Booze News: Distilled in Room 215

A blog about the Baltimore City Liquor Board

What happened at the Liquor Board on December 4, 2014.

Written by Becky Witt

All three members of the Board of Liquor License Commissioners for Baltimore City began hearings at 11:02am.

11:00 a.m. cases

I. Transfers and amendments:

Applicants Andrew Carter and Jesse Selke
Business Name Catherine’s Pub, LLC
Trading As Delia Foley’s Pub
Address 1439 S. Charles Street
Type of License Class “D” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing Application to transfer ownership
Hearing notes

Mr. Melvin Kodenski represented the two applicants. Kodenski reminded the Board that the bar had opened as a BD-7 license but had recently swapped licenses with Bandito’s to make theirs a 6-day Class D tavern license. He submitted a letter of support of the transfer of ownership from the South Baltimore Neighborhood Association.

Mr. Andrew Carter testified that he has worked in the alcoholic beverage industry for ten years. Carter met with the SBNA and agreed to keep the lines of communication open with them. He is TAM-certified through 2017, and two other bartenders at the bar are certified as well. Mr. Carter has lived in Federal Hill for four years; Mr. Selke does not live in Baltimore City. Commissioner Moore asked the two applicants, “are you aware that you’re dressed identically?”

Zoning R-8
Neighborhood South Baltimore
Area demographics 90% White, 3% Black, 3% Asian; 3% Hispanic ethnicity; 15% households have children under age 18; median household income: $73,342; 8% households live below the poverty line.
Does corp entity exist, in good standing? Yes, yes.
Location of entity’s principal office 1439 S Charles St, Baltimore, MD 21230
Attorney for licensee Mr. Melvin Kodenski
# 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 James Collins
Business Name N/A
Trading As Trade Name Pending
Address 39-43 S. Arlington Avenue
Type of License Class “D” Beer & Wine License
Reason for hearing Application to transfer ownership from a contract purchaser; request for live entertainment, off-premises catering, and live entertainment.
Hearing notes

Liquor Board Executive Secretary Michelle Bailey-Hedgepeth announced that the Board had received a postponement request from both the licensee and the community association. The commissioners agreed to postpone the matter. Commissioner Moore pointed out that the Board will need to consider the license’s validity when they reschedule the case.

Zoning B-2-3
Neighborhood Hollins Market
Area demographics 83% Black, 13% White; 31% households have children under age 18; median household income: $19.183; 38% households live below the poverty line.
Does corp entity exist, in good standing? N/A
Location of entity’s principal office N/A
Attorney for licensee None
# in support 0
Attorney for community None
# of protestants 0
# of inspectors/police officers 0
Result of hearing Postponed
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 None
Applicants Steven Roop and Alexander Heidenberger
Business Name Baltimore Buddies, LLC
Trading As Cask and Grain
Address 2121-23 O’Donnell Street
Type of License Class “BD7” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing Application to expand premises to include 2823 O’Donnell Street for business.
Hearing notes

Mr. Joseph Woolman represented applicant Steve Roop, who will be the operator of the expanded premises. Woolman submitted a Memorandum of Undertanding (MOU) between the applicant and two community associations, Canton Square Homeowners Association and Canton Community Association. Woolman also submitted a letter of support from O’Donnell Square Business Association as well as a floor plan of the expanded premises. He explained that the concept will be similar to the restaurant/bar Alonso’s Loco Hombre. The restaurant will be a farm-to-table concept, and it has received wide support from the community.

Zoning B-2-2
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 2821 O’Donnell St, Baltimore, MD 21224
Attorney for licensee Mr. Joseph Woolman
# 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 None
Applicants Brent Fuller, Ken Donithan, and Melissa Fuller
Business Name 737 Carroll, LLC
Trading As Shakers
Address 737 Carroll Street
Type of License Class “BD7” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing Application to transfer ownership.
Hearing notes

Mr. Brent Fuller and Mr. Ken Donithan appeared on their own behalf, unrepresented. They testified that they have lived in the neighborhood for a long time and saw that Jigg’s was up for sale. They would keep the bar more or less the same but would add food to the menu. The applicants testified that they had met with two community groups, Pigtown Main Street and Citizens of Pigtown, and there is no opposition to the transfer, that they are aware of. The file contained a letter of support from Citizens of Pigtown only, not Pigtown Main Street.

