Booze News: Distilled in Room 215

A blog about the Baltimore City Liquor Board

What happened at the Liquor Board on October 30, 2014.

Written by Becky Witt

Hearings began at 11:05am. All three commissioners were present.

11:00 a.m. cases

Transfers and amendments:

Applicant Hyo Sook Kwon & Inwook Hur
Business Name HSSH Kwon, Inc.
Trading As Eager & St. Paul Liquor
Address 1001 St. Paul Street
Type of License Class “A” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing Application to transfer ownership.
Hearing notes

Mr. Jay Yoo represented the applicants, who were present. The applicants testified that they were asking for a transfer of ownership only (not a transfer of location). They clarified that they were transferring from a sole proprietorship to a brand-new corporate entity.

Zoning O-R-4
Neighborhood Mid-Town Belvedere
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 1001 St. Paul St, Baltimore, MD
Attorney for licensee Mr. Jay Yoo
# in support 2
Attorney for community None
# of protestants 0
# of inspectors/police officers 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 Oscar Zing Xung Lee
Business Name Raycliff Tensin, LLC
Trading As trade name pending
Address 529 E. Belvedere Avenue
Type of License Class “B” Beer & Wine License
Reason for hearing Application to transfer ownership
Hearing notes

Attorney Anastasia Thomas Nardangeli represented the applicants. Chairman Ward told Ms. Nardangeli that he couldn’t hear her, and explained that, when he was in the military, he “shot millions of rounds of guns all day long” and it “wrecked [his] hearing.” Ms. Nardangeli responded, “that’s too bad.”

The applicants told the Board that there is community support from the Belvedere Improvement Association, Inc and the Govanstowne Business Association, and Ward noted that there was no opposition in the file. Nardangeli told the Board that the trade name of the business is Ejji. The license’s current owner is Ikan Seafood and is owned and operated by Mr. Lee’s uncle. Mr. Lee has purchased the business from his uncle and is changing the concept of the restaurant to a Ramen noodle restaurant rather than seafood. The applicant is, in addition to his application to transfer ownership, requesting that the Board remove a restriction on the license stating that the business must operate as a “bona fide raw bar.” Nardangeli said that there is no definition of what “bona fide raw bar” means in Maryland state law. She pointed out that, if the commissioners read the community letters of support, the community is on board with removing that restriction. Ejji is also requesting permission for outdoor table service. Nardangeli said that the landlord who owns the entire Belvedere Square market has received zoning clearance for outdoor tables.

Commissioner Moore asked, “when was the license last used, and is it still valid?” The applicant replied that Ikan Seafood was closed from the first week of April to the last week of October 2014. Moore asked whether there was any application for a hardship extension under Article 2B section 10-504(d), and the applicant replied that there was no hardship extension request. Moore said that if Ikan closed the first week of April and reopened the previous week, the applicant could be two weeks too late. The Board decided to give the applicants a few minutes to figure out the exact dates of closing and opening.

The case was recalled later, and Nardangeli told the Board that Ikan closed April 15, 2014 and reopened October 7, 2014, which is a time period of 175 days. Nardangeli said that the business could be considered to be open earlier than October 7, because they were doing tastings and trainings.

Zoning B-2-2
Neighborhood Belvedere
Area demographics 69% Black, 23% White; 4% Hispanic ethnicity; 29% households have children under age 18; median household income: $44,853; 6.3% of households live below the poverty line
Does corp entity exist, in good standing? Yes; yes (but there was a typo in the docket. The corporate entity is Raycliff Tenzin, not Tensin.)
Location of entity’s principal office Dover, DE 19904
Attorney for licensee Ms. Anastasia Thomas Nardangeli
# in support 2
Attorney for community None
# of protestants 0
# of inspectors/police officers 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

The Board does not have adequate inspection staff to inspect its ~1,350 regulated establishments every 90 days to see whether they are open or closed. Therefore, it is very difficult for the Board to accurately and consistently enforce the provisions of 10-301(j)(4) (the 90-day rule) or 10-504(d) (the 180-day rule). The current licensees in this case were closed for well over 90 days and reopened without permission from the Board, in violation of section 10-301(j)(4), which provides: “notwithstanding any other provision of this article, and except where extenuating circumstances exist, before a licensed premises in Baltimore City that has been closed for at least 3 consecutive months may be reopened: (i) The Board of Liquor License Commissioners shall hold a public hearing; and (ii) The licensee shall obtain approval from the Board of Liquor License Commissioners to reopen.”

Applicant Vincent Arosemena
Business Name The Water Street Tavern
Trading As Water Street Tavern/Key West Island Bar
Address None provided in the docket
Type of License Class “BD7” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing Application to expand premises to include 100 Water Street, request for live entertainment and outdoor table service
Hearing notes

Mr. Abraham Hurdle represented the applicant and submitted copies of the existing floor plan of the business. The establishment is currently in the building at 102 Water Street and would like to expand to include 104 Water Street. The applicant has come to an agreement in a Memorandum of Understanding with the community association in the area.

