A” BWL license presently located at 2201 Wilkens Avenue to 2822 Edmondson Avenue
Hearing notes

Mr. Kodenski stated that City Councilman Welch had requested a postponement so that there could be further conversations between the neighborhood groups and the applicants. Kodenski’s clients were not present, in anticipation of the postponement. Chairman Ward retorted that the Liquor Board decides postponements, not Councilman Welch. Mr. Kon Kim, attorney for the community groups, informed the Board that the case had already been postponed about a month ago, and argued that the applicant has had ample chance to reach out to the community. The process has been going on for 3-4 months, and the community leaders are present, despite the short notice. Kodenski responded that the previous postponement had been requested by the community, not the applicants. Chairman Ward told Mr. Kodenski that his request for postponement was denied.

Mr. Kim explained that the community is opposed to both the transfer of ownership and the transfer of location due to a high saturation of liquor stores in that area. There are already four liquor stores on the block and seven or eight in the area.

Mr. Robert Hunt testified in opposition to the transfer on behalf of Alliance of Rosement Community Organizations, Inc. (ARCO). He testified that there are already four liquor stores in the 2800 block of Edmondson Avenue, and, if it werre up to the community, they would like to close down the four that already exist. ARCO is opposed to any new liquor store coming into the area. Chairman Ward noted, “this is a high crime area. It makes the paper frequently.” Mr. Hunt agreed; he added that there is a senior citizen residential building nearby, so he is concerned about elderly people’s safety. Commissioner Jones asked whether there was a church close by, and Mr. Hunt responded that there are three.

Ms. Mable Gordon then testified, also in opposition to the project, on behalf of Citizens for Community Improvement (CCI). She told the Board that the community does not need another liquor store. There are issues with crime and litter. Alexander Hamilton Elementary School is close by, and the community wants to protect schoolchildren from exposure to more liquor stores. Mr. Dewey Barksdale, President of the Franklintown Road Neighborhood Association and Dr. Cheatham of the Matthew Hensen Neighborhood Association corroborated Ms. Gordon’s testimony. Cheatham explained that there is a close connection in this neighborhood between violent crime and liquor stores. People bring businesses into the community but don’t want to communicate; most liquor store owners have no relationship with the community.

Zoning B-3-2
Neighborhood Mosher
Area demographics 1% White, 97% Black, 0% Asian; 1% Hispanic ethnicity; 35% households have children under age 18; median household income: $26,893.
Does corp entity exist, in good standing? Yes; yes.
Location of entity’s principal office 2822 Edmondson Ave, Baltimore, MD 21229
Attorney for licensee Mr. Melvin Kodenski
# in support 0
Attorney for community Mr. Kon Kim
# of protestants 3
# of inspectors/police officers 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 None
Applicant Lenny Sierra
Business Name Sierra, Inc.
Trading As trade name pending
Address 3907‐23 E. Lombard Street
Type of License Class “B” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing Request for reconsideration of the Board’s decision of May 1, 2014. Item continued from June 26, 2014.
Hearing notes

Mr. Abraham Hurdle represented the licensee, with two additional people in support of the request, who did not testify. Hurdle informed the Board that the licensee met at length with Highlandtown Community Association representative Kevin Bernhard. They could not arrange a time before the hearing to sign the agreement between HCA and the licensee, but, according to Hurdle, they did all agree to the terms of the agreement. The concerns addressed in the unsigned MOU related to the operational hours of the business as well as the live entertainment hours. According to the provisions of the agreement, no live music will go later than 1am on weekdays.

On May 1, 2014, the Board had granted the transfer but had denied the live entertainment request from Mr. Sierra. Commissioner Jones objected to the rehearing of the case. He said, “this is an MOU, it’s not signed, and we denied the live entertainment. Just because i have a document in my hand, you expect me to go along with it?”

Chairman Ward said, “we’re going to hold the decision into you come up with what you’re supposed to have. When you have a signed MOU, then this board will act.” Hurdle responded that it “could take a couple weeks.” Ward said, “that’s up to you.”

Zoning B-3-2
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 3907-23 E. Lombard St, Baltimore, MD
Attorney for licensee Mr. Abraham Hurdle
# in support 3
Attorney for community None
# of protestants 0
# of inspectors/police officers 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
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

The hearing was a continuation of the July 31, 2014 hearing (click on this link to read what happened on July 31). Mr. Kodenski appeared on behalf of the applicant. Mr. Heinz Murray was also present, with two additional community members.

Chairman Ward said, “the argument is that the Code allows, in the case of death, an 18-month period [to sell the license or reopen]. I am in belief that the code is in effect today.” There was no testimony about the requirements stated in the relevant provision of the Code, Article 2B section 10-506(a). Mr. Kodenski proposed that, if the community would agree that under no circumstances would the license be allowed at Sargeant Street, that maybe the Board would allow Mr. Cohen, the person who current asserts a right to the license, to sell it elsewhere. Mr. Murray stated, on behalf of Citizens of Pigtown, that the community group is not opposed to Mr. Cohen keeping the license as long as he sells it outside of the borders of Pigtown.

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 ~2
Attorney for community None
# of protestants ~3
# of inspectors/police officers 0
Result of hearing Transfer to Sargeant Street denied, but the license may be transferred outside the boundaries of Pigtown.
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 did not address the actual legal issue at stake in this case, which is whether or not the license is valid under Article 2B section 10-506. Did the licensee’s estate comply with the requirements of the section? If so, when does the license expire under the Code? These questions were not addressed in the hearing at all; rather, the community association was appeased with the promise that the license would not reopen in their neighborhood.

III. Hardship Extensions

Applicant Lillie Driver
Business Name None provided in docket
Trading As Lil’s Place
Address 1909 N. Pulaski Street
Type of License Class “D” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing Request for a hardship extension under the provisions of Article 2B Section 10-504(d)
Hearing notes

Mrs. Driver appeared on her own behalf on a first hardship extensin request. There was a fire next door to her building on March 8, 2014, which caused damage to her business. The fire department, in trying to put out the fire, broke windows and doors in her building and either the neighboring fire or the fire department also damaged the ceiling.