Neither of the applicants lives in Baltimore City, but Mr. Fuller owns real property in his name within the city limits. Mr. Donithan lives in Carroll County but was born and raised in Baltimore City and is familiar with the area. Commissioner Moore pointed out that these two applicants are “absentee owners” and advised them that it will be important that they know what is happening at their establishment. They are proposing to open in a residential neighborhood, and Moore said that the Board “wouldn’t want [the applicants] to have to come back.” Mr. Fuller promised that he would be involved in the bar, noting that he drives by often and owns rental property in the neighborhood.

Zoning R-9
Neighborhood Pigtown
Area demographics BNIA did not have demographic information available for Washington Village/Pigtown.
Does corp entity exist, in good standing? Yes, yes.
Location of entity’s principal office 445 Hand Ct, Hampstead, MD 21074
Attorney for licensee None
# 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 Cyril Ezeakor
Business Name 25th Roland Billiards, Inc.
Trading As Roland Billiards
Address 5722 York Road
Type of License Class “BD7” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing Application to transfer location of a Class BD7 BWL license presently located at 428 E. 25th Street to 5722 York Road; request for live entertainment.
Hearing notes

Ms. Bailey-Hedgepeth announced that the Board had received a request for postponement from both the applicant and community representatives.

Zoning B-2-2
Neighborhood Rosebank
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, no.
Location of entity’s principal office 428 E 25th St, Baltimore, MD 21218
Attorney for licensee None
# in support 0
Attorney for community None
# of protestants 0
# of inspectors/police officers 0
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 Hilda Karamouz, Bryan Voltaggio, and Alex Fine
Business Name FM Bmore, LLC
Trading As Family Meal
Address 621 E. Pratt Street
Type of License Class “B” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing Application for a new Class B beer, wine, and liquor restaurant license under the provisions of Article 2B Section 6-201(d)(vii), requiring $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

Mr. Stanley Fine, a partner at Rosenberg Martin Greenberg LLP, represented the applicants in this case, who were all present. Fine explained that the restaurant will go in the Power Plant building. Mr. Voltaggio is a half-owner of the business, and Ms. Karamouz owns the other half of the business. The restaurant will be another version of the Family Meal restaurant located in Frederick, MD. The establishment will be a 6,000 square foot family style restaurant, serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner made from sustainable, local, organic ingredients. Voltaggio plans to open two more restaurants in Ashburn and Richmond, Virginia. Fine promised the Board that all managers will take the alcoholic beverage safety course and will card patrons under the age of 30. They plan to sell mostly food, so they will easily meet the requirement that food sales must account for 51% or more of the business’s income.

The commissioners asked how much money has been invested in the restaurant so far. Fine replied that the applicants have spent $309,000 so far, out of a total of $809,000. Mr. Fine submitted a letter of support from Downtown Partnership.

Mr. Alex Fine is the “Baltimore City resident” required by Article 2B and is also Mr. Stanley Fine’s nephew. Alex works for the landlord who owns the property at Power Plant and is a property owner in Baltimore City. Stanley Fine told the Board that his nephew “has more than a passing interest in the success of this restaurant.” Commissioner Moore then pointed out that Alex Fine had signed the application for the new Class B license as a character witness. Moore said that she did not think that someone can attest to their own character. Mr. Stanley Fine told the Board that when Mr. Voltaggio and Ms. Karamouz filled out the new license application, they did not have legal representation and did not know that they needed a Baltimore City property owner on the license. Mr. Alex Fine was added to the application later to fulfill that requirement. Stanley Fine said that he would amend the application by signing it as a character witness on behalf of his nephew.