Commissioner Jones asked Hurdle, “is that in the area where there is outdoor table service for two other liquor establishments and they’re constantly going back and forth? How’s that going to affect that environment? Hurdle replied that there are two or three other establishments nearby that do have outdoor table service, but the applicant has no plans to have seats wrap around the corner. There was some confusion with the street address; the post office has more than one address for the building.

Mr. Tom Yeager, of Downtown Partnership, submitted the MOU to the Board and testified in support of the application.

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 (incorporated as The Water Street Tavern, Inc.)
Location of entity’s principal office 2104 Kentucky Ave, Baltimore, MD
Attorney for licensee Mr. Abraham Hurdle
# in support 2
Attorney for community None
# of protestants 0
# of inspectors/police officers 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
Applicants Eddie Jarvis & Sarah Stauber
Business Name OTB Acquisition, LLC
Trading As On The Border
Address 3801 Boston 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; request for outdoor table service
Hearing notes

Ms. Leanne Schrecengost represented the two applicants.

Chairman Ward told Schrecengost that the main thing that the commissioners want to know is how much capital investment the applicants plan to put into the property and how much money has already been spent. The attorney gave the commissioners a copy of the applicants’ budget and told the Board that the applicants have spent $700,000 out of a total budget of $2.5 million. When asked about any neighborhood opposition, Schrecengost said that the Canton Community Association has not taken a position for or against the project.

Zoning B-2-2
Neighborhood Canton Industrial Area
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 351 W. Camden St, Baltimore, MD
Attorney for licensee Ms. Leanne Schrecengost
# in support 2
Attorney for community None
# of protestants 0
# of inspectors/police officers 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 Mark Caplan
Business Name Mount Vernon Marketplace, LLC
Trading As Mount Vernon Marketplace
Address 520 Park Avenue
Type of License Class “B” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing Application for a new Class “B” Beer, Wine & Liquor restaurant license under the provisions of Rule 2.08 requiring $200,000 in capital investment in restaurant fixtures and facilities and seating capacity for a minimum of 75 people
Hearing notes Executive Secretary Michelle Bailey-Hedgepeth announced that the case had been postponed.
Zoning B-4-1
Neighborhood Mount Vernon
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 701 Cathedral St, 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 Postponed
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 N/A
Applicant Maria De Franco
Business Name None
Trading As Caesars Den
Address 223-25 S. High Street
Type of License Class “B” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing Application to transfer ownership
Hearing notes

Mr. Melvin Kodenski represented the applicant. He told the Board that she is submitting an application to transfer the ownership (not location) of an existing license, which has been in the De Franco family for forty-five years. She has received approval from the Little Italy association. Kodenski submitted petitions signed by people in the neighborhood, with stars next to the signatories who own property in the area. Ms. De Franco would like to create a more formal restaurant, like DiPasquale’s. Kodenski mentioned that the businesses in Little Italy have been hurt by development in Harbor East. Chairman Ward was surprised to hear this and asked why. Kodenski replied that Harbor East has become “a city in itself” and that four or five places in Little Italy have closed recently.

Commissioner Moore asked, “has the license been in consistent use?” Kodenski responded that they had received a hardship extension. The Executive Secretary said that a 180-day hardship extension was granted on May 8, 2014.

Zoning B-3-2
Neighborhood Little Italy
Area demographics 58% Black, 29% White, 5% Asian; 7% Hispanic ethnicity; 29% of households have children under age 18; Average household income: $30,550.74; 35% households below the poverty line
Does corp entity exist, in good standing? No corporate entity provided
Location of entity’s principal office N/A
Attorney for licensee Mr. Melvin Kodenski
# in support 1
Attorney for community None
# of protestants 0
# of inspectors/police officers 0s
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

When the licensees, Santina Cricchio, Guido DeFranco and Maria DeFranco, came before the Board on May 8, 2014 for their hardship extension request, they told the Board that the business had been closed since October 2, 2013. Whether or not this license is valid, under the code, depends on whether the Board thinks that 10-504(d)(5) requires tolling of the time period between the submission of the hardship extension request and the eventual hearing on the hardship extension request. The full context of 10-504(d) strongly suggests that the total time period that any license can be deemed unexpired is 360 days, not 360 days plus any tolling period. Another piece of information missing from the hearing was the date of the submission of the application to transfer ownership. If the application was submitted before September 28, 2014 (360 days from the date of closing), then the application was timely. If the application was submitted after that date, the license had already expired. A license’s expiration under Article 2B section 10-504(d) occurs independently of any Board action; the license expires by operation of law and does not require the Board to vote. If the Board then gives the applicant the right to transfer a license, which by law has expired already, the Commissioners are acting outside of their authority given to them by the Code. The Commissioners did not discuss any of this.