Chairman Ward asked, “well, ma’am, what are you doing about this?” She responded that she is trying to get funding to rebuild. Commissioner Jones asked Mrs. Driver whether she had insurance on the property. She did not answer the question, saying that the building next door is completely responsible.

Dr. Marvin Cheatham, President of the Matthew Hensen Neighborhood Association was present for the case as well. Mrs. Driver’s business is one block outside of his association’s exact boundaries. He testified that the organization does not have any opposition to the hardship extension. However, in general, Cheatham said that “every opportunity that we can get to shut down a liquor store, that’s what we’ll do. We would prefer to see all of our liquor stores closed.” Cheatham said that his neighborhood has eighteen liquor stores, and that the only neighborhood that has more than eighteen is Greater Greenmount.

Chairman Ward asked Mrs. Driver whether there was any hope of her store ever re-opening. She replied, “oh yeah.” He asked, “what is that hope?” Driver said, “something will work out.” Ward exclaimed, “ma’am, this is August!” She responded by complaining that the fire departmentt is the one that put her out of business.

Zoning R-7
Neighborhood Mondawmin
Area demographics 1% White, 96% Black, 0% Asian; 1% Hispanic ethnicity; 30% households have children under age 18; median household income: $38,912.3; 12.8% households live below the poverty line.
Does corp entity exist, in good standing? N/A – none provided in docket
Location of entity’s principal office N/A – none provided in docket
Attorney for licensee None
# in support 1
Attorney for community None
# of protestants 1
# of inspectors/police officers 0
Result of hearing Hardship extension approved
Vote tally 2-1
Portions of state law cited in decision None
Other reasons given for decision

Chairman Ward voted no. He told Mrs. Driver that a liquor license is not a right; rather, it is a privilege, which is regulated by the government. He said that Driver hasn’t given the Board any hope that the establishment is going to be anything other than an empty building.

Commissioner Jones disagreed, saying that the business is Mrs. Driver’s livelihood. Commissioner Moore agreed with Jones. She said that she appreciated the testimony of Dr. Cheatham and that his community association is lucky to have him. Moore said that if it were a second request, she would vote no, but because it is a first hardship extension request, she votes yes. Moore added that Mrs. Driver’s hardship is extreme and perhaps not surmountable.

Chairman Ward then told Mrs. Driver that she had six months from April 2014, which is when she had submitted her hardship extension request. This did not seem to be what Jones and Moore had intended: the normal hardship extension is a total of 360 days from the date of closing. Ward told Mrs. Driver: “your time’s almost up!”

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

The Liquor Board file for this address contained two years of inspectors reports showing that the bar has been closed. There are nine reports, from the following dates: November 20, 2012; December 10, 2012; January 2, 2013; February 20, 2013; March 26, 2013; July 12, 2013; August 8, 2013; September 9, 2013; and October 4, 2013. Every one of these reports show that the establishment has been closed. The fire at this address did not occur until March 8, 2014.

According to the inspections and Article 2B section 10-504, the license expired, at the latest, 180 days after November 20, 2012, which is June 3, 2013. At the time of the fire, then, Mrs. Driver’s license had already been expired for nine months.

To see the inspectors’ reports, click here.

To see Ms. Driver’s hardship extension requests, click here.

This hearing and the documents in the file bring to mind two questions: (1) What is the procedure that Liquor Board staff should follow when they receive one inspectors’ report showing that a business is closed (let alone nine)? (2) Why did the Commissioners not ask the licensee when she had closed her business during the hearing?

Applicants Louis Principio, Dudley Taylor & Martin Manescu
Business Name Whiskey Jacks, LLC
Trading As Voltage Night Club
Address 5625 O’Donnell Street
Type of License Class “BD7” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing Request for a hardship extension under the provisions of Article 2B Section 10-504(d)
Hearing notes

Mr. Kodenski represented Mr. Louis Principio. Kodenski told the Board that Voltage Nightclub had closed on April 7, with an intent to sell the license elsewhere. To date, Mr. Principio has not been able to locate a buyer for the license and therefore is requesting a hardship extension. Kodenski explained, euphemistically, that the license had been revoked “because of problems in operation” but that it was reinstated under the agreement that Principio would close the business. There have been two or three attempts to sell the license that have fallen through. Kodenski asked for the total 360 days available under Article 2B section 10-504(d), which would give his client through April 2, 2015 to sell the license. Kodenski mentioned that Principio had purchased the license for $50,000 and wants to recoup his investment.

Ms. Susan Hughes, staff attorney at Community Law Center, also appeared at the hearing, on behalf of the Southeastern Police District Community Relations Council. The community group’s president, Joyce Adamski, was present at the hearing. Hughes explained the history of the license, including the violations heard by the Board on March 6. The community had submitted a revocation petition under Article 2B section 10-403, which was never scheduled for a hearing, because the license was revoked (then restored). Hughes recounted that the community “found out through the former Chairman’s tweet that there was going to be a reconsideration” on April 10, 2014. The Board reversed the revocation, but the community was never heard on the issue.

Ward asked Adamski and Hughes whether it would make a difference if Principio agreed to not be part of any transferred establishment. Adamski said that she wouldn’t want to wish Voltage on another police district.

Ward said that the record shows that the Voltage license was a “horrendous license with overwhelming problems.” He offered the other two Commissioners a chance to look through the file to see all of the previous problems and violations at the establishment. Commissioner Moore said, “I wish I had the time [to look through the file], but there isn’t time. That’s a foot-wide file.” She held it up to show the licensee and the audience members. She said to Principio, “this has to stop. This is not acceptable. You agree, right?” Principio replied, “I’ll never operate a bar again. I’ll build one. I’ll make one work for other people. I’m very good at that.”

Ms. Hughes then turned to Article 2B section 10-504(d)(4). The section of the code states, in its entirety: “After a hearing conducted on the extension request, on a finding that undue hardship currently exists causing the closing or cessation of business operations, the Board may grant an extension of the life of the license for a time period not to exceed 360 days as defined in paragraphs (3) and (5) of this subsection.” She argued that the reason that Voltage closed was not based on any hardship. Rather, the license was revoked by the Board due to the licensee’s mismanagement. Hughes concluded that the hardship extension request does not comply with section 10-504. The Commissioners did not respond.