Zoning B-5-1
Neighborhood Inner Harbor
Area demographics 80% White, 12% Black, 4% Asian. 3% Hispanic ethnicity. 11% households have children under age 18. Median household income: $78,578. 12% households live below poverty line.
Does corp entity exist, in good standing? Yes, yes.
Location of entity’s principal office 621 E Pratt St, Baltimore, MD 21202
Attorney for licensee Mr. Stanley Fine, Rosenberg Martin Greenberg
# in support 3
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 **
Applicants Richard Cheung, Bernard Rosenthal, and Abraham Rosenthal
Business Name WC Umi, LLC
Trading As Umi Sake @ Row
Address 1702 Whetstone Way
Type of License Class “B” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing Application to transfer ownership, request for outdoor table service.
Hearing notes

Mr. Melvin Kodenski represented the three applicants, who were all present at the hearing. He explained to the Board that the application before the commissioners is to transfer an existing license to new owners at the same location. Kodenski said that Mr. Cheung is the “primary owner” and he has owned other restaurants in Baltimore County. The attorney told the Board members that the restauraant will have an “Asian fusion” concept but confessed, “I don’t really know what that is.” Mr. Cheung explained that the restaurant will serve different kinds of Asian food, including Korean, Thai, Japanese and Chinese dishes. Kodenski responded, “well, that explains that.”

Commissioner Moore asked how frequently Mr. Cheung would be at the restaurant. Cheung responded that he will spend at least 50% of his time there, primarily at lunchtime. In the evenings, he will go to another restaurant location in Baltimore County, but he will keep an assistant manager on-site. Bernard and Abraham Rosenthal testified that they are part owners of the McHenry Row retail development, with Mark Sapperstein. They are both at the shopping center “virtually every day.” Mr. Bernard Rosenthal is a 1% owner in the restaurant and is an applicant who has been placed on the license to satisfy Article 2B section 10-103(b)(4), which requires that one of the licensees reside in Baltimore City. Kodenski interjected that he disagrees with this provision of the code, and suggested that Baltimore City should adopt the code provision that applies to Baltimore County, which only requires that one applicant live in the State of Maryland. Kodenski said, “I’m a voice crying out in the desert.”

Zoning B-2-2
Neighborhood Locust Point
Area demographics 90% White, 3% Black, 3% Asian; 3% Hispanic ethnicity; 15% households have children under age 18; median household income: $73,342; 8% households live below the poverty line.
Does corp entity exist, in good standing? Yes, yes.
Location of entity’s principal office 9726 York Rd, Cockeysville, MD 20720
Attorney for licensee Mr. Melvin Kodenski
# in support 3
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 Edward Atwater and Alec Albrecht
Business Name Wellfood, LLC
Trading As Atwater’s
Address 855 N. Wolfe Street
Type of License Class “B” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing Application for a new Class B beer, wine, and liquor restaurant license under the provisions of Rule 2.08 requiring $200,000 in capital investment in restuarant fixtures and facilities and seating capacity for a minimum of 75 people, request for outdoor table service and off-premises catering.
Hearing notes

Ms. Caroline Hecker, of Rosenberg Martin Greenberg, LLP, represented the applicants. She explained to the Board that Mr. Atwater owns Atwater’s, 50/50, with his wife. The proposed new restaurant will be adjacent to the Johns Hopkins medical campus. She submitted photographs to show the inside and outside of the building. The new Atwater’s will be open only Monday to Friday, from 7am to 6pm; they have no current plans to open on weekends. The space was formerly operated by the now-closed restaurant, Cuban Revolution. The former tenant had invested, with the landlord, $919,000 in building out the space. Atwater’s has invested $95,000 since it took over its lease. The total capital investment in this building over the past several years is over $1 million (including the investment from Cuban Revolution). Atwater’s does not plan to offer live entertainment and will serve mostly food at this location. Mr. Atwater has been on several restaurant liquor licenses in the Baltimore area, none of which has ever had a liquor violation. It is Atwater’s’ policy to ask for identification for anyone who looks under 30. Hecker submitted a petition in support of the license application, signed by 76 customers. She told the Board that there are no other liquor licensees in the immediate vicinity of the restaurant, and Cuban Revolution had a liquor license for a year at this location with no negative effects on neighbors.