Applicants Rupendra Luitel, Shekhar Karki & Bibek Gautam
Business Name BS & R, LLC
Trading As Waverly Tavern
Address 3801 Old York Road
Type of License Class”BD7” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing Application to transfer ownership
Hearing notes

The Executive Secretary announced that the case has been postponed and will be rescheduled on November 20, 2014. Mr. Frank Shaulis approached the Commissioners and told them that he represents the seller of the license, who would like the application to be heard sooner than November 20. Due to logistical matters, November 20 was the earliest that the case could be heard.

Zoning R-6
Neighborhood Waverly
Area demographics 79% Black, 15% White; 29% households have children under age 18; median household income: $38,733; 18% households live below the poverty line.
Does corp entity exist, in good standing? Yes; yes.
Location of entity’s principal office 3801 Old York Rd, 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 Postponed
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 N/A
Applicants Yenys Silva & Thomas Hamrick
Business Name Carolina Tex-Mex Restaurant
Trading As Carolina’s Tex-Mex Restaurant
Address 505 S. Broadway
Type of License Class “B” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing Request to add outdoor table service and live entertainment
Hearing notes

The Executive Secretary announced that this case would be postponed for October 30 and rescheduled on November 20.

Zoning B-2-2
Neighborhood Fells Point
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; no (the name of the business is “Carolina Tex-Mex Restaurant LLC.”).
Location of entity’s principal office 6803 Redrose Way, 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 Postponed
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 Bishnu Kshetri & Monika Kc
Business Name BK, LLC
Trading As Corky’s Liquors
Address 5406 York Road
Type of License Class “A” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing Application to transfer ownership
Hearing notes The Executive Secretary announced that the case had been postponed until November 20, 2014.
Zoning B-2-2
Neighborhood Homeland
Area demographics 12% Black, 75% White; 7% Asian; 3% Hispanic; 2% Two or more races; 23% households have children under age 18; median household income: $80,903.82
Does corp entity exist, in good standing? No; no.
Location of entity’s principal office Corporate entity “BK LLC” does not exist.
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 Postponed
Vote tally N/A
Portions of state law cited in decision N/A
Other reasons given for decision
Issues raised in audit present in this case or other issues observed None
Applicants Howard Staley & Mary Beth Staley
Business Name HVS Hospitality, LLC
Trading As Quarterhouse Tavern
Address 801 S. Decker Street
Type of License Class “BD7” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing Application to transfer ownership
Hearing notes

Mr. Jeffrey E. Letzkus represented the two applicants. He explained to the Board that the applicants had created a new corporate entity to operate the business and had acquired title to the property where the business is located.

Mr. Staley testified that the business has been in continuous operation until August 4, 2014 and has had regular inspections by Board staff until that date. Since August 4, 2014, they have been closed for renovations. They’ve run into an issue with electrical inspections. Chairman Ward noted that they are within their first 180 days of being closed, under Article 2B section 10-504(d). Mr. Letzkus replied that the applicants are “pretty anxious to get it open.” Commissioner Moore noted that she has observed, so far, that a “great desire to open a business” grinds to a complete halt when there are issues with electricity and BG&E. She warned the applicants: “be aware and be mindful of the 180 days.”

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 801 S Decker Ave, Baltimore, MD
Attorney for licensee Mr. Jeffrey Letzkus
# in support 2
Attorney for community None
# of protestants 0
# of inspectors/police officers 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 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 to remove restrictions – “No live entertainment in restaurant café theater area except live theatrical performance after 7 pm, no adult entertainment allowed, no form of live entertainment/dancing to general public on premise, non-club members no allowed on premises unless accompanied by a club member, food percentage must be 40%.”
Hearing notes

The licensee, Jose Ribadeneira, was not present when the hearing began.

Ms. Joanne Masopust, president of the Fells Point Community Organization (FPCO) testified that her experience with the Latin Palace has been “a long process.” After the Board found Latin Palace responsible for violating their liquor license conditions, FPCO negotiated a new agreement with new, relaxed restrictions. Masopust said that in that negotiation process, each side gave a little and took a little. She submitted the updated agreement to the Board, pointing out that one of the requirements in the agreement was that soundproofing be installed before the licensee would be allowed to have any live entertainment and dancing. The Latin Palace’s neighbors were complaining of extremely loud sound. She concluded that she is not an expert on soundproofing, but if the commissioners feel as though what Mr. Ribadeneira has done is sufficient, then FPCO is okay with the amoung of soundproofing.

Inspector Joann Martin testified that she has been to the Latin Palace three times in the past week. In her first inspection, Mr. Ribadeneira had merely hung up “entertainment quality” curtains, which were tied back decoratively when she arrived. Martin told Ribadeneira that the curtains were not sufficient soundproofing. She also noted that there is an open staircase in the back of the building which seems to act as a funnel for sound right into the neighbor’s back wall. Afterwards, Mr. Ribadeneira installed soundboard on second floor and bifold doors in the doorway leading to the staircase. When Ms. Martin was at the Latin Palace the day before the hearing, she asked him to turn the music on, and she perceived a significant difference in the sound. She did not, however, listen to the music from the neighbor’s house.