When Chairman Ward realized that Mr. Principio had also been involved with the infamous club Hammerjacks, he said, “when I was a judge at the Circuit Court, Mr. Principio kept us busy.” Hammerjacks “was responsible for one-sixth of all matters at the Circuit Court of Baltimore City.”

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 St, Baltimore, MD
Attorney for licensee Mr. Melvin Kodenski
# in support 1
Attorney for community Ms. Susan Hughes
# of protestants 1
# of inspectors/police officers 0
Result of hearing Hardship extension granted through the end of 2014, under the condition that Mr. Principio cannot have an interest in the transferred license and the property to which the license is transferred must be located outside of the Southeast Police District.
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 did not address Ms. Hughes’ argument regarding Article 2B section 10-504(d)(4). The section of the Code requires that the Board make a finding that the licensee has suffered an undue hardship, which caused the closure of the business. Mr. Principio’s closure was a direct result of mismanagement, not an undue hardship.

1:00 p.m. cases

IV. Review of a transfer/amendment pending for more than 180 days

Applicants Shailesh Pandit & Dorothea Locco
Business Name SSP Enterprises, LLC
Trading As Mughal Gardens
Address 918-20 N. Charles Street
Type of License Class “B” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing Review of a transfer pending for more than 180 days under the provisions of Article 2B Section 10-503(d)(4)
Hearing notes

Mr. Melvin Kodenski explained to the Board that the applicants are going to withdraw their application to transfer ownership.

Zoning B-4-2
Neighborhood Mount Vernon
Area demographics 52% White, 32% Black, 7% Asian; 3% Hispanic ethnicity; 6% households have children under age 18; median household income: $35,393.
Does corp entity exist, in good standing? Yes; no.
Location of entity’s principal office 15310 Briarcliff Manor Way, Burtonsville, MD
Attorney for licensee Mr. Melvin Kodenski
# in support 0
Attorney for community None
# of protestants 0
# of inspectors/police officers 0
Result of hearing Application withdrawn
Vote tally N/A
Portions of state law cited in decision N/A
Other reasons given for decision N/A
Issues raised in audit present in this case or other issues observed None
Applicants Angela Henry & Rayon Gray
Business Name None provided in docket
Trading As Trade name pending
Address 3602 W. Rogers Avenue
Type of License Class “B” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing Review of a transfer pending for more than 180 days under the provisions of Article 2B Section 10-503(d)(4)
Hearing notes

No one was present for the hearing when it was called.

Zoning B-2-2
Neighborhood Arlington
Area demographics 2% White, 94% Black, 0% Asian, 1% Hispanic ethnicity; 63% households have children under age 18; median household income: $28,815.
Does corp entity exist, in good standing? None provided in docket
Location of entity’s principal office None provided in docket
Attorney for licensee None
# in support 0
Attorney for community None
# of protestants 0
# of inspectors/police officers 0
Result of hearing Chairman Ward said, “the request is denied.”
Vote tally No vote taken.
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 did not take a vote for this hearing. Also, the Board said that the request was denied, but there was no request pending before the Board. Rather, the Board initiated this hearing, presumably to find out why the transfer had taken more than 180 days.

Applicants Mario Vaccaro & James Vaccaro
Business Name Gilmore Pleasure Club, LLC
Trading As Gilmore Pleasure Club
Address 347 S. Gilmor Street
Type of License Class “BD7” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing Review of a transfer pending for more than 180 days under the provisions of Article 2B Section 10-503(d)(4)
Hearing notes

Mr. Peter Prevas was present for the hearing, with client Mario Vaccaro. Prevas informed the Board that the licensee has submitted everything required in order to pick up the license. Executive Secretary Michelle Bailey-Hedgepeth confirmed that it was true. The item was dismissed from the agenda.

Zoning R-8
Neighborhood New Southwest/Mount Clare
Area demographics **
Does corp entity exist, in good standing? Yes; no.
Location of entity’s principal office 347 S. Gilmor St, Baltimore, MD
Attorney for licensee Mr. Peter Prevas
# in support 1
Attorney for community None
# of protestants 0
# of inspectors/police officers 0
Result of hearing Item withdrawn from docket.
Vote tally None taken.
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

According to the plain language of the statute, Finding 6 of the 2013 Legislative Audit, and the Attorney General’s letter on the subject, if the transfer took more than 180 days to complete, the authorization for the transfer has already expired, as a matter of law.

Applicant Kenneth Plante, Jr.
Business Name Dead End Bar & Grill, LLC
Trading As Dead End Bar & Grill
Address 933-35 Fell Street
Type of License Class “D” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing Review of a transfer pending for more than 180 days under the provisions of Article 2B Section 10-503(d)(4)
Hearing notes

Mr. Kodenski appeared before the Board, with the applicants. They applicants had submitted their request to transfer the license on November 5, 2013. The Board approved the transfer on December 19, 2013.

Chairman Ward asked, “am I to assume the place is closed?” Mr. Kodenski responded that they have been rehabbing the building for a year. It’s taken them this long to get the approval of the Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation (CHAP). They had originally applied for CHAP approval in mid-2013 and received approval in February 2014. The building has undergone an entire refurbishment, including new windows, doors, and cornices and a rebuilt facade on Wolfe Street; the applicants submitted drawings of the work done on the building. Kodenski stated that the applicants need three more months to completely finish the permitting process for the restaurant.

Chairman Ward pointed out that he was the originator of the CHAP bill in City Council that created the agency in 1964.

Commissioner Moore asked, “if we deny the extension, what impact does that have on the development and the bar?” The applicant responded that they would apply for a new Class B restaurant license, since they qualify for the license under Article 2B.