Commissioner Moore noted that Ms. Hecker had proffered that Cuban Revolution had closed six months ago, but Moore knew that it closed almost a year ago, sometime in the winter of 2014. She knew this because she had spoken with the Executive Director of East Baltimore Development Inc. (EBDI) about trying to find a new restaurant tenant for the space. Moore pointed out that the statute requires $200,000 of capital investment, and Atwater’s has only contributed $95,000. She said to Ms. Hecker, “help me understand why this applicant is entitled to piggyback on monies spent by someone other than them, especially when it was at least a year or more ago that those dollars [were] spent.” Ms. Hecker responded that Article 2B requires that there be a capital investment but does not require that the investment be by the applicant. She said that the investment from two years ago had not depreciated to below $200,000.

Commissioner Moore was not satisfied with this explanation. She told Hecker that she understood the statute to require the capital investment by the applicant, especially since Cuban Revolution had a liquor license and presumably had already applied their capital investment dollars to qualify for their restaurant license under the statute. Hecker responded that the majority of the money invested for Cuban Revolution was invested by the landlord, not the tenant.

At this point, Mr. Stanley Fine, a fellow partner at Ms. Hecker’s firm, joined Ms. Hecker. He argued that, because Cuban Revolution failed, they forfeited their assets to the landlord, where normally they would have been able to sell them. He said that Atwater’s is really paying for the capital investment that was previously made through their high rent to the landlord.

Chairman Ward said that to avoid buying a Class B license, Atwater’s is qualifying for a brand new “free” license through a capital investment. Fine responded that the license is not “free” because Atwater’s is paying a hefty rent to their landlord. Ward asked whether commercial rent can be considered an investment. Fine answered that part of the rent is letting a landlord get a return on his investment. He argued to the Board that the $200,000 capital investment minimum has been an economic development tool in Baltimore City. In contrast, if Atwater’s were to open a restaurant in Towson, they would have to spend $200,000-$250,000 to purchase a license. If that became true in Baltimore City, the city would not have the restaurant growth that they currently have. Restauranteurs would prefer to spend money on the restaurant space than on a license.

Commissioner Moore replied that she enjoys going to Atwater’s, and the restaurant is needed in the space, but she did not want to make a decision that sets a bad precedent for other applications. She wants the restaurant to be successful, but they have not satisfied the requirement in the law. Hecker responded that the legislative intent of the section of the Code is to guarantee that applicants are running “a high quality restaurant” and Mr. Atwater has met that intent here. She told the Board that the restaurant is already open (without alcohol service). Mr. Atwater testified that he will not be spending an additional $105,000 to meet the $200,000 minimum anytime soon. Atwater said that his restaurant has the use of $250-$300,000 in high-end kitchen equipment, which is really owned by the landlord.

Zoning B-2-3
Neighborhood Middle East
Area demographics 5% White, 89% Black, 2% Asian; 2% Hispanic ethnicity; 33% households have children under age 18; median household income: $15,415; 47% households live below the poverty line
Does corp entity exist, in good standing? Yes, yes.
Location of entity’s principal office 2905 Whittington Ave; Baltimore, MD 21230
Attorney for licensee Ms. Caroline Hecker and Mr. Stanley Fine, Rosenberg Martin Greenberg, LLP
# in support ~4
Attorney for community None
# of protestants 0
# of inspectors/police officers 0
Result of hearing Approved
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 **

1:00pm cases

II. Reconsideration:

DISCLAIMER Booze News blogger and Community Law Center staff attorney Becky Lundberg Witt represented the community association in this case.
Licensee Felicita Zapata
Business Name 646 of Newkirk, Inc.
Trading As Latin Quarters
Address 646 S. Newkirk Street
Type of License Class “D” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing Review of a previous request to reopen.
Hearing notes

