Booze News: Distilled in Room 215

A blog about the Baltimore City Liquor Board

What happened at the Liquor Board on February 5, 2015.

Written by Becky Witt

11:00 a.m. cases

I. Transfers and amendments:

Applicants David Carillo & Themis Smyrnioudis
Business Name Mexican Food, Inc.
Trading As La Tolteca
Address 2324-32 Boston Street
Type of License Class “B” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing Application to transfer ownership
Hearing notes

Mr. John A. Pica, Jr. represented the applicants. He submitted documents in support of the transfer (of ownership only, not location), including a letter of support from the Canton Community Association. Mr. Carillo operates six other similar restaurants in Maryland, and Carillo’s father owns several others.

Commissioner Moore asked Mr. Pica whether there was any issue with the validity of the license being transferred. He replied that the license had last been used early in the fall or in the summertime. [At the last hearing on this license, during the hardship extension request in October 2014, the licensee testified that the last use of this license was March 24, 2014.]

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 Baltimore, MD
Attorney for licensee Mr. John Pica
# 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 Christopher Nwaeze & Musibau Shittu
Business Name C and G Group, LLC
Trading As Posh-Mix
Address 8-14 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 this hearing would be postponed and “brought back in a different format.”

Zoning B-4-2
Neighborhood Downtown
Area demographics 39% White, 37% Black, 16% Asian, 3% 2 or more races; 5% Hispanic ethnicity; 9% of households have children under age 18; Median Household Income: $38,146; 18% households live below poverty line
Does corp entity exist, in good standing? Yes; yes.
Location of entity’s principal office Baltimore, MD
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 Tsgaurstos Dafla & Alemayehu Desta
Business Name Danny’s Convenience Store Beer and Wine, LLC
Trading As Danny’s Beer and Wine
Address 2327 Pennsylvania Avenue
Type of License Class “D” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing Application to transfer ownership
Hearing notes

Three people were present in support of the transfer: the current licensee, Danael Tesfaye, and the two applicants for the transfer, Tsgaurstos Dafla and Alemayehu Desta. No party was represented by an attorney. Mr. Tesfaye testified that he was selling his business, Danny’s Convenience Store, to the applicants. Mr. Dafla will be working at the store only part time and is the Baltimore City resident required by Article 2B; Mr. Desta will be the main operator and lives in Washington DC. The applicants said that they will be operating the store in the same way as Mr. Tesfaye, selling beer, wine and groceries.

Zoning B-2-2
Neighborhood Druid Heights
Area demographics 92% Black, 4% White; 32% households have children under age 18; median household income: $13,835; 51% households live below the poverty line
Does corp entity exist, in good standing? Yes; yes.
Location of entity’s principal office Baltimore, MD
Attorney for licensee None
# 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

II. Hardship Extensions:

Applicant Lana Farnsworth
Business Name L. Cees, Inc.
Trading As Taylor’s East
Address 1201 N. Potomac Street
Type of License Class “BD7” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing Request for a hardship extension under the provisions of Article 2B Section 10-504(d)
Hearing notes

Executive Secretary Michelle Bailey-Hedgepeth announced that the case would be postponed, becuase the Board had not properly served the licensee with notice of the hearing.

Zoning R-7
Neighborhood Berea
Area demographics 1% White, 96% Black, 0% Asian, 1% 2 or more races; 1% Hispanic ethnicity; 35% of households have children under age 18; Median Household Income: $26,431.68; 21% households live below poverty line
Does corp entity exist, in good standing? Yes; yes.
Attorney for licensee Mr. Melvin Kodenski
# 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

III. Request to reopen:

Applicant Michael Equbay & Tecle Zemikiel
Business Name M&T Liquor Food Mart, LLC
Trading As M&T Liquor and Food Mart
Address 2002-04 E. Oliver Street
Type of License Class “A” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing Request to reopen after being closed for more than 90 days
Hearing notes

Mr. Melvin Kodenski represented the two applicants, with one additional supporter present. He explained to the commissioners that the licensees had been at this establishment since 2004. For several years, the licensees had allowed other people, members of the Willabus family, to operate their business. These other operators “created havoc in the neighborhood.” The licensees then were forced to retake their premises from the Willabus family. The petition to reopen, Kodesnki admitted, had been filed a long time ago, and there were neighborhood residents who had been opposed opposed to the request. Kodenski told the Board that the licensees had not had a problem with the neighborhood, but that the Willabuses had.