Zoning B-2-2
Neighborhood Fells Point
Area demographics 70% White, 8% Black, 5% Asian; 15% Hispanic ethnicity; 11% households have children under age 18; median household income: $69,105; 11% households live below the poverty line
Does corp entity exist, in good standing? Yes; yes.
Location of entity’s principal office 1820 Lancaster St, Suite 120, Baltimore, MD
Attorney for licensee Mr. Melvin Kodenski
# in support 3
Attorney for community None
# of protestants 0
# of inspectors/police officers 0
Result of hearing Hardship extension approved through December 31, 2014.
Vote tally 2-1 (Moore dissenting)
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

According to the plain language of the statute, Finding 6 of the 2013 Legislative Audit, and the Attorney General’s letter on the subject, if the transfer took more than 180 days to complete, the authorization for the transfer has already expired, as a matter of law.

Also, there is no hardship extension provision under Article 2B section 10-503.

Applicant Kelly Beckham
Business Name Baltimore Pizza Holdings, LLC
Trading As Paulie Gee’s Hampden
Address 3535 Chestnut Avenue
Type of License Class “B” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing Review of a transfer pending for more than 180 days under the provisions of Article 2B Section 10-503(d)(4)
Hearing notes

Mr. William Bauer, consultant, appeared with applicant Kelly Beckham. They requested a hardship extension of 180 days, because the construction phase for the building has taken longer than expected. Chairman Ward pointed out that the process has taken over one year.

Mr. Bauer pointed out that the building is over 7,000 square feet and was quite dilapidated. It was the old Republican Club on Chestnut Street in Hampden, and it has also served as the Hampden Democratic Club at one time. The Commissioners joked about the relatively few Republicans in Baltimore City, and a community member from the audience shouted out “Your comments are inappropriate.” Commissioner Moore informed the woman that she was being inappropriate. When the audience member asked, “How do I register my displeasure?” Moore replied, “send a letter.” Once the room had quieted down, Chairman Ward said that, since he doesn’t hear well, he didn’t hear or understand the exchange between Moore and the audience member.

Mr. Bauer then continued, saying that there had been unforeseen structural damage to the building, which scared off investors. They have fixed the damage and the building is now structurally safe. They anticipate being open well before the end of the year.

Moore asked, “if we deny the extension, what’s the impact of that?” Beckham responded that he has identified all but $35,000 of the remaining investment for the business. Not having a liquor license would make it more difficult for him to raise that required money.

Zoning B-1-2
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 129 N. Collington Ave, Baltimore, MD
Attorney for licensee None
# in support 2
Attorney for community None
# of protestants 0
# of inspectors/police officers 0
Result of hearing Hardship extension granted through the end of 2014.
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

According to the plain language of the statute, Finding 6 of the 2013 Legislative Audit, and the Attorney General’s letter on the subject, if the transfer took more than 180 days to complete, the authorization for the transfer has already expired, as a matter of law.

Also, there is no hardship extension provision under Article 2B section 10-503.

Applicant Anthony Ogbuokiri
Business Name UJU Investments, Inc.
Trading As Trade name pending
Address 1213 Edmondson Avenue
Type of License Class “D” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing Review of a transfer pending for more than 180 days under the provisions of Article 2B Section 10-503(d)(4)
Hearing notes

Mr. Kodenski was present at the hearing, without his client, the applicant. He asked for a postponement of the hearing, due to the applicant’s family emergency.

Zoning B-1-2
Neighborhood Harlem Park
Area demographics 1% White, 96% Black, 0% Asian; 0% Hispanic ethnicity; 34% households have children under age 18; median household income: $23,974
Does corp entity exist, in good standing? Yes, but it is a Delaware corporation.
Location of entity’s principal office 108 W 13th St, Wilmington, DE
Attorney for licensee Mr. Melvin Kodenski
# in support 0
Attorney for community None
# of protestants 0
# of inspectors/police officers 0
Result of hearing Postponement granted.
Vote tally 2-1 (Ward dissenting)
Portions of state law cited in decision None
Other reasons given for decision

Chairman Ward voted not to postpone the hearing, because licenses are a privilege, not a right. He said that applicants and licensees should either be present for their hearing or give specific reasons why they are not present. Commissioner Moore voted to postpone; she said that she does not think that someone would say that they had a family emergency if it were not true. Commissioner Jones added that he also votes yes to the postponement request, since it is a “first extension request.”

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

According to the plain language of the statute, Finding 6 of the 2013 Legislative Audit, and the Attorney General’s letter on the subject, if the transfer took more than 180 days to complete, the authorization for the transfer has already expired, as a matter of law.

Also, there is no hardship extension provision under Article 2B section 10-503.

Applicant Douglas Atwell
Business Name 31 Cross, LLC
Trading As Trade name pending
Address 31 E. Cross Street
Type of License Class “BD7” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing Review of a transfer pending for more than 180 days under the provisions of Article 2B Section 10-503(d)(4)
Hearing notes

Executive Secretary Michelle Bailey-Hedgepeth noted that the Board has all of the required information and documentation in the file; therefore, the hearing was pulled from the docket.

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 800 N. Charles St, Baltimore, MD
Attorney for licensee None
# in support 0
Attorney for community None
# of protestants 0
# of inspectors/police officers 0
Result of hearing Hearing withdrawn from 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

According to the plain language of the statute, Finding 6 of the 2013 Legislative Audit, and the Attorney General’s letter on the subject, if the transfer took more than 180 days to complete, the authorization for the transfer has already expired, as a matter of law.

Also, there is no hardship extension provision under Article 2B section 10-503.

Violations

Licensee Jose Ribadeneira
Business Name Latin Palace-Uno, Inc.
Trading As Latin Palace
Address 509-13 S. Broadway
Type of License Class “B” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing Request for reconsideration of the Board’s decision of July 31, 2014
Hearing notes

The Board did not hear the reconsideration of this case on August 21. Chairman Ward sent a letter to Mr. Ribadeniera denying his request for a reconsideration.