Mr. Hurdle began by saying, “I object to this hearing; I have no idea why we’re here. The case is on appeal.” The Executive Secretary explained to the Board that the Board’s counsel, Alice Pinderhughes, had asked for more evidence to be put on the record, since no evidence was submitted at the prior hearing on appeal. Mr. Hurdle continued to object, saying that the record speaks for itself and that “any attempt to clear up the record before a judicial order is…” Judge Ward said, “what?” Hurdle reiterated, “I think the record speaks for itself. … I respect the Commission.” Ward replied, “sure you do.” Chairman Ward decided to move forward with the hearing, over Hurdle’s objection.

Ms. Bailey-Hedgepeth then gave copies of some documents in the file to the Commissioners, including letters from the community in opposition to allowing the bar to reopen, a letter from Baltimore City Housing saying that the tavern use of the building had been revoked for discontinuance of the nonconforming use for over one year.

Ms. Witt then submitted a packet of documents, mostly pulled from the Liquor Board’s files. She submitted printouts from the State Department of Assessments and Taxation’s website, showing that the corporate entity associated with the liquor license was forfeited for over three years between 2009 and 2012, which means that the business “646 of Newkirk, Inc.” was unable to do business in its own name between those two dates. She also submitted a series of letters from former Deputy Executive Secretary Jane Schroeder to the licensee; each of the letters noted that the licensee was behind on paying her renewal fees. Witt noted that the 2010 and 2011 licenses for this address were still in the file, in their envelopes, which means that the licensee never retrieved them and never legally opened her business during those two license years. Another letter from Jane Schroeder to an auction company said that the license was not in good standing and that the nonconforming use for the building had probably been lost. Witt also submitted an inspector’s report from Inspector Ed Owens to Acting Executive Secretary Douglas Paige saying that the business had never opened in 2013 after being given permission by the Board to open in January 2013. She submitted a water bill from Baltimore City showing that the water had not been paid for since June 2013 and that the water has been shut off at this property. Finally, she submitted the first page of each renewal application from 2009 to 2013, showing that each one, filled out by the licensee, states that the business has been closed, though each one has a different closure date.

Mr. James Pringle, president of the Greater Greektown Neighborhood Alliance, then testified that the bar has been closed since he moved to the neighborhood, except when they opened without permission in the last week of February 2014. Mr. Hurdle argued that the bar had been given permission to reopen in January 2013, to which Ms. Witt agreed.

Commissioner Moore asked Mr. Hurdle where the licensee, his client, was, and Hurdle responded, “she’s not here.” Moore asked, “when have you last spoken with her?” Hurdle declined to answer that question. Moore stated that it seems to her that if this were an important issue for the licensee, she would come to the hearing.

Zoning R-8
Neighborhood Greektown
Area demographics 52% White, 12% Black, 3% Asian; 30% Hispanic ethnicity; 30% households have children under age 18; median household income: $38,987.50.
Does corp entity exist, in good standing? Yes, no.
Location of entity’s principal office 22032 Jefferson Blvd, Smithsburg, MD 21783
Attorney for licensee Mr. Abraham Hurdle
# in support 0
Attorney for community Ms. Becky Lundberg Witt
# of protestants 1
# of inspectors/police officers 0
Result of hearing Affirmed July 10, 2014 ruling.
Vote tally Unanimous
Portions of state law cited in decision None
Other reasons given for decision

Judge Ward began his remarks by saying, “one of the things that we all try to do in life is the administration of justice.” He believed that the record had been well-supplemented by the documents in the file and “the license is of no validity.” Commissioner Jones agreed that “the license is dead.” Commissioner Moore also agreed. She said that the evidence is overwhelming that the license expired through lack of use over many years. She noted that there were many documents in the file from the Board telling the licensee what she needed to do, and there was no action. Even after the Board gave Ms. Zapata permission to reopen in January 2013, there was no action, so that when February 2014 rolls around, the license had again expired through the licensee’s own failure. Moore added that the hardest thing that a lawyer has to do is to tell their client that it’s too late. She told Hurdle that lawyers have the responsibility to tell their clients the truth.