The original request to reopen was submitted on June 13, 2013. The Board postponed the hearing on the matter, at the request of the licensees, to give the licensees a chance to meet with the community. Michelle Bailey-Hedgepeth noted that the license fees for this license have not been paid since the 2012 annual renewal. 2013 and 2014 applications were filed, but the license fees were not paid.

Chairman Ward said to Kodenski, “the license has no status.” Kodenski disagreed and said that the petition has been pending since June 13, 2013, but the Board never finished the hearing. Commissioner Moore asked, “when was this license last used?” Kodenski replied, “probably 2013.” Moore agreed, then, with Ward and said that the license is not still viable. Councilman Stokes had submitted a strongly worded letter to the Board asking that the business be closed, on behalf of his constituents. Stokes mentioned in his letter that the community organization had presented a Memorandum of Understanding to the licensees at one of their meetings, which the licensees refused to sign. Kodenski said that his clients had never seen an MOU from the community. There was also a letter from the New Broadway East community association saying that they were opposed to the establishment being allowed to reopen.

Kodenski insisted that the last day of operations of the business would have been April 30, 2013, the last day that the license was unexpired. Moore pointed out, however, that the licensees had submitted a request to reopen after being closed for more than 90 days in June 2013; this timeline does not make sense if the business was open on April 30, 2013.

Commissioner Moore said that the Board needs more information on whether the license is valid or not. She wants to know more specific dates. She reiterated that it doesn’t look to her as if there is a valid license. Moore also said that she would like to hear from the community about their experience with the licensee.

Zoning B-3-2
Neighborhood Broadway East
Area demographics 1% White, 96% Black, 0% Asian, 1% 2 or more races; 1% Hispanic ethnicity; 35% of households have children under age 18; Median Household Income: $26,431.68; 21% households live below poverty line.
Does corp entity exist, in good standing? No. The corporate entity is forfeited.
Location of entity’s principal office Baltimore, MD
Attorney for licensee Mr. Melvin Kodenski
# in support 3
Attorney for community None
# of protestants 0
# of inspectors/police officers 0
Result of hearing Postponed
Vote tally Unanimous
Portions of state law cited in decision None
Other reasons given for decision None
Issues raised in audit present in this case or other issues observed

The corporate entity for this license is forfeited, which was an issue that was not raised at the hearing.

Article 2B section 10-504(d) states that a license expires after 180 days unless one of three things has occurred: (1) a transfer application has been filed, (2) the licensee has died and proceedings are beginning under section 10-506, or (3) the licensee has filed an application for an extension of time due to an undue hardship. None of these three events has taken place. From the testimony provided during the hearing, a hardship extension request has never been submitted, but even if it had and was granted, the license would have expired 360 days after the last day of operation. (A request to reopen after being closed for more than 90 days is not the same thing as a hardship extension request.) Under Mr. Kodenski’s set of facts, the license would have expired, at the latest, on April 25, 2014, nine months and 11 days before the date of this February 5, 2015 hearing. The Board does not have to take any action for this license to expire; rather, it expires as a matter of law after the requisite number of days have passed. There is no provision in the Code that would allow the Board to extend the life of a license beyond the 360 days allotted in the statute.

Rule 3.01 of the Liquor Board’s 1998 rules states that “every licensee shall be the actual owner and operator of the business conducted on the licensed premises. The fact that the Willabus family was allowed to conduct business under this license, apparently without any supervision by the licensees, was in itself a violation of their license. This is a very common violation, almost never enforced by this agency, and it can have a serious negative impact on the surrounding community. It is very difficult to hold licensees accountable for their businesses if they are not even running those businesses themselves.

