Booze News: Distilled in Room 215

A blog about the Baltimore City Liquor Board

What happened at the Liquor Board on December 18, 2014.

Written by Becky Witt

11:00 a.m. cases

I. Transfers and amendments:

Applicant Dominic Lascola
Business Name O’Donnell/Curly LLC
Trading As El Bufalo
Address 2921 O’Donnell Street
Type of License Class “BD7” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing Application to transfer ownership.
Hearing notes

Ms. Leanne Schrecengost represented the applicant, Mr. Lascola. Former Liquor Board Chairman Stephan Fogleman was also present at the hearing to represent the seller of the license.

Schrecengost told the Board that the application before them was a transfer of ownership only (not of location). She noted that there were letters from community members and organizations both in opposition and in support of the transfer. The applicant has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Canton Community Association. She proferred that Mr. Lascola was a fit and proper person to hold a liquor license in Baltimore City and that he has not felony convictions. She said that he has invested a large sum of money in this business.

Chairman Ward noted that there are many complaints about the operation of the license in the file. Schrecengost replied that a transfer of ownership is solely about the fitness of the applicant, and that public need and desire has already been established (when the license was first established at this address). She said that her client has had extensive meetings with the neighbors and with the community organization and has signed an MOU to address any issues with the neighborhood. Mr. Lascola testified briefly and promised to address any neighborhood concerns.

Under questioning from community opponents and Commissioner Moore, Mr. Lascola explained that he has been managing the bar since May 2012. He said that when the community complained about the loud bass, he updated his sound system and directed his speakers away from the residential properties. Moore asked, “the ultimate quesiton for me is, if you’ve been the manager for two years and these problems have existed, why should the Board approve the transfer to you?” Mr. Lascola replied that he has been able more recently to open the lines of communication so that he can directly address neighbors’ concerns. Schrecengost stepped in to explain that Mr. Lascola has been constrained in addressing some concerns, because he was not the property owner. This transfer will make him the property owner and licensee, and he will then be able to expand the kitchen and make other updates.

Commissioner Jones was skeptical of this answer. He told Mr. Lascola that, though he may not have been the owner of the property, he could have asked the owner to deal with making improvements. Lascola replied that he was not directly made aware of the complaints and noted that the MOU requires that repairs will be taken care of within 120 days. Mr. Sean Flanagan, president of CCA, was present in support of the transfer.

Several neighbors testified that the current owner of the bar has been irresponsible, that they did not trust the applicant to be responsible in the future, and that the bar is a nuisance. They said that it has been very difficult to contact Mr. Lascola in the past, though they mostly agreed that communication had improved in recent months. One neighbor testified that Mr. Lascola had been to one meeting and had one email exchange but had ignored all other communication. She said that the staff of the establishment had been rude and called her obscene names when she tried to complain. The neighbors uniformly agreed that the current owner of the license should not be allowed to keep it, but they were unsure about whether Mr. Lascola would be an improvement.

Commissioner Moore took the opportunity to tell Mr. Lascola that he would need to do a much better job in responding to community concerns than he had been doing since he took over as manager. She told Lascola, “you need to return calls and answer emails. Are you committed to doing that?” Lascola replied that he was.

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 1212 York Rd, Lutherville, MD
Attorney for applicant Ms. Leanne Schrecengost
# in support 2
Attorney for community None
# of protestants 3
# 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
DISCLAIMER Becky Lundberg Witt, author of Booze News and staff attorney at Community Law Center, represented a party in this hearing.
Applicants William Ely & Raj Bommakanti
Business Name Radharaj, Inc.
Trading As Trade name pending
Address 1615 Eastern Avenue
Type of License Class “BD7” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing Application to transfer location of a Class “BD7” Beer, Wine & Liquor License presently located at 1709 Fleet Street to 1615 Eastern Avenue.
Hearing notes

Mr. Kodenski explained that his client would be submitting an amended application to transfer the location of this license elsewhere by the end of the week; he said that there was therefore no need to hold a hearing on the transfer to 1615 Eastern Avenue, which would no longer take place. Ms. Witt, on behalf of the Douglass Place Neighborhood Association, agreed with Kodenski.

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 16402 Signature Ct; Rockville, MD 20853
Attorney for licensee Mr. Melvin Kodenski
# in support 0
Attorney for community Ms. Becky Lundberg Witt
# 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

II. Request for Removal of Restrictions:

Applicant Colleen D. Vanskiver
Business Name VG Enterprises, Inc.
Trading As Colleen’s Corner
Address 2231 Cedley Street
Type of License Class “BD7” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing Request to remove and/or modify the restrictions placed on the license to change the floor plan of the establishment.
Hearing notes

Ms. Vanskiver appeared on her own, without legal representation. She told the Board that she was applying to “have a liquor store along with [her] bar and restaurant.” Her license currently states that she may only sell packaged goods behind the bar, not in a separate area. The community association in the area did not oppose her request.

Zoning R-7
Neighborhood Westport
Area demographics Baltimore Neighborhood Indicators Alliance (BNIA) does not have census information for this neighborhood.
Does corp entity exist, in good standing? Yes; yes.
Location of entity’s principal office 2231 Cedley 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

Ms. Vanskiver did not accurately describe her request. She was not asking for permission to build “a separate liquor store” (which is not allowed); rather, she was asking for permission to bring in coolers to store package goods, which she would continue to sell over the bar, as required by Liquor Board Rule 5.03.

III. Violation:

Licensees Masuma Hoque, Asma Ahmed & Brent Lambert
Business Name ABM Systems, Inc.
Trading As Ledo Pizza & Pasta
Address 3105 St. Paul Street
Type of License Class “B” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing

Violation of Rule 4.18: Illegal Conduct – November 5, 2014 – At approximately 11:30am, an Inspector with the BLLC performed a routine inspection of the establishment and found that the corporate entity that owned the business failed to have a registered trader’s license with the Comptroller of the State of Maryland. The inspector warned the operator of the violation and instructed him to obtain a current trader’s license by November 15, 2014. The inspector returned on November 18, 2014 and found that the business still lacked a valid trader’s license.

Hearing notes

Deputy Executive Secretary Thomas Akras presented the Liquor Board’s case. Inspector Mark Fosler was present to testify about his reports.

Mr. Melvin Kodenski represented the licensee and, on behalf of his client, admittted the violation. Kodenski explained that his client had had a sales tax issue but is now in good standing and has a copy of his trader’s license.

Chairman Ward asked why the word “defiant” was in the report. Fosler responded that the licensee had always been cooperative with him, except that he did not comply with the inspector’s request.

Zoning B-1-3
Neighborhood Charles Village
Area demographics 44% White, 35% Black, 3% 2 or more races, 13% Asian, 5% Hispanic ethnicity; 11% households have children under age 18; median household income: $30,130.79; 14% households live below the poverty line
Does corp entity exist, in good standing? Yes; yes.
Location of entity’s principal office 3103-3105 St Paul St, Baltimore, MD
Attorney for licensee Mr. Melvin Kodenski
# in support 1
Attorney for community N/A
# of protestants 0
# of inspectors/police officers 1
Result of hearing Responsible. $300 fine.
Vote tally Unanimous
Portions of state law cited in decision None
Other reasons given for decision None
Issues raised in audit present in this case or other issues observed None

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