Commissioner Jones asked whether the work was done under a permit from the City. None of the witnesses at the hearing knew.

Commissioner Moore said to Inspector Martin that she had testified that there was no soundproofing on the wall, but the agreement with the community requires soundproofing on the wayy. Moore concluded, “this licensee is not going to do what is required. He needs to come here, but he first needs to do what he’s supposed to do. He has not complied.” Chairman Ward agreed and noted that he will be issuing a regulation that licensees must be present for any hearing before the Board. Ward said, “it appears that the work has not been done.” He agreed that the Board can postpone the matter to give Ribadeneira a month to finish his work. Ward told Ms. Bailey-Hedgepeth to send Mr. Ribadeneira a letter under Ward’s name to tell him that the work he has done is inadequate and that Ribadeneira should consult Ms. Joann Martin to find out what the problem is. The Board will not give any more postponements. Jones added that any work done should be under a permit from the City, and the permit will specify what he is doing. Moore clarified that until the hearing is held, there should be no live entertainment at the Latin Palace.

Zoning B-2-2
Neighborhood Fells Point
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; no.
Location of entity’s principal office 509-13 S Broadway, Baltimore, MD
Attorney for licensee None
# in support 0
Attorney for community Ms. Susan Hughes
# of protestants 1
# of inspectors/police officers 1
Result of hearing Postponed until November 20, 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 None
Applicant Casimira Sponaugle & Angel Fouts
Business Name None provided in docket
Trading As trade name pending
Address 162 N. Ellwood Avenue
Type of License Class “BD7” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing Application to transfer ownership and location of a Class “BD7” BWL license presently located at 139 N. Belnord Avenue to 162 N. Ellwood Avenue, request for live entertainment and outdoor table service
Hearing notes The hearing was postponed.
Zoning R-8
Neighborhood Patterson Park
Area demographics BNIA did not have demographic information for this neighborhood.
Does corp entity exist, in good standing? None provided in docket
Location of entity’s principal office None provided in docket
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 Postponed
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
Applicant Rosita Cassell
Business Name New Cassell’s Inc.
Trading As Sign of the Times
Address 139 N. Belnord Avenue
Type of License Class “D” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing Application to transfer location of a Class “D” BWL license presently located at 1 S. Curley Street to 139 N. Belnord Avenue
Hearing notes

The applicant was present at the hearing, without an attorney.

Chairman Ward asked the applicant whether there is any opposition to her application. She replied that she did not know of any opposition. Commissioner Moore asked, “when was the license last used at 1 S. Curley?” The applicant replied that it has been in continous use.

Zoning R-8
Neighborhood Patterson Park
Area demographics BNIA did not have demographic information for this neighborhood.
Does corp entity exist, in good standing? Yes; no.
Location of entity’s principal office 1 S. Curley St, Baltimore, MD
Attorney for licensee None
# in support 1
Attorney for community None
# of protestants 0
# of inspectors/police officers 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 The applicant’s corporate entity is not in good standing with the State. Therefore, this application to transfer location may not be complete, since the application requires a Certificate of Good Standing.

Transfers/amendments pending for more than 180 days:

Applicant Corey Brown
Business Name Bar 1513, LLC
Trading As Bar 1513
Address 1513 McHenry Street
Type of License Class “D” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing Review of a transfer pending for more than 180 days
Hearing notes

Mr. Frank Shaulis represented the applicant. The commissioners were confused about the purpose of the hearing, since the bar is open. Executive Secretary Michelle Bailey-Hedgepeth explained that Mr. Brown never completed the paperwork for the transfer. The current licensee is still operating under the former license. The documents that Mr. Brown never submitted include: the transfer authorization, a workers comp certificate, a certificate of incorporation, a new use and occupancy permit, and an alcohol awareness certificate. Bailey-Hedgepeth said that her staff had contacted Mr. Brown several times but could not get these documents from him.

Commissioner Moore noted that Article 2B section 10-503(d) requires applicants to have completed their transfer within 180 days. Moore said, “if they haven’t completed the transfer within 180 days, the transfer cannot go forward.” Chairman Ward said that in the past, the Board had handled these cases administratively. He said that the Board disagrees with the audit, that the Board should be forced to hold hearings for transfers that take longer than 180 days. Ward said, “we don’t think you should be before the Board. … As far as I’m concerned, this matter should just be closed and await for further action. You have nothing.” Commissioner Moore said, “I have a little disagreement [with Chairman Ward]. She pointed out that Mr. Brown was approved to transfer the license more than 180 days ago. The transfer was not completed. She concluded, “it is too late. This transfer has got to be denied or terminated.” She pointed out that Mr. Brown had done none of the things he was required to do and said that his application to transfer must be denied. Ward agreed with Moore.

Mr. Shaulis said that in the previous hearing, the Board said they would not make a ruling on the transfer. Ward disagreed, saying that what Mr. Shaulis described was not in the transcript of the hearing. Ward told Shaulis and Brown, “you have to start over.”