1:00 p.m. cases

IV. Violations:

Licensees Byoung Wook An & Patrick Min
Business Name ACA Liquors, Inc.
Trading As Eric 500
Address 500 E. North Avenue
Type of License Class “BD7” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing Violation of Rule 4.01(a): Minors – December 17, 2014 – At approximately 9:10 PM the Baltimore Police Department conducted an underage alcohol investigation at “Eric 500” located at 500 East North Avenue in Baltimore City, Maryland. Police Cadet Jones, who was under the age of 21, entered the establishment and purchased a 375 ml “New Amsterdam Peach Vodka” from the bartender/store clerk using a $20 bill that was marked by police, purchased the alcoholic beverage and received change from the bartender. The cadet then communicated with police who responded to the scene. The police entered the establishment and notified the bartender/store clerk that an alcoholic beverage had just been sold to a minor and it would be reported to the BLLC. The police then recovered the marked currency and returned both the alcoholic beverage to the bartender and the change that was provided to the cadet by the establishment.
Hearing notes

Mr. Ed Smith represented the licensees, one of whom was present, in a continuation of last week’s hearing. Mr. Smith told the Commissioners that he had filed a petition at the Circuit Court to enjoin the Board from holding a hearing on this matter until the Board provided his client with a licensed interpreter. The court had not yet responded to Smith’s motions. Ward told Smith that the hearing would proceed as scheduled. [Ward had instructed Smith and the licensee to find and bring an interpreter with them for this hearing. Mr. Smith failed to do so.]

Detective LC Greenhill, from the Vice Unit of the Baltimore City police department, then testified to the details of the violation at Eric 500 on December 17, 2014. Smith made a series of objections to the testimony, because his client could not understand it. Smith then cross-examined the detective, asking how many investigations the police had made of the Horseshoe Casino, the Ravens stadium, and the Orioles stadium. Mr. Akras, Deputy Executive Secretary of the Liquor Board, objected to all of these questions as irrelevant, and Chairman Ward sustained the objections. Smith asked Detective Greenhill what percentage of the bars in which he does underage alcohol investigations are Korean-owned; Akras objected to the question as irrelevant, and Chairman Ward sustained the objection. Smith asked whether Greenhill had opened the bottle of vodka or had the contents analyzed by a laboratory. Greenhill had not opened the bottle; standard procedure for the police officers is to return the bottle to the licensee, with the change, and retrieve the departmental $20 bill. Greenhill testified later in the hearing that when he went inside there were lots of loiterers standing around drinking out of containers in plastic bags.

Cadet Ken Jones testified that he purchased the bottle of New Amsterdam peach vodka from the store. He is 19 years old and was born in June 1995. No one asked for identification or how old he was. The clerk knew enough English to understand what Cadet Jones was asking for.

Mr. Smith then reiterated that his client cannot speak English, and, therefore, cannot testify. Smith told the Commissioners that they should not have heard this case under the Equal Protection and Due Process clauses of the Constitution, as well as the Maryland Attorneys’ Rules of Professional Conduct. Though his client was given one week to find an interpreter, Smith told the Board that his client never intended to find one, because of the constitutional issues involved. Chairman Ward, on the constitutional questions, reiterated that the ability to sell alcohol is a privilege, and not a right. A license is also not property, according to the Code. Therefore, according to Chairman Ward, there is no infringement on the licensee’s rights.

On the merits of the case, Smith argued that the person behind the bulletproof glass who sold the alcohol was not proven by the police to be an employee of the licensee; the police officers did not seem to have spoken to the clerk in any detail. The licensee was not proven by the police to have been at the establishment when the violation took place. Smith said that to hold the licensee responsible would require a “quantum leap in proof.” He also argued that there is “no indication that what was purchased here is alcohol.” Smith said that the police officers should have taken the bottle to a state laboratory to see if there actually was vodka in the bottle that the cadet purchased.

The Board then looked at the prior violations for this bar, which included findings of responsibility for two prior sales to minors on October 4, 2012 and August 7, 2014 as well as a violation of Rule 5.03 (BD-7 violation) on September 18, 2014.