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 N/A
# in support N/A
Attorney for community N/A
# of protestants N/A
# of inspectors/police officers N/A
Result of hearing Not heard.
Vote tally N/A
Portions of state law cited in decision N/A
Other reasons given for decision N/A
Issues raised in audit present in this case or other issues observed

The Board’s procedures and criteria for reconsideration are opaque, or possibly nonexistent. It is unclear whether the Commissioners discuss reconsideration requests or whether the Chairman makes the decision on his own. Reconsideration procedures would be a valuable addition to the updated Rules and Regulations, which the Board promises to issue within the next few months.

Licensee Jose Ribadeneira
Business Name Latin Palace-Uno, Inc.
Trading As Latin Palace
Address 509-13 S. Broadway
Type of License Class “B” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing

Violation of Rule 4.18: “No licensee shall commit or allow the commission on his premises of any act which shall be contrary to any federal, state or local statue, law or ordinance or against the public peace, safety, health, welfare, quiet or morals.” (Re: May 10, 2014 Liquor Board Inspector observed alterations and operation on second floor by a separate owner, May 30, 2014, Liquor Board staff met with tenants of Latin Palace Management as per a contract dated November 5, 2013. The licensee did not notify the Board of these operations; Inspector also observed smoking inside the establishment)

Violation of Rule 4.20: “No licensee shall make any installation or alteration on a licensed premises or change the manner in which alcoholic beverages are dispensed without prior approval of the board” (Re: November 5, 2013, Contract with Yeneneh Hailu and Yared Bekeli that leased the use of facilities and services-“Additional Comments: Purchases of Food and Beverages will be done by the Latin Palace Management”)

Hearing notes

Former Liquor Board Commissioner Edward Smith, Jr. represented licensee Jose Ribadeniera.

Before the hearing began, Chairman Ward said to Mr. Smith, “I have something to propose to you. Your client has been before us and has received sanctions. The Board is possibly willing to impose the same sanctions” (i.e., to have the punishment run concurrently with his previously received suspension). Mr. Smith replied, “your honor, that’s a very intriguing proposition. As the commission is aware, yesterday I filed a petition for appeal, so that is currently pending with a motion to stay. It would create a conundrum, so to speak.”

Mr. Smith then began the hearing by making a motion to dismiss the charges against his client, claiming that the Liquor Board rules under which Ribadeniera was charged are invalid under Maryland’s Administrative Procedure Act (APA). [The APA sets out requirements for state agencies as they promulgate their rules and regulations. However, the Liquor Board is not a state agency that is covered by the Maryland APA, according to state caselaw.] Smith argued that the Board’s rules and regulations were not promulgated properly under the APA. There was a “lack of attention to detail” when the current version of the rules and regulations were adopted in 1998; the Board did not hold a public hearing on the rules, did not send a notice to the Maryland Department of Legislative Services, and did not issue a notice by publication, as required by the APA. “In short,” said Smith, “we have no rules and regulations.” Chairman Ward denied the motion to dismiss.

Ms. Susan Hughes, for the Fells Point Community Organization, informed the Board that she and her client had not received any copies of the motion to dismiss.

Inspector John Howard then testified about what happened on May 10, 2014. Inspector Jeff Ray responded to a 311 complaint call at the address. [Mr. Smith objected to Howard’s testimony, arguing that it is hearsay. Ward overruled the objection.] Ray reported that the licensee had rented out part of his space to a tenant, who was opening up a separate business within the licensed premises. The tenant had made changes and alterations not approved by the Liquor Board. The tenants had to purchase all of their alcohol and food from the licensee. Mr. Ribadeniera himself made the 311 call, complaining about the tenants altering the property.

Acting Chief Inspector Mark Fosler testified next. He said that Inspector Ray called him on May 10 from the location and explained what he had seen, that there was a separate business operating on the second floor of the building. Mr. Ribadeniera had agreed to sell alcohol to the tenants.

Mr. Yeneneh Hailu, the tenant in question, then testified. He owns a nightclub in Washington, DC. He agreed to lease the upstairs of 509-13 S Broadway from Mr. Ribadeniera for a hookah lounge, restaurant and nightclub. Hailu spent $42,000 soundproofing and renovating the space. When he was ready to open, on May 3, 2014, Mr. Hailu then texted the licensee, Mr. Ribadeniera, to order $2,000 worth of alcohol through him. Mr. Ribadeniera ordered the alcohol from the distributor and paid for it; Mr. Hailu then picked up the alcohol from the distributor. Mr. Hailu testified that his restaurant was open the weekend of May 3 and had a very successful night. All of a sudden, according to Hailu, Mr. Ribadeniera changed the locks on May 10 and called the Liquor Board inspector, complaining about money owed to him. Commissioner Moore asked Hailu, “did [the licensee] ever tell you and your partner that he had the legal authority to lease the space to you and for you to operate it?” Mr. Hailu replied, “yes. We thought the building was his.” On cross-examination, Mr. Smith asked Hailu whether he had read and understood the terms of the lease agreement with Ribadeniera. Hailu responded that he did. The lease agreement contained a provision that said that the tenants would abide by liquor and zoning law. Hailu testified that he did not have a receipt from the liquor wholesaler to corroborate his story, because he gave the receipt to Ribadeniera. He didn’t have any physical proof (flyers, etc.) of the event that he hosted on May 3.

Mr. Ribadeniera then testified in his own defense. He said that he did not give permission for Mr. Hailu to do a restaurant, hookah bar and nightclub. Rather, it was supposed to be a “gathering place.” He stated that he never intended to allow Hailu to sell alcohol. Rather, Ribadeniera would provide all food and beverages. He added that he did not give permission for the tenants to do work on the second floor. He said that Hailu and his partner had destroyed the second floor of the building, “including a piano.” He said that “the damage was so intense” from Mr. Hailu’s renovations. The licensee testified that Mr. Hailu “operated without any consent of the Latin Palace.” He called the Liquor Board because he wanted the inspector to explain to rules to Mr. Hailu.