Zoning R-8
Neighborhood New Southwest/Mount Clare
Area demographics 17% White, 76% Black, 1% Asian; 4% Hispanic ethnicity; 36% households have children under age 18; median household income: $28,513.80; 30% households live below the poverty line
Does corp entity exist, in good standing? Yes; yes.
Location of entity’s principal office 1513 McHenry St, Baltimore, MD
Attorney for licensee Mr. Frank Shaulis
# in support 1
Attorney for community None
# of protestants 0
# of inspectors/police officers 0
Result of hearing Transfer has expired
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 2013 Audit does not require, or even suggest, that the Board must hold a hearing in order to tell an applicant that his transfer has expired or a licensee that his license has expired. Neither does Article 2B. Instead, Finding 17 of the Audit found fault with the Board staff’s practice of holding private meetings with applicants and licensees without recording the purpose or substance of those meetings. Article 2B does not require action by the Board to declare a license or transfer expired; rather, the transfer or license expires on its own, by operation of law, according to the statute. The Board could easily send a letter informing the (former) licensee or transferee of this fact; it is not required to hold a hearing; therefore, Chairman Ward’s remarks about disagreeing with the Audit are confusing.

This hearing marks the first time since Booze News began that the Board has correctly interpreted and applied Article 2B section 10-503(d) in a case.

1:00 pm cases

NOTE This hearing was scheduled at 11:00am and was heard earlier in the day. However, the licensee arrived at 1:00pm and the Commissioners heard the case again.
Applicant 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 to remove restrictions- “No live entertainment in restaurant café theater area except live theatrical performance after 7 pm, no adult entertainment allowed, no form of live entertainment/dancing to general public on premise, non-club members no allowed on premises unless accompanied by a club member, food percentage must be 40%”
Hearing notes

Ms. Susan Hughes represented the Fells Point Community Organization (FPCO). Mr. Jose Ribadeneira was present and represented himself.

Chairman Ward explained to all parties that Liquor Board staff had mistakenly sent out two notices to Mr. Ribadeneira, one for 11:00am and one for 1:00pm. Since the Board staff made a mistake, the Commissioners decided to re-hear the case with the licensee present.

Ward pointed out that the main issue of contention between the community group and the licensee is the soundproofing that the licensee agreed to install. Ward asked the Latin Palace’s neighbor to come up and tell the Board her experience of any difference in the sound coming from the Latin Palace. The neighbor testified that she has lived at 1705 Eastern Avenue for nine years, and the noise is so loud that it makes the dishes rattle. Ward asked her if the sound is still too loud, and she replied that it is. She and her partner had filed a 311 complaint of excessive noise on Saturday, November 1.

Mr. Ribadeneira testified that he wanted to be in compliance and he wasn’t sure exactly where he was supposed to apply the soundproofing materials. He said that he was willing to cover the walls completely with soundproofing materials, which would require an additional three hours of work. Ribadeneira said that he could probably finish that work today, and then the neighbors could come and see if it’s sufficient.

Ms. Joann Martin reiterated her testimony from the earlier hearing. Martin said that the sound was dampened from what it was before. She said that she can’t testify to whether the sound is a problem for the neighbor, because she hasn’t done a sound test at the neighbor’s home. Martin pointed out that she has not seen the supposed soundproofing that Ribadeneira says that he installed.

Chairman Ward said, “we do not have any testimony from anybody that there has been a satisfactory resolution of the condition that you have promised to do, which is to install soundproofing so as to ensure that neighbors will not be disturbed by the live entertainment.” He said that the inspector and the neighbor and the licensee need to get together and do a sound test to see what the sound is like after Mr. Ribadeneira’s improvements.

Commissioner Jones told the licensee that before he can do any of this work, he needs to get a permit from Baltimore Housing. He said that if Ribadeneira had had a permit, the inspector would have come out and done an inspection of the finished work.

The licensee, inspectors, and neighbor made an appointment to meet at 3pm for the sound test.

Ribadeneira asked if the hearing on his request to lift the restrictions could be held as soon as possible. Michelle Bailey-Hedgepeth said that the hearing could be scheduled on November 6 if the licensee waives his rights to 10 days’ notice. Ribadeneira agreed.

The licensee then asked if he could please hold scheduled events that weekend, since it was Halloween. Ward asked the neighbor whether she would be opposed to him having his event on Halloween, the following day. The neighbor agreed, “as a fellow business owner, … to give him a chance.”