Four community witnesses testified regarding their experience with the bar. Mr. Ben Lewis, who lives one block away, testified that he can see the establishment from his window, and he often “watch[es] the circus” at that corner. It’s a disruption to the community. People are loitering constantly. The bar section of the business is never open. Recently there was a fight in the middle of Greenmount Avenue. People drink in public and throw the bottles from their miniatures in his yard. Ms. Lena Leone, President of the New Greenmount West Community Association, testified that she has been a resident in the neighborhood for ten years and is the chair of her organization’s Safety Committee. She corroborated Mr. Lewis’s testimony, that there is a great deal of loitering and drug activity at the corner. The bar contributes to the loitering, because they allow people to hang out inside and outside. Mr. Lowell Larsson, treasurer of Greater Greenmount Community Association, told the Commissioners that in the fall of 2014, when the liquor store was closed for two weeks, a high school student who walks by on her way to school each day noticed a significant improvement in the loitering and criminal activity at that intersection. But, when the store reopened, the situation was back to the way it was before. Both representatives from the community associations testified that they would like to work with the licensee to improve his business. Mr. Charles Duff, President of Jubilee Baltimore, which owns an apartment house in the area, was present in support of his neighbors but had no personal knowledge to offer to the Board.

Zoning B-2-3
Neighborhood East Baltimore Midway
Area demographics 1% White, 96% Black, 0% Asian; 1% Hispanic ethnicity; 38% households have children under age 18; median household income: $30,821.90.
Does corp entity exist, in good standing? Yes; yes.
Location of entity’s principal office Baltimore, MD
Attorney for licensee Mr. Ed Smith
# in support 1
Attorney for community None
# of protestants 4
# of inspectors/police officers 2
Result of hearing Suspended through April 30; $2,500 fine.
Vote tally Unanimous
Portions of state law cited in decision None
Other reasons given for decision

Chairman Ward said that the licensee has learned nothing from its prior warning of being closed for two weeks. The owner is in over his head and doesn’t know how to run his business. The corner is rough and violent, but the licensee has not given any indication that he will try to improve his business. Not a single thing has been done. He has provided no testimony about any security plan.

Commissioner Moore agreed with the Chairman and added that the impact on the community is huge. She uses the intersection almost daily, and she has seen for herself the traffic and loitering. There is a substantial amount of loitering. She appreciated the community members’ testimony and their efforts to communicate. She also was concerned that the licensee has not tried to resolve the problems. She told Smith that any request to stay any of the penalties would be denied by the Board, because his client’s business is such a detriment to the community at large.

Jones concurred with his colleagues.

Regarding the stay of the suspension and fine, Mr. Smith replied that he wouldn’t have even thought to ask for a stay from the Board, but he will be happy to ask for one “from my friends at the Circuit Court.”

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

The Liquor Board operates under a “preponderance of the evidence” standard in its hearings. This means that if it is more likely than not that the violation occurred, the licensee is responsible. Put another way, if there is a more than 50% chance that the licensee is responsible, that level of evidence is sufficient. In a criminal court, on the other hand, a prosecutor must prove that a defendant is guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt” which is a much higher standard of proof (more like a 95% chance that the defendant committed the crime). Mr. Smith, in arguing that the case should be thrown out because the contents of the unopened bottle of vodka were not tested to be alcohol, was arguing under a much more stringent standard than the one that the Board must use. In any case, if the licensee is selling empty bottles as if they were full or if he is selling bottles of sugar water labelled as vodka, he would still be violating the law. And there was no credible evidence presented that the bottle of vodka was anything other than vodka.

Licensee Elaine Fordham
Business Name Isis, LLC
Trading As Isis Lounge
Address 226-28 Park Avenue
Type of License Class “BD7” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing

Violation of Rule 3.01: Ownership and Operation – December 5, 2014 – The Comptroller’s Office received a complaint by a former employee of Isis, LLC T/A Isis Lounge. As part of the investigation, Agent Tanis interviewed Korey Moody, who claimed to be the operator of the establishment. The interview occurred at approximately 10:30am to 11:30 am at the Offices of the Comptroller. Mr. Moody produced a signed agreement stating that he was allowed to manage the business in exchange for $2,000 per month in pay. As of yet, Mr. Moody’s financial interest has not been formally disclosed to the Board in writing nor has an application been made to reflect Mr. Moody’s financial interest in the License.