Chairman Ward asked the licensee about Mr. Hailu’s testimony. Hailu had said that when he came to Ribadeniera, he told the licensee that he wanted to open a restaurant and nightclub. Ribadeniera replied to Ward that Mr. Hailu’s testimony was untrue. He thought that Hailu wanted to open “a gathering place, with social events and everything else.” The Board asked Ribadeniera about the days when Hailu’s restaurant was open prior to May 10. Ribadeniera said that he did not see the place open. He said, “I didn’t see anything, other than the fact that people were gathering together.” He said that some of the patrons from Mr. Hailu’s place were coming down to the Latin Palace to buy drinks and then were taking them back up to the second floor.

When Mr. Smith asked Mr. Hailu again for any receipts or cancelled checks to show his payments to Mr. Ribadeniera, Mr. Hailu said that he had paid (thousands of dollars) in cash.

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 Mr. Edward Smith
# in support 1
Attorney for community Ms. Susan Hughes
# of protestants 2
# of inspectors/police officers 2
Result of hearing Responsible for two violations charged. 2-month suspension runs concurrently with existing 2-month suspension.
Vote tally Unanimous
Portions of state law cited in decision None
Other reasons given for decision

Chairman Ward said that the issue in the case is whether Mr. Ribadeniera did business with Mr. Hailu, knowing he would install the bar and intending to buy the alcohol for him. Mr. Hailu paid a very heavy price, which indicates to him that Ribadeniera knew it would be more than just a restaurant. There were a huge number of renovations over many months. He said, “the question is, do I believe Mr. Ribadeniera or do I believe Mr. Hailu that there was alcohol served on second floor?” He said that it was very interesting that Ribadeniera testified that patrons on the second floor came down to the first floor to be served alcohol; that nails it down clearly. Referring to the prior hearing at which the licensee received his first suspension, Ward noted that the licensee really needed Mr. Smith’s assistance before. His activities before this Board on a prior occasion demonstrate a great lack of understanding of the law.

Commissioner Jones agreed, looking at the contract in the file, which laid out the relationship between the licensee and the tenant. Commissioner Moore also agreed. She said, “I think it’s pretty clear what happened.” She added that it was her opinion that the call to the Liquor Board from the licensee was out of anger at Mr. Hailu in the dispute over money. She said that she thinks that Mr. Ribadeniera saw the success of Mr. Hailu’s business and asked for more money; when Hailu said no, he called the inspector.

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

The Boards of Liquor License Commissioners in Maryland are not agencies which are required to follow the Administrative Procedure Act. Many cases have established this principle, including Dakrish, LLC v. Raich, 209 Md. App. 119 (2012) and Bd. of Liquor License Comm’rs for Baltimore City v. Hollywood Prods., Inc., 344 Md. 2 (1996). The fact that Mr. Smith was a Liquor Board Commissioner who enforced the 1998 Rules and Regulations adds an additional level of strangeness to this argument, apart from the fact that so many cases disprove it.

Chairman Ward’s offer to let the suspension for these offenses run concurrent with the prior suspension, before the hearing even began or testimony was heard, is concerning and confusing for community members. Also, when the Board finally reached its decision on the matter (which is the same decision that the Board essentially gave before hearing any testimony), the Commissioners gave no explanation for why the punishments should run concurrently.

Licensees Brittnay Moore & Mustafa Jackson
Business Name Four One Four, LLC
Trading As Kings and Diamonds
Address 414-16 E. Baltimore Street
Type of License Class “BD7” Beer, & Wine License/ Adult Entertainment
Reason for hearing

Violation of Adult Entertainment Rule 2: “All dancers in an adult- entertainment establishment must be at least 18 years old or older.” (Re: March 2, 2014, Police found dancer to be 17 years of age)

Violation of Adult Entertainment Rule 8: (a) “An adult-entertainment business must keep on its premises records of the legal name, address, date of birth, and social security number of all persons employed by them or under contract with the business” (Re: March 2, 2014, police found establishment unable to produce employee records) (b) “For each Maryland resident, these records must include a copy of a valid Maryland Driver’s License or Age of Majority Card; for each non-resident of Maryland, these records must include a valid government issued identification card or driver’s license” (Re: March 2, 2014, police found establishment unable to produce employee records) (c) “These records must be available for inspection at all times by authorized representative of the Board, the Police Department, or any other governmental agency” (Re: March 2, 2014, Police found establishment unable to produce employee records)

Hearing notes

Mr. Ryan Edwards was present on behalf of the licensees. Baltimore Police Sergeant Dent, who was at the scene and wrote the police report for the March 2 incident, did not appear. The Board dismissed the charges.

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 4100 E. Lombard St, Baltimore, MD 21204
Attorney for licensee Mr. Ryan Edwards
# in support 2
Attorney for community None
# of protestants 0
# of inspectors/police officers 0
Result of hearing 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 None
Licensees Lisa Ireland & Thomas Malinowski
Business Name PP&G, Inc.
Trading As Norma Jean’s
Address 10 Custom House Avenue
Type of License Class “BD7” Beer, Wine & Liquor License/Adult Entertainment
Reason for hearing

Violation of Adult Entertainment Rule 4: “No dancer may enter any separate room, enclosure, or screened area with any patron, unless the area is in public view at all times” (Re: May 27, 2013, Police found a dancer escorted a male patron to a private room in the rear of building. In the private room the dancer told police she was strangled into unconsciousness)

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: May 22, 2014, police found a dancer was strangled in a private room inside the establishment by a patron)

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: June 14, 2014, police found a victim beaten inside establishment by 3 patrons wielding pool sticks)

Hearing notes

The Board dismissed the charges for the first two violations, because Baltimore Police Sergeant Dent, who saw the violation and wrote the report on the incident, was not present.

Mr. John Themelis represented the licensees and their corporate entity.

Baltimore Police Detective Elizabeth Scott testified that she was on her detail in the 100 block of E Baltimore Street. She saw a large group of people run out of the licensed premises. When she went to the scene, she saw a light skinned African American male, talking to one of her fellow police officers, who had injuries to his back. The sergeant in charge ordered Ms. Scott to write the report for the incident. The officers had received a call on the radio for a fight inside the bar, but they did not see the fight themselves.

Mr. Themelis moved to dismiss the charges, since Detective Scott had not seen the June 14, 2014 incident. Ward granted the motion.