Zoning B-2-2
Neighborhood Fells Point
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; 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 2
# of inspectors/police officers 1
Result of hearing Postponed until November 6
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

Violations

Licensee George Marousis
Business Name 3916 Corporation
Trading As Maynard’s Café
Address 3916 S. Hanover Street
Type of License Class “BD7” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing Violation of Rule 4.01: Minors – “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” — September 2, 2014 — Alcohol sold to an underage police cadet.
Hearing notes

Baltimore Police Detective Akinwande and Police Cadet Emily Neisser testified that on September 2, 2014 at 10:10pm, Cadet Neisser entered the bar, ordered and was served a Coors Lite beer for $3.30. Ms. Neisser was 20 years old at the time. The attorney for the licensee, Mr. Rouse, acknowledged that his client was responsible for the violation. The bartender on duty at the time did not ask for Cadet Neisser’s proof of age. Ms. Stone, the bartender, testified that she has worked at the bar for five years, and she apologized for her mistake. The licensee said that he has had everyone on his staff TIPS-certified and has gone over expectations with everyone on staff.

Executive Secretary Michelle Bailey-Hedgepeth noted that the licensee has had one prior violation of the Rules, a gambling violation of Rule 4.15 in 2012.

Zoning B-3-2
Neighborhood Brooklyn
Area demographics 48% White, 36% Black, 4% 2 or more races; 10% Hispanic ethnicity; 40% households have children under age 18; median household income: $33,644; 22% households live below the poverty line
Does corp entity exist, in good standing? Yes; yes.
Location of entity’s principal office 3916 S. Hanover St, Baltimore, MD
Attorney for licensee Mr. Rouse
# in support 3
Attorney for community None
# of protestants 0
# of inspectors/police officers 2
Result of hearing Responsible for violation. $700 fine.
Vote tally Unanimous.
Portions of state law cited in decision None
Other reasons given for decision Commissioner Moore asked for a guarantee from the licensee that the $700 fine will not come from the employee who made the mistake but will come from the licensee. The licensee and his attorney agreed.
Issues raised in audit present in this case or other issues observed None

Amendment

Applicants Joseph Soltas & David Hitchner
Business Name New Ritz, Inc.
Trading As New Ritz
Address 500-04 S. Broadway
Type of License Class “BD7” Beer, Wine & Liquor
Reason for hearing Request to expand premises to include 500 S. Broadway for business.
Hearing notes

Former Liquor Board Chairman Stephan Fogleman represented the Fells Point Community Organization (FPCO) in opposing the application to expand. There were approximately ten residents present in opposition. Mr. Melvin Kodenski represented the applicants, with about twenty-five people in support of the expansion.

Mr. Kodenski first called Mr. David Martz, President of the Fells Point Residents Association (FPRA) to testify about the Memorandum of Understanding that FPRA negotiated and signed with the applicants. Kodenski told the Board that the Douglass Place Neighborhood Association has joined in to support the project, under the conditions in the MOU, but DPNA has not yet signed the agreement. Mr. Martz testified that FPRA has 85 paid members and supports “what was promised to [them]” by the licensees: an upscale steakhouse. Right now, there is a vacant lot at the site, on the corner of South Broadway and Eastern Avenue.

Under questioning from Mr. Fogleman, Mr. Martz agreed that the original agreement between the community group and the licensees did not contain mandatory food to alcohol ratios. Fogleman asked, “wouldn’t you have preferred a restaurant license?” Mr. Martz said, “personally, yes.” Martz admitted that there are no terms in the agreement to describe what would happen in case of a breach of the agreement. The food to alcohol ratio in the MOU would only apply to the steakhouse portion of the licensed premises (500-02 S Broadway). Fogleman asked, with a single license, in a single building, and a single entity, how is anyone to know what food was sold in which part of the premises? Mr. Martz said that he would rely on the Liquor Board as the regulating agency to help figure that out. Fogleman asked what would stop the licensee from transferring all food receipts over to the steakhouse premises? How is that going to be policed effectively? Martz replied that he did not know how that would be calculated. Fogleman pointed out that hours of operation and valet parking are not specified in the agreement. Martz did not know what the capacity of the Ritz Gentleman’s Club currently is or what its expanded building would be.

Mr. Andrew O’Connell, attorney for the property owner at 500-02 S. Broadway, testified next. The property owner of that vacant lot is an LLC, which he has represented in two lawsuits against the City. One lawsuit has concluded and one is ongoing. The City sued the property owner for housing violations; the vacant property formerly at that address collapsed, leaving “an open hole” in the ground, which is a code violation. The City and the property owner entered into a settlement agreement to resolve the lawsuit. Under the agreement, the LLC who owns the property has agreed to build something on the lot. Permits must be pulled for the project by December 2014, and construction must begin by March 2015. The LLC owner has put up a fence around the vacant lot.

Commissioner Moore asked Mr. O’Connell whether there is any legal relationship between the current licensees and his client, the LLC that owns the property at 500-02 S Broadway. O’Connell replied that one of the managing members of the LLC is also a member of the entity that owns the liquor license at 504 S. Broadway. Moore said that it does sound like there is a relationship, then. Moore asked, why should this Board care about the LLC’s consent agreement with the City of Baltimore? O’Connell replied that the property owner is in “a Catch-22.” The City has required the owner to build something. The property owner wants to build something. Some of the community members want the owner to build something and some of them don’t.