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

Finding 19 of the 2013 Legislative Audit showed that the Board did not have procedures in place to keep track of whether establishments were open or closed; this case is a very good example of that procedural failure. The Board was well aware that the licensee was not open for years, and it still took months for the Board, under community pressure, to finally admit that the license had expired.

Applicant Dale Watkins
Business Name N/A
Trading As Lil’s Place
Address 1909 N. Pulaski Street
Type of License Class “D” Beer, Wine, &Liquor License
Reason for hearing Request for reconsideration of the Board’s decision of October 23, 2014.
Hearing notes

Mr. Melvin Kodenski represented Ms. Watkins, with seven others in support of the reconsideration. There were four other community members in opposition to the reconsideration, and they were not represented by counsel.

Mr. Kodenski began by reminding the Board that Ms. Driver’s building had been damaged by a March 8, 2014 fire. Immediately after the fire, Driver wrote to the Board to ask for a hardship extension, and the Board told her to resubmit her request after 180 days. She came back to the Board on August 21 for a hardship extension, which was granted. Her daughter then submitted an application to transfer ownership. Kodenski said that the only issue at the transfer hearing is whether the applicant is fit and proper to have the license transferred. Kodenski said that various community members testified at that time that the license was expired, but the applicant was not aware that this testimony was going to be presented.

Commissioner Moore told Kodenski that she had learned after the hardship extension hearing that there was evidence that had not been presented to the Board. Once she received that evidence, it was “patently obvious [to Moore] that Lil’s Place had not been open for some period of time.” Kodenski replied that the Liquor Board’s inspectors are not there “all the time” and that he had brought people who had been patrons of Lil’s during the time that the inspectors said it was closed. Kodenski objected to Moore’s use of the term “community” to refer to the opposition to the liquor license. Moore replied that Kodenski was wasting his energy.

Ms. Watkins then presented her evidence that she had brought to show that the establishment was open. She told the Board that when the firefighters were putting out the fire next door, they destroyed the windows and doors of Lil’s Place and also destroyed some or all of the liquor. Watkins filed a request for reimbursement from Baltimore City, but the city denied her request. She submitted her application to the BMZA on June 27, 2013 to open a barbershop on the second floor of the building. Chairman Ward pointed out that the issue is whether the bar was open, and the BMZA filing does not show that the bar was open. Watkins then introduced documents that she said were delivery receipts for alcohol. Moore replied that they were not delivery receipts; they were receipts for payment. Watkins said that her mother always paid “cash on delivery” (COD), so they were receipts from deliveries. Watkins said that all the receipts from 2014 were destroyed in the fire. She submitted some other documents from Bond Distributers, a company that distributes Keystone and Steel Reserve beer. At this point, Chairman Ward admonished Mr. Kodenski for not coming in with an organized case. He told Kodenski, “you’re the attorney, you should have this stuff straight.” Watkins continued with her evidence. She submitted a letter form the Maryland State Lottery that the establishment was approved for lottery sales from 2009 to 2013. Watkins finally submitted a police report showing that the building had been burglarized on January 6, 2013, which, Watkins argued, showed that they were “definitely open.” Ward pointed out that a closed bar could have been broken into.