Violation of Rule 4.18: Illegal Conduct – December 19, 2014 – At approximately 8:00 PM the Baltimore Police Department, The Comptroller’s Office, and Inspectors from the BLLC, responded to the establishment to conduct an investigation into the business practices of the Isis Lounge. Isis Lounge advertises itself as a bar and hookah lounge. On this date, Agent Wayne Tanis from the Comptroller’s office conducted an investigation and found 6 containers of hookah tobacco. Upon finding these containers the Agent asked operator if there were any receipts or records indicating that the Maryland tobacco tax was paid. The operator could not produce the records.

Violation of Rule 3.03(a): Records – December 19, 2014 – At approximately 8:00 PM the Baltimore Police Department, The Comptroller’s Office, and Inspectors from the BLLC, responded to the establishment to conduct an investigation into the business practices of the Isis Lounge. Isis Lounge advertises itself as a bar and hookah lounge. On this date Agent Wayne Tanis from the Comptroller’s office conducted an investigation and asked the operator for receipts of alcoholic beverages purchased. The only receipts that the operator could provide were from September 2014 through October 2014. At that time the Agent found 27 bottles of distilled spirits that were not on any of the invoices nor were they on any of the prior listed stock.

Violation of Rule 4.10(a): Relations with Wholesalers – December 19, 2014 – At approximately 8:00 PM the Baltimore Police Department, The Comptroller’s Office, and Inspectors from the BLLC, responded to the establishment to conduct an investigation into the business practices of the Isis Lounge. Isis Lounge advertises itself as a bar and hookah lounge. On this date Agent Wayne Tanis from the Comptroller’s office conducted an investigation and asked the operator for receipts of alcoholic beverages purchased. The only receipts that the operator could provide were from September 2014 through October 2014. At that time the Agent found 27 bottles of distilled spirits that were not on any of the invoices nor were they on any of the prior listed stock. Agent determined that operator purchased alcohol from a not licensed wholesaler.

Violation of Rule 3.03(c): Records – December 19, 2014 – At approximately 8:00 PM the Baltimore Police Department, The Comptroller’s Office, and Inspectors from the BLLC, responded to the establishment to conduct an investigation into the business practices of the Isis Lounge. Isis Lounge advertises itself as a bar and hookah lounge. On this date Agent Wayne Tanis from the Comptroller’s office requested to see the records of employees for Isis Lounge. The operator produced a stack of eight (8) black file folders with eight (8) separate names. The operator stated that the folders did not contain any additional information other than the names of the employees on the file folders. The operator then told the Agent that the licensee takes case of all withholding tax information for all employees. A record check indicated that Isis LLC T/A Isis Lounge never obtained a withholding account with the Comptroller to submit income tax withholdings.

Violation of Rule 3.07: Restroom – December 19, 2014 – At approximately 8:00 PM the Baltimore Police Department, The Comptroller’s Office, and Inspectors from the BLLC, responded to the establishment to conduct an investigation into the business practices of the Isis Lounge. Isis Lounge advertises itself as a bar and hookah lounge. On this Inspector Jones inspected the woman’s bathroom and found that the toilet seat and toilet were inoperable. There was a sign on the door that indicated it was out of order.

Hearing notes

Ms. Fordham was present and asked for a postponement, because she had not received notice of the hearing until the day before. Mr. Akras told the Commissioners that the Board had served notice at the business to an employee working there, but the employee had apparently not passed along the message to Ms. Fordham. The Commissioners and witnesses agreed to postpone the case until March 12, 2015.

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

The fact that Ms. Fordham did not receive notice of the hearing is probably good evidence of the violation of Rule 3.01, with which she is charged.

Licensees Hak Jun Lee & Gloria Tyler
Business Name Lee L & M, Inc.
Trading As L & M Liquors
Address 1148 E. North Avenue
Type of License Class “A” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing

Violation of Rule 4.01(a): Minors – December 17, 2014 – At approximately 11:13 PM the Baltimore Police Department conducted an underage alcohol investigation at “L & M Liquors” located at 1148 East North Avenue in Baltimore City, Maryland. Police Cadet Jones, who was under the age of 21, entered the establishment and purchased a 375 ml “New Amsterdam Peach Vodka” from the bartender/store clerk, which cost $7.29. Cadet Jones, using a $20 bill that was marked by police, purchased the alcoholic beverage and received change from the bartender. The cadet then communicated with police who responded to the scene. The police entered the establishment and notified the bartender/store clerk that an alcoholic beverage had just been sold to a minor and it would be reported to the BLLC. The police then recovered the marked currency and returned both the alcoholic beverage to the bartender and the change that was provided to the cadet by the establishment.