Mr. Fogleman asked Mr. O’Connell, “are you aware that the LLC is forfeited?” O’Connell was not aware of this. Fogleman then asked O’Connell why it has taken four and a half years to begin construction on replacing the collapsed building at 500-02 S. Broadway. O’Connell said that his client was suing the City during that time for mistakenly knocking down the building. According to O’Connell, the City was supposed to have knocked down one building and they knocked down both.

Mr. Ian Sokoloski, architect for the applicants, submitted drawings of the proposed building. He told the Board that there has not yet been a hearing before the Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation (CHAP) or the Board of Municipal Zoning Appeals (BMZA) for the project. The Planning Department, however, has recommended approval. The proposed structure will require a variance from BMZA, because it will need to cover 100% of the lot. The commissioners asked whether the two buildings will have any doorways between them; Mr. Sokoloski replied that building codes will not permit a door between them. The buildings will be independently constructed, with no openings or communication between the two structures.

Mr. Abraham Hurdle then testified as a witness. He met with four community organizations, including Douglass Place Neighborhood Association, Fells Point Residents Association, Fellls Point Community Organization, and the Broadway Area Business Association. Mr. Kodenski then submitted letters of support from business owners in the block where the expansion was being sought as well as a petition in support from residents. Fogleman requested a few minutes’ break to look at the addresses of the petitioners.

During the break, as opponents were looking at the petition, they noticed a line at the bottom of the petition that read: “every attendee to the hearing will recieve [sic] $50 Ritz bar tab.” To view a photo of the petition page, click here.

When the hearing reconvened, Fogleman pointed out the $50 bar tab promise, to which the applicant/licensee had no answer. Fogleman also said that 242 of the signatories to the petition submitted signatures that were outside of Fells Point.

Mr. Kodenski then submitted a copy of the licensees’ proposed menu. Fogleman pointed out that the menu had not been submitted for the file, though it was provided to the community associations during meetings.

Mr. Omid Ilkhan testified next. He, through his LLC, owns all of the property in question: 500-02 S Broadway (the vacant lot) and 504 S. Broadway (the Ritz Gentlemen’s Club). Ilkhan did not know whether the lots would be consolidated at some point. Ilkhan asked, “what is wrong with having a steakhouse?” He testified that the lot is a perfect place for a steakhouse, because the gentlemen can go to the strip club, then they can go next door and have a steak. He plans to spend between $800,000 and $1.2 million on the project. The commissioners asked him why he doesn’t form a new corporation and open the steakhouse under a Class B license. Ilkhan replied that he wants both businesses to be run by the same corporation, because of tax liability reasons.

Mr. David Hitchner testified next as one of the current licensees and applicants for the expansion. He told Commissioner Moore that women can go to the Ritz too, if they want. He estimated that 30% of his customers at the Ritz are women. Mr. Fogleman asked Hitchner why the application for the expansion said that the expanded premises will provide “snacks,” which does not seem consistent with a steakhouse concept. Hitchner said that “snacks” was put on the application before they developed the menu. The applicants created the menu by going to different high end steakhouses in the area and taking ideas that they saw on other menus. Hitchner said, “we typed it up on a computer, it wasn’t like we hired a firm to put together a menu.”

Commissioner Moore asked Mr. Hitchner about the $50 bar tab promise at the bottom of the petition. Mr. Hitchner said that he didn’t know about it, but he guessed he would have to honor it if people came in to claim it. Moore became stern and said, “you understand that the atmospherics of this are all wrong.” Hitchner agreed. Moore noted that she had looked carefully through the petition, and it looks like a lot of the signatures are in the same handwriting, all signed by the same person. Hitchner agreed that it looked that way to him, too. Moore replied that it calls into question the value of the entire petition. “It’s very bad,” she said.

Moore then asked Mr. Hitchner about the letters of support from area businesses. She said that these letters do not go into any detail about the type of license or the specific project. She said that she assumed that the signatories were given a form letter. She was not impressed by the menu submitted by the licensees, saying that all they did was go to a few restaurants and pick their favorite meals. The licensees have not hired a chef and are asking for permission to open in a property “that looks like a meteor hit it.” She concluded, “sometimes the easier path is the path that should be taken. Y’all have chosen a difficult path.” She pointed out that the community organizations have already agreed to support a restaurant license. She asked Hitchner, “why are you choosing the far more difficult path?” Hitchner replied that, according to Article 2B, the same licensees cannot own a BD-7 license and a B license at the same time, and he doesn’t trust anyone else to be on the license for the steakhouse. He said, “we want to keep everything in-house.” Hitchner explained that the Ritz is involved in a “cash business,” which means that the owners need to be able to trust each other. “It’s an honesty thing. Joe and I want to stay on the same license.”

Mr. Fogleman asked the supporters of the application to raise their hands if they are current employees of the Ritz. Of the nineteen that were in the room, thirteen raised their hands.