Kodenski then presented witnesses to speak in support of Watkins and Driver. Mr. Glen Scott testified that he is a bricklayer and has lived on the block for eighteen years and was a faithful patron of Lil’s, four or five times a week. He drank Budweiser during the week and Hennessy on the weekends. He testified that the bar was open in 2013 and 2014. Mr. Armando Cadogan owns two properties on the block and would stop in to Lil’s Place in the evenings to pick up rent checks. He doesn’t drink, so he would just get a glass of water. Ms. Savonne Cox testified that she was a patron of the location until the fire in March. She knew that the bar was open continuously until the fire, but she moved away from the neighborhood three years ago. Mr. Thomas Comi testified that he owns a vending machine business and that there was a jukebox at Lil’s Place owned by his company. He submitted a jukebox license that was issued by Baltimore City in December 2013 for $400. Mr. Mark White testified that he used to go to the bar about two times a month and drink Steel Reserve. Mr. James Odom testified next that he used to go to Lil’s every day and drink Remi Martin. On cross-examination, Ms. Adeline Hutchinson from the community association asked if Mr. Odom had ever borrowed any money from Ms. Lil. Odom replied, “no, I’ve lent Lil money.” Mr. Ware testified that Ms. Watkins is his niece and he used to go by two or three times a week to say hello, but he did not drink anything. Ms. Doris Booker testified that she “go back a many year with Ms. Lil.” She used to go to Lil’s and play the lottery, two to three times a week, unti the fire, but she is not from the area.

Ms. Watkins then submitted more evidence. She provided her alcohol education certificate and records of the retail sales taxes paid from 2008-2014. She argued that the community signatures in opposition to her were “forged” because several of the signatures were in the same handwriting. Watkins said that she has been helping her mom at the establishment since 1989, and she is familiar with the operation of the bar. She said that investors have been purchasing properties in the neighborhood lately, to “give folks something to come home to that’s decent.” She said that before the fire, she had tried to get the name of Pulaski Street changed to “Lil.” She argued that their business is not located in the Matthew A Hensen neighborhood association’s boundaries. She also argued, contrary to testimony provided at the last hearing, that she never sees kids in the vicinity of the bar, except maybe in the summertime. Watkins criticized Ms. Hutchinson’s and Dr. Cheatham’s efforts in planting fruit trees, saying that the community needs to get rid of its rats before it plants trees. Chairman Ward asked Ms. Watkins, “are you criticizing someone who is trying to improve their community?” Jones also asked, “am I to understand that because Doc Cheatham is involved, you’re going to hold him accountable for every ill in the community?” Ms. Watkins withdrew her photos of the fruit trees. She argued that all of the properties on the block, except one, are occupied, contrary to Ms. Hutchinson’s testimony from the previous hearing.

Ms. Hutchinson asked Ms. Watkins if she had contacted any community association either before October 23 or since? Ms. Watkins said that she had not, because she doesn’t belong to any community association. Hutchinson asked, if the Board was to rule in Ms. Watkins’ favor, what benefit would the sale of alcohol bring to the community? Ms. Watkins replied that the sale of alcohol is a business and is their livelihood, just like any other business. Watkins said that beer and liquor doesn’t affect the crime rate; guns and drugs affect the crime rate.

Commissioner Moore then questioned Ms. Watkins about the break-in to the property in January 2013. She gave Ms. Watkins a copy of the police report from the breakin to read. Moore pointed out that Ms. Watkins is not mentioned in the report at all. In the report, Ms. Driver apparently told the police officer that she comes to the property to get the mail, every couple days. The police could not process the scene, because the electricity had been cut off. Ms. Watkins admitted that she had not paid the electricity bill. Moore asked, “do you know how long the electricity had been out?” Watkins replied, “I would assume at least 30 days, maybe.” Moore also noted that Ms. Driver could not say what property was stolen, though she thought that some liquor bottles had been taken.

Commissioner Moore asked for any other invoices for other beverages, like the Hennessy that one of the patrons said that he ordered. Watkins responded that she didn’t know that she needed to bring in Hennessy invoices. The last time that Watkins stocked the bar was in 2009, and she had spent $8,000. Many of the bottles that she bought in 2009 are still there. Moore pointed out, then that Ms. Driver paid $0 in sales tax for all of 2013 and for parts of 2011. Moore said that it suggests to her that there was no activity at the bar. Watkins agreed that “there was very little being sold.”

The community members in opposition to the transfer then testified. Ms. Adeline Hutchinson, who had testified in the previous hearing, testified briefly again that the bar hasn’t been open. Ms. Pearl Moulton, who has lived around the corner for thirty-one years, testified that she doesn’t remember the bar being open. She pointed out that Ms. Watkins and her mother have not participated in any neighborhood cleanups or activities. Reverend Keith Bailey, president of Fulton Heights Community Association, testified that he would not like to see the bar reopen, given his problems at other local bars, like the Oxford Tavern. Bailey said that he has known Ms. Driver for years, but he never went into the bar, because he didn’t think it was still open.