Hearing notes

Mr. Gary Maslan represented the licensee and, on behalf of his client, admitted the violation. Mr. Thomas Akras then read a statement of the facts of the case, taken from the police report. Cadet Ken Jones and Detectives Akinwande and Gatto were present but did not testify.

In mitigation, Mr. Maslan told the Commissioners that this is his client’s first time before the Board. He normally is very responsible, but, on this occasion, he went to the bathroom, and his sister, who normally runs the lottery, filled in for him. She, according to Maslan, has a learning disability. Maslan also mentioned that the cadet was wearing a hat on this occasion, because it was cold outside. The licensee understands his responsibility and has been a licensee for five years without a previous violation.

Zoning O-R-2
Neighborhood East Baltimore Midway
Area demographics 1% White, 96% Black, 0% Asian; 1% Hispanic ethnicity; 38% households have children under age 18; median household income: $30,821.90.
Does corp entity exist, in good standing? Yes; yes.
Location of entity’s principal office Baltimore, MD
Attorney for licensee Mr. Gary Maslan
# in support 1
Attorney for community None
# of protestants 0
# of inspectors/police officers 3
Result of hearing Responsible. $250 fine.
Vote tally Unanimous
Portions of state law cited in decision None
Other reasons given for decision None
Issues raised in audit present in this case or other issues observed None
Licensee Mangafoula Minadakis
Business Name None provided in docket
Trading As Las Tejitas Restaurant
Address 422-26 S. Macon Street
Type of License Class “B” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing

Violation of Rule 4.05(a): Prohibited Hours – July 26, 2014 – At 2:02 AM Police Officers and Liquor Board Inspectors observed that establishment called “Las Tejitas Restaurant “was open and operating and that patrons being served and allowed to consume alcoholic beverages. Officers and Inspectors observed approximately 9 patrons consuming alcoholic beverages past the establishment’s 2:00 AM closing time.

Violation of Rule 3.12: Public Welfare – December 14, 2014 – At approximately 1:36 am the Baltimore Police Department (BPD) responded to the establishment called “Las Tejitas Restaurant” for an assault call. Upon arrival the BPD observed a crowd of people outside of the establishment and in the public right of way (corner of Macon and Eastern Avenue), several of whom were engaged in a fistfight. After exiting their vehicles were able to identify the victim of the altercation who stated he had been drinking and become very intoxicated inside of the establishment. He stated that he was attacked by others in the bar. The altercation was eventually moved out of the establishment and into the street where the fight continued until the BPD arrived. Once on location the BPD were able to identify – via identification by the victim – the two assailants. Investigation revealed that these individuals were also at the establishment and were extremely intoxicated.

Violation of Rule 4.02: Inebriates and Drug Addicts – December 14, 2014 – At approximately 1:36 am the Baltimore Police Department (BPD) responded to the establishment called “Las Tejitas Restaurant” for an assault call. Upon arrival the BPD observed a crowd of people outside of the establishment and in the public right of way (corner of Macon and Eastern Avenue), several of whom were engaged in a fistfight. After exiting their vehicles were able to identify the victim of the altercation who stated he had been drinking and become very intoxicated inside of the establishment. He stated that he was attacked by others in the bar. The altercation was eventually moved out of the establishment and into the street where the fight continued until the BPD arrived. Once on location the BPD were able to identify – via identification by the victim – the two assailants. Investigation revealed that these individuals were also at the establishment and were extremely intoxicated.

Hearing notes

Mr. Akras moved that the July 26, 2014 charge be dismissed, and he added another charge for lack of employee records and dancing without live entertainment permission on January 17, 2015.

Mr. Kodenski pointed out that the Liquor Board had made a mistake in the docket; the license had been transferred from Mangafoula Minadakis to Juan Moreno in November 2014. The Board corrected their record.