At the end of Mr. Kodenski’s case, Mr. Fogleman moved to dismiss the licensees’ application. He said that the petition in support of the application was the worst he had ever seen. The supporters present at the hearing were mostly employees at the Ritz, and none of the supporters reside within five blocks of the licensed premises. Mr. Kodenski has shown no public need or desire for this new business, and, according to Fogleman, the Board is being asked to craft an unusual expansion. Fogleman said that the application was slapped together and very premature. The Chairman responded that Mr. Fogleman’s concerns would be considered and the Board would give the applicants’ testimony the weight it deserves. He denied the motion to dismiss.

Mr. Liam Davis testified for the opponents, on behalf of City Council President Jack Young. Mr. Young has received many emails and letters of opposition and is opposed to the application. Next, State Delegate Luke Clippinger testified that he, along with State Senator Bill Ferguson and Delegates Pete Hammen and Brian McHale are also opposed to the expansion. Democratic candidate for Delegate Brooke Lierman also submitted a letter of opposition. Clippinger said that the expansion of one license to cover multiple buildings would defeat the intent of the statutory ban on new BD-7 licenses. Kodenski objected to this testimony, saying that Clippinger is not an authority on Article 2B.

Denise Whitman testified next in opposition to the expansion. She testified that the two buildings that used to stand at 500 and 502 S. Broadway were allowed to deteriorate by Mr. Ilkhan until one of them collapsed. She said that, because the two structures were interconnected, they both came down. She stated that she is very concerned that bars are getting too big in Fells Point and are consolidating in order to have more and more patrons.

Chairman Ward said that he couldn’t tell the community members how many times people had come to him with their properties having been torn down accidentally by a negligent Baltimore City.

Ms. Joanne Masopust, President of the Fells Point Community Organization, read a prepared statement as her testimony. She was concerned by the applicants’ adamant resistance to obtaining a restaurant license for their restaurant. FPCO would support a restaurant license application, because a restaurant license offers more protection to the community than a BD-7 tavern license, even with an MOU in place. Masopust pointed out that, if the steakhouse concept fails, the licensees will have a gigantic BD-7 license, with square footage of 7,680. She said that this might make the Ritz the largest BD-7 tavern in Baltimore now that Voltage is closed. Mr. Kodensi had suggested Pazo and the Latin Palace as other large bars, but those two have B restaurant licenses, not BD-7s. Masopust told the Board that from Eastern Avenue south to the water between the east side of Caroline and the west side of Washington, there are twenty-give existing BD-7 establishments. The previous Board allowed a Class A liquor store to become a BD-7 establishment by “adding five bar stools and a TV.” Mr. Victor Corbin, of the Fells Prospect Community Association, agreed with Ms. Masopust, saying that Fells Point has enough licenses. Corbin did not think that the MOU signed by FPRA was good enough to allay his concerns. He said that in his experience, MOUs have to be enforced by the community members themselves, so it is difficult to make sure that licensees follow the rules unless there are vigilant community members keeping track of violations.

Chairman Ward said that he has heard so much about the oversaturation of liquor licenses in Fells Point, “I’m about to shoot myself. … And I never miss.” He agreed with Masopust, however, that the liquor inspectors do not have the capacity to enforce food restrictions in a private agreement.

Several more community members testified and reiterated testimony already presented.

Zoning B-2-2
Neighborhood Fells Point
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 504 S. Broadway, Baltimore, MD
Attorney for licensee Mr. Melvin Kodenski
# in support ~25
Attorney for community Mr. Stephan Fogleman
# of protestants ~10
# 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

Chairman Ward said to all assembled that he can see that there have been promises broken over the years, and a lot of people are fed up. Neighborhoods have changed, young people have swarmed and have a different lifestyle and like different things. Ward told the property owner that he understood that the owner wouldn’t put money into the property unless he can make money back. However, some of the people that the owner and licensees have associated with “have not exercised much intelligence.” There are petitions all signed by the same person and a carelessly completed application. The applicants have not shown a desire to do something that will last “a long time after we’re alive. Or at least, me.” It’s hard for the neighborhood to believe that the applicants will do what they say, and Chairman Ward wasn’t convinced, either. So Ward voted no on the application.

Commissioner Jones concurred with the Chairman. He said that the police department would be stretched too thin to monitor the situation properly. He also was not comfortable with the lot consolidation situation.

Commissioner Moore agreed with Jones and Ward. She said that her mother used to use a phrase “too slick by half,” which she thought applied to this project. I wasn’t presented well. When Moore started peeling down the layers, there is no real thought given to it being a steakhouse. She found it disturbing that the petition signatories were offered money for showing up, and she said that it injects huge level of doubt into the process. There were also flaws in the MOU, and the food to alcohol ratio in the agreement was “completely unenforceable.” She strongly voted no.

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

Article 2B section 10-202(a)(4) requires:

“(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 renewal 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.”

An application for an expansion of premises is not included in the above section, so technically the law does not require the Board to follow it in this circumstance. However, it is good practice for all applications, of any type, to be complete before the Board hears them publicly. This application was not yet complete, because the BMZA had not yet ruled on the variance request.

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