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; yes.
Location of entity’s principal office 10 Custom House Ave, Baltimore, MD
Attorney for licensee Mr. John Themelis
# in support 2
Attorney for community None
# of protestants 0
# of inspectors/police officers 1
Result of hearing All charges dismissed.
Vote tally No vote was taken; Chairman Ward dismissed the charges.
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 did not vote on whether to dismiss the charges; rather, Chairman Ward alone announced that they were dismissed.

Licensees Shelly Gordon & Dolores Reicher
Business Name Silverlud, Inc.
Trading As Circus Bar
Address 427 E. Baltimore Street
Type of License Class “BD7” Beer, Wine & Liquor License/Adult Entertainment
Reason for hearing

Violation of Rule 4.17(a): “No licensee shall permit or suffer his premises to be used for the purpose of any sexual activity, nor shall any licensee permit or suffer any employee, patron or frequenter to solicit any person for prostitution or other immoral purposes” (Re: November 11, 2013, dancer solicited police offer for fellatio and sexual intercourse)

Hearing notes

Mr. Melvin Kodenski appeared at the hearing, with his clients, the licensees.

Baltimore Police Detective Abraham Gatto began to testify but first noted that the violation happened on November 14, not November 11. The Board had submitted the wrong date on the docket and in the notice sent to the licensee for the second time (the same thing happened on July 10, 2014.)

Mr. Kodenski made another motion to dismiss the charge, which Ward 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; yes.
Location of entity’s principal office 427 E. Baltimore St, Baltimore, MD
Attorney for licensee Mr. Melvin Kodenski
# in support 2
Attorney for community None
# of protestants 0
# of inspectors/police officers 1
Result of hearing Dismissed
Vote tally No vote was taken.
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 did not vote on whether to dismiss the charges; rather, Chairman Ward alone announced that they were dismissed.

Licensee Jose Luna
Business Name Casa Luna Sports Bar, Inc.
Trading As Casa Luna Sports Bar
Address 500 S. Lehigh Street
Type of License Not provided in docket
Reason for hearing

Violation of Rule 4.05(a): “No licensee shall permit any person to consume alcoholic beverages on the licensed premises during hours when such sales are prohibited by law” (Re: January 12, 2013 patrons observed consuming alcoholic beverages inside of establishment after 2 a.m.) and on February 23, 2013 (Re: patrons observed consuming alcoholic beverages inside of establishment after 2 a.m.)

Violation of Rule 4.05(b): “No alcoholic beverages shall be served, dispensed, furnished or given away in any part of the premises during the hours when such sales are prohibited by law.” (Re: Patrons in possession of alcoholic beverages after prohibited hours on August 24, 2013)

Violation of Rule 4.05(b): “No alcoholic beverages shall be served, dispensed, furnished or given away in any part of the premises during the hours when such sales are prohibited by law.” (Re: April 27, 2013, police observed 16 patrons in the bar with drinks in front of them after 2:00 a.m.)

Violation of Article 2B Section 11-304(2): “In Baltimore City a licensed premised shall cease all operations, including the serving of alcoholic beverages or food and providing entertainment, at the closing hour for that class of licensed premises” ( Re: March 2, 2014, police officer observed 31 patrons exit the side door of the establishment after 2:00 a.m.)

Violation of Article 2b Section 11-304(2): “In Baltimore City a licensed premised shall cease all operations, including the serving of alcoholic beverages or food and providing entertainment, at the closing hour for that class of licensed premises” ( Re: January 12, 2013, police found at least 18 patrons inside establishment after 2:00 am)

Violation of Article 2b Section 11-304(2): “In Baltimore City a licensed premised shall cease all operations, including the serving of alcoholic beverages or food and providing entertainment, at the closing hour for that class of licensed premises” ( Re: February 23, 2013, police found 10-15 patrons standing and seated at the bar after 2:00 am)

Violation of Article 2b Section 11-304(2): “In Baltimore City a licensed premised shall cease all operations, including the serving of alcoholic beverages or food and providing entertainment, at the closing hour for that class of licensed premises” ( Re: August 24, 2013, police observed 8-10 patrons exit establishment and 4-5 patrons still inside establishment after 2:00 am)

Violation of Article 2b Section 11-304(2): “In Baltimore City a licensed premised shall cease all operations, including the serving of alcoholic beverages or food and providing entertainment, at the closing hour for that class of licensed premises” (Re: April 27, 2014, police observed 16 patrons in the bar with drinks in front of them and 3 patrons in rear of the bar playing pool after 2:00 am)

Violation of Rule 3.02: “Licensee shall cooperate with representatives 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: licensee failed to cooperate with police on August 24, 2013)

Violation of Rule 3.02: “Licensee shall cooperate with representatives 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: March 2, 2014, after hearing people inside talking along with glasses/bottles rattling after 2:00 am, police officer knocked repeatedly on locked establishment door and no one answered)

Hearing notes

Mr. Shawn Harby represented the licensee, who was present with his wife to translate between Spanish and English. Mr. John Zorzit, the secured creditor for the license and landlord for the property, was also present. Zorzit requested a postponement so that he could have his counsel present for the hearing. Ward said, “secured credit? What’s that got to do with it? This is not a credit bureau.” He denied the request.

Mr. Harby pointed out that two of the charges predate Mr. Luna’s completion of the transfer of ownership of the license, which occurred in February 2013. (The license transfer had been approved but had not yet been completed.) Harby asked that they be dismissed. Ward denied Harby’s motion.

January 12, 2013, 2:07am: Lieutenant Colburn testified that he witnessed 6-8 people loitering at the entrance of the bar, so he stopped to investigate. The front door was locked, but the side door was open. There were at least 18 patrons still in the bar, holding and consuming alcoholic beverages. Colburn spoke with Mr. Jose Luna, the manager at the time (though, according to Harby, not yet the licensee). The liquor license had expired on April 30, 2012 (nine months beforehand).