Baltimore Police Officer Steven Downing, of the Southeast District, testified that he received a call for service to the bar on December 14, 2014 from an individual saying that people were fighting in the streets. As he approached, he observed approximately ten people running through the streets and throwing punches and fighting with each other along the way. Outside the bar, there was a large crowd outside, which quickly dispersed when they saw the patrol car pull up. There was a man sitting on the curb who was bleeding profusely from the nose and head. Downing called a Spanish-speaking officer to interpret what had happened. The victim said that he was inside the bar when he got into a fistfight with another patron. The security for the bar threw the men out on the street, at which point the victim became involved in another fight with two other men. He didn’t know the two men outside or where they had come from. The men happened to be peeking around the corner from behind a building at the scene, and the victim pointed them out. The police officers chased down the two men and arrested them. The victim positively identified them as the two who assaulted him outside. The victim was transported to the hospital for medical attention. At that point, Officer Downing went inside the bar, where the employees had already begun cleaning up. Downing wrote a report for two assaults: a common assault which happened inside and an aggravated assault which happened outside. The two men who were arrested outside were not prosecuted for the aggravated assault. The victim, according to Downing, was highly intoxicated. His eyes were glassy, his speech was slurred, and his movements were wobbly. He told Downing that he had been drinking at Las Tejitas. His shirt was torn and he was covered with blood from the assaults.

Liquor Board Chief Inspector Shelton Jones next testified that, on January 17, 2015, at 12:30am, he and Inspector Karanikolis did an inspection at Las Tejitas. There were people dancing inside on a dance floor. There were five to ten women behind the bar, working as bartenders, and the owner was working alongside them. Jones noticed that an interior wall had been removed since the last time he was inside. Also, a DJ booth had been constructed. A patron was smoking hookah at the bar. Jones and Karanikolis told the owner that he would have to close early due to the several violations (dancing without live entertainment permission, hookah). Though the establishment has a Class B restaurant license, the kitchen was not operational when Jones visited, and no food was being prepared. The owner could not produce records for his employees, and he told Jones that he never kept employee records at the business.

Kodenski made a motion to dismiss the charges. He said that the victim could have been assaulted by anyone, and it didn’t necessarily have to do with the bar. He also said that there was a “special event” going on the night of January 17, and people were “lively.” He argued that there was no violation of Rule 4.02, because there was no testimony about drug addicts. The Chairman denied his motion, saying that there was plenty of evidence for all of the charges.

In mitigation, Kodenski noted that the licensee is brand new and therefore does not have a record of violations. He has advised his client about how to comply with the Rules and Regulations of the Board in the future. Mr. Moreno lives on the premises, so he is a member of the community and he now understands his obligations.

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? None listed in docket.
Location of entity’s principal office None listed in docket.
Attorney for licensee Mr. Melvin Kodenski
# in support 2
Attorney for community None
# of protestants 0
# of inspectors/police officers 3
Result of hearing Responsible. $2,000 fine.
Vote tally Unanimous
Portions of state law cited in decision None
Other reasons given for decision

Chairman Ward agreed that the licensee does not have a record of violations, but he’s brand-new and hasn’t had time to create a record. This set of fines is a warning to him that he should not come back with any problems. Moore agreed and said that he should be highly incentivized to clean up his establishment, since he lives on the premises.

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

Mr. Moreno may be a new licensee, but he testified in an earlier hearing that he had been running the establishment for at least one year before the transfer, which may have violated Rule 3.01.

Licensee Eun Soo Bae
Business Name G.S. Locker, Inc.
Trading As Biddle Liquors
Address 2100 E. Biddle Street
Type of License Class “BD7” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing

Violation of Rule 4.01(a): Minors – December 17, 2014 – At approximately 10:21 PM the Baltimore Police Department conducted an underage alcohol investigation at “Biddle Liquors” located at 2100 East Biddle Street in Baltimore City, Maryland. Police Cadet Jones, who was under the age of 21, entered the establishment and purchased a 375 ml “New Amsterdam Peach Vodka” from the bartender/store clerk, which cost $7.89. Cadet Jones, using a $20 bill that was marked by police, purchased the alcoholic beverage and received change from the bartender. The cadet then communicated with police who responded to the scene. The police entered the establishment and notified the bartender/store clerk that an alcoholic beverage had just been sold to a minor and it would be reported to the BLLC. The police then recovered the marked currency and returned both the alcoholic beverage to the bartender and the change that was provided to the cadet by the establishment.