Dr. Marvin Cheatham then showed the Commissioners the letter that had been sent from the Liquor Board, which said that the Board expects Ms. Watkins to contact one or more of the community associations before her hearing. He said that none of the three community organizations in the area heard from Ms. Watkins. He went through the factors that the Commissioners are required to consider before they can transfer the ownership of a license that has been closed for over 90 days: public need and desire for the license, number and location of existing licenses, potential commonality or uniqueness of products and services, and the impact on the general health, safety and welfare of the community. He pointed out that the police had installed a blue light camera directly in front of the bar. Dr. Cheatham pointed out that Mr. Kodenski had said that he had witnesses from nearby residents that the bar is open, but only one was actually a neighbor. The rest were family members and friends of the family that owned the business. Cheatham told the Board that six months of not paying taxes seems to substantiate that the bar was not open. He said that the applicants have never made any attempts to contact any of the community association.

Each side made a closing statement to the Commissioners. Ms. Hutchinson told the Board that the business is within the boundaries of her community organization, and there are health consequences to alcohol outlets in her neighborhood. Kodenski said, for his client, that this bar has existed since Prohibition. He pointed out that his witnesses had said that they had been regulars in the bar. He told the Board that Lil’s Place is “not a rock and roll hoochie coo type of place.”

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
Location of entity’s principal office N/A
Attorney for licensee Mr. Melvin Kodenski
# in support ~10
Attorney for community None
# of protestants ~5
# of inspectors/police officers 0
Result of hearing Transfer approved
Vote tally 2-1
Portions of state law cited in decision None
Other reasons given for decision

Judge Ward said that there were two issues before the Board in the prior hearing: (1) the competency of the new owners and (2) whether the bar was closed for 180 days. He said that the testimony, taken together, is extremely muddled. The bar was open sometimes, but it is also obvious that the bar has been closed. There seems to have been practically no business from alcohol sales but possibly some from gambling. Ward expressed some curiosity about Mr. Covi’s relationship to the bar with respect to the jukebox. Ward believed that the witnesses for the bar are truthful and that the bar was open sometimes. The fire may have made it difficult for the bar owners to prove their case. He reversed his previous vote and said that his new vote would be that the transfer could go through.

Commissioner Jones affirmed his prior vote and agreed with Ward. He reiterated that he didn’t hear anything bad about Ms. Watkins or her character.

Commissioner Moore also affirmed her prior vote against the bar. There has been no evidence of purchases of any alcohol in 2013. It looks like the last purchase may have been in October 2012. The police report shows that Ms. Lil came to the bar just to get the mail every few days. There was no electricity in the building. Moore believed the inspectors’ reports that they never found the establishment open. Moore said that there was overwhelming evidence that the license was not valid and that the transfer should not take place.

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

Article 2B section 10-202(e)(2)(iv) states: “the Board shall hold a public hearing on the transfer of ownership of a license when the transfer includes a transfer of location, or the premises have been closed for more than 90 days, except where the closing is caused by fire, casualty, or act of God… .” The next subsection says, “The Board shall use the standards listed in subsection (a)(2) of this section in deciding whether to approve a request made under this paragraph.” The standards listed in subsection (a)(2) are the criteria that the Board uses to determine whether to approve a new license or a transfer of location of an existing license. The Board did not definitively determine whether the closing of Lil’s was caused by fire. If the Board felt that the closure occured before the fire or was not caused by the fire, then they should have applied the 10-202(a)(2) factors to this bar, including criteria like: public need and desire for the bar, uniqueness of services and products to be offered, and the general health, safety and welfare of the community. The Commissioners’ explanations of their decisions were a bit muddled, and it wasn’t always clear which statutory provisions they were relying on as they made their decisions.

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