February 23, 2013, 2:10am: On a routine patrol, Lieutenant Colburn observed a male patron entering the side door after hours. Colburn exited his vehicle and entered the side door. He observed 10-15 patrons standing and seated at the bar, holding and consuming beer. He spoke with Mr. Luna, the manager, who was visibly intoxicated. Colburn ordered the patrons to leave the bar.

August 24, 2013, 2:05am: Officer Todd Brown testified that he saw 5-7 patrons enter the establishment. Brown knocked on the front door, which was locked. Someone peeked out through a peephole but did not open the door. At 2:10am, Brown saw the side door open, and 8-10 patrons exited. Brown and Lieutenant Colburn entered the establishment through side door and found 4-5 more patrons inside with alcoholic beverages.

March 2, 2014, 2:10am: Officer Todd Brown testified that he was on patrol in a marked vehicle. Around 1:50am, the bars in the area began to let out for the night, but he did not notice patrons exiting from Casa Luna. At 2:10am, Officer Brown knocked repeatedly on the front door for around 10 minutes, but no one answered. Brown could hear a large number of people inside talking and bottles and glasses rattling. He counted 31 patrons exiting through the side door at 2:20am. Mr. Luna told the police that he had lost track of time, because he was having a party. Brown finally cleared out all of the patrons at 2:30am. Luna said that no one actively serving after 2:00am.

April 27, 2014, 2:30am: Officer Todd Brown was on patrol in the area and saw 4-5 people standing in front of Casa Luna Sports Bar. Brown told the loiterers to disperse, and they told Brown that they were waiting for people who were still inside. Brown knocked on the front door, and a woman came to the door and unlocked it. Brown counted 16 patrons with drinks in their hands and 3 more people playing pool in the back of the bar. The manager on duty, Mr. Perez, asked everyone to leave immediately.

Mr. Jose Luna testified that he did not serve any alcoholic beverages after 2am, though patrons remained in the bar after 2am. He pointed out that he was cooperative with the police. He did not hear any police officers knocking on the door. Had he known the police were there, he would have answered the door. Luna says that he never serves drinks after 2am, but the issue that he has is to get the customers to leave at 2am.

Ms. Peggy S. Johnson then testified about the bar; she lives in the same block of Lehigh Street as the bar and has since April 2008. She testified that patrons very often come out of the bar and urinate (or worse) in the street and in her yard. Upon questioning, she said that the problems are unique to Casa Luna. Patrons from other area bars are not nuisances in the same way. She added that patrons will come out and drink beers on the front steps of homeowners in the area; they leave their beer bottles on the street. She has found Corona bottles in her flower pots. She added, “I don’t like filth. Urinating on the street is filth and it’s nasty and it’s not good for the community.”

Mr. John Gavrilis, head of the Greektown Community Development Corporation, submitted a report containing a list of the police calls made to the bar. He also sent in a letter to the Board on behalf of his organization. Mr. Harby objected, based on hearsay. Harby also pointed out that the calls refer to the 500 block of Lehigh Street, not the specific address of the bar.

Mr. Harby renewed his objections to Mr. Luna being held responsible for charges issued before he took ownership of the license. Chairman Ward agreed to dismiss those violations.

The Chairman said, “a bar owner is responsible for the conduct of his customers. … It’s inherent that a bar owner must clean out all customers by 2am, period.”

Harby then attempted to submit evidence in mitigation of the punishment to be assessed. He pointed out that this is the first time that Mr. Luna has been before the Board on any violation. He had never heard Ms. Johnson’s complaints before. He is trying to make a living, and he has a wife and three children.

Ward replied that Mr. Luna “is making a fool of these police officers.” The police have to come down to the bar each night and bang on the door to be let in. “Their reputation goes down when your client refuses to obey the law,” said Ward. “The bar is supposed to be empty at 2am. He is in control of the bar. The officers are members of [law] enforcement. They have to come to this block and find that this one bar has got a load of people in there. It’s obvious that [Mr. Luna] pay[s] no attention to these officers. And he does it again and again.” Ward also said that Mr. Luna’s marital status has nothing to do with the violations. Harby replied, “it’s a man’s livelihood.” Ward retorted, “I don’t understand what you’re saying. He needs to earn a living to punish the neighborhood?” Commissioner Moore agreed with Ward. She said, “people are trying to live their life, sleep, get up and go to church. Do you know what it’s like to wake up to find feces on your front steps?” She said it was unacceptable and that the licensees are putting too much on their neighbors. She added, “maybe if they closed on time, people would pee before they leave!”

Harby replied, “my clients are not terrible people that are preying on this neighborhood. They’re businesspeople. They know the serious nature of these charges. This is their livelihood. They will do anything it takes to satisfy the neighborhood and to satisfy the Board about their future conduct. They spent a lot of money to purchase this bar, and they’re still paying it.”

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; yes.
Location of entity’s principal office 500 S Lehigh St, Baltimore, MD
Attorney for licensee Mr. Shawn Harby
# in support 2
Attorney for community None
# of protestants 1
# of inspectors/police officers 2
Result of hearing Two week suspension + $3,500 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
Licensee Elaine Fordham
Business Name Isis, LLC
Trading As Isis Lounge
Address 226-28 Park Avenue
Type of License Class “BD7” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing

Violation of Rule 3.03(a): “Licensees shall keep accurate records of all purchases of alcoholic beverages for a period of one year from the date of each purchase. Such records shall include the date of each purchase, the quantity purchased, and the name and address of each seller. Such records shall be open for inspection at all times by duly authorized representatives of the Board” (Re: August 1, 2014, no current alcohol wholesaler receipts)

Hearing notes

This hearing was not called, and the Board did not explain why it was not called.

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 228 Park Ave, Baltimore, MD
Attorney for licensee None
# in support 0
Attorney for community None
# of protestants 0
# of inspectors/police officers 0
Result of hearing N/A
Vote tally N/A
Portions of state law cited in decision N/A
Other reasons given for decision N/A
Issues raised in audit present in this case or other issues observed

The Board has lately done a better job of explaining the reasons behind not calling cases that have been scheduled on the docket, but on August 21, the Board did not explain why it did not call the first or the last case.

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