Hearing notes

The licensee was present for the hearing, unrepresented by counsel, and admitted to the charges. Mr. Akras read a statement of facts into the record. Detective Akinwande and Cadet Jones were present but did not testify. The licensee said that she had been in the business since 2000 and has had only one prior violation in 2008. Her husband was the one who made the mistake and he was tired or sick at the time. She told the commissioners that the violation will not happen again.

Zoning R-8
Neighborhood Broadway East
Area demographics 1% White, 96% Black, 0% Asian, 1% 2 or more races; 1% Hispanic ethnicity; 35% of households have children under age 18; Median Household Income: $26,431.68; 21% households live below poverty line.
Does corp entity exist, in good standing? Yes; yes.
Location of entity’s principal office Baltimore, MD
Attorney for licensee None
# in support 1
Attorney for community None
# of protestants 0
# of inspectors/police officers 2
Result of hearing Responsible. $2,000 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
Licensees Sung Koo Kang, Yeun Im Yang & Mi Cha Park
Business Name GLOF, Inc.
Trading As Oxford Tavern
Address 1741 W. North Avenue
Type of License Class “BD7” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing Violation of Rule 4.01(a): Minors – December 18, 2014 – At approximately 12:16 am the Baltimore Police Department conducted an underage alcohol investigation at the “Oxford Tavern” located at 1741 West North Avenue in Baltimore City, Maryland. Police Cadet Jones, who was under the age of 21, entered the establishment and purchased a 375 ml “New Amsterdam Peach Vodka” from the bartender/store clerk using a $20 bill that was marked by police, purchased the alcoholic beverage and received change from the bartender. The cadet then communicated with police who responded to the scene. The police entered the establishment and notified the bartender/store clerk that an alcoholic beverage had just been sold to a minor and it would be reported to the BLLC. The police then recovered the marked currency and returned both the alcoholic beverage to the bartender and the change that was provided to the cadet by the establishment.
Hearing notes

Two of the three licensees were present at the hearing, unrepresented. Mr. Sung Koo Kang admitted the violation and told the Board that he will do his best in the future not to sell to underage people.

Dr. Marvin Cheatham, President of the Matthew A Hensen Community Association, testified that this bar presents a serious problem with loitering and drug activity for the neighborhood, 20 hours a day. There is drinking inside and outside of the establishment, trash, and violence. An incident which ended in a homicide began inside that establishment. Major drug dealers frequent the store. The licensees did send two employees to one community meeting after their last three-day suspension, but the employees came charging Dr. Cheatham with being responsible for getting their store shut down. Cheatham asked that the licensees be in constant communication with the community and that they support the community association. Cheatham said that they need another serious punishment, like a suspension.

Zoning B-2-3
Neighborhood Sandtown-Winchester
Area demographics 1% White, 96% Black, 0% Asian; 0% Hispanic ethnicity; 73% households have children under age 18; median household income: $23,974
Does corp entity exist, in good standing? Yes; yes.
Location of entity’s principal office Baltimore, MD
Attorney for licensee None
# in support 2
Attorney for community None
# of protestants 1
# of inspectors/police officers 2
Result of hearing Responsible. 1 month suspension, $1,000 fine.
Vote tally Unanimous
Portions of state law cited in decision None
Other reasons given for decision

Chairman Ward told the licensees that he knows that there is a lot of drug trafficking in the area but that that licensees are still responsible for how their business affects the community. They have already received a 3-day suspension, but they need a longer one to wake them up. Commissioner Moore agreed and said that she was troubled that Dr. Cheatham was criticized for coming in to testify about the store. She noted that the licensees might be fearful of some of the people in the area, but they need to deal with that problem. Jones concurred. Ward added, to the licensees, that he understands it is a difficult business, and they should decide whether they need to get out of the business.

Issues raised in audit present in this case or other issues observed None

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