Booze News: Distilled in Room 215

A blog about the Baltimore City Liquor Board

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

Written by Becky Witt

11:00 a.m. cases

I. New Applications, Transfers and Amendments:

Applicants James Shaffer & Albert Shaffer
Business Name Shaffer Investment Group, LLC
Trading As Argosy Café
Address 5-7 N. Calvert Street
Type of License Class “B” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing Application for a new Class “B” BWL Under provisions of Article 2B §6-201(d)(vii), requiring $700,000 in capital investment in restaurant fixtures and facilities and a seating capacity exceeding 150 people; request for outdoor table service
Hearing notes

Ms. Caroline Hecker and Mr. Justin Williams, of Rosenberg Martin Greenberg LLP, represented the Shaffers for the third hearing on this new license application. Hecker submitted a copy of an affidavit from former Senator George Della, which she had emailed in earlier, stating that the legislative intent of the section under which the Shaffers are applying for their Class B license was that the value of the land and buildings could be included in the capital investment requirement. Hecker said that the affidavit confirms the senator’s legislative intent that the appraisal of the worth of the land and buildings could be used to calculate this total (though it is specifically prohibited elsewhere in the Code). Chief Inspector Shelton Jones also had gone out to the building and confirmed that the space was large enough to fit 75 seats.

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 Flagstaff, AZ
Attorney for licensee Caroline Hecker and Justin Williams, Rosenberg Martin Greenberg, LLP
# 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

Commissioner Moore said that the former senator’s affidavit provided the information that she needed to make her decision.

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

The fact that the Commissioners need an affidavit from Maryland legislators to help them understand the basics of the law highlights the ad hoc, often unclear and disorganized nature of Article 2B.

Applicants John Unitas III & Jacqueline Beal
Business Name BSQ Wine Co., LLC
Trading As Grand Cru
Address 5911 York Road
Type of License Class “BD7” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing Application to transfer ownership
Hearing notes

Ms. Caroline Hecker and Mr. Justin Williams, of Rosenberg Martin Greenberg LLP represented the applicants. Ms. Hecker explained to the commissioners that Mr. Unitas would be running the bar, while Ms. Beal is the “Baltimore City resident.” Ms. Carey, the current licensee, was present at the hearing, with another person, Mr. David O’Farrell, whose relationship to the transfer was unexplained.

Grand Cru is a bar and wine shop located within the Belvedere Square development, established by Nelson Carey, who was a “tremendously popular person.” Mr. Carey died recently, and his widow decided to sell the business. Mr. Unitas will run the establishment under the same name, with the same business plan. He has been employed formerly with the Foreman Wolf restaurant group, which runs establishments such as Petit Louis, Pazo, Bin 604, and Cinghiale Enoteca. The Belvedere Improvement Association submitted a letter in support of the transfer.

Zoning B-2-2
Neighborhood Belvedere
Area demographics 69% Black, 23% White; 4% Hispanic ethnicity; 29% households have children under age 18; median household income: $44,853; 6% 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 Caroline Hecker and Justin Williams, 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 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 Jin Zhou Shi & Chang Xu Sun
Business Name Michael’s Super Market, Inc.
Trading As Slaters Market
Address 5123 Park Heights Avenue
Type of License Class “A” Beer & Wine License
Reason for hearing Application to transfer ownership
Hearing notes

The case was not called.

Zoning B-2-2
Neighborhood Central Park Heights
Area demographics 2% White, 96% Black, 0% Asian; 1% Hispanic ethnicity; 38% households have children under age 18; 33% households living below the poverty line; median household income: $27,238.61.
Does corp entity exist, in good standing? Yes; yes.
Location of entity’s principal office Baltimore, MD
Attorney for licensee N/A
# in support N/A
Attorney for community N/A
# of protestants N/A
# of inspectors/police officers N/A
Result of hearing N/A
Vote tally N/A
Portions of state law cited in decision N/A
Other reasons given for decision N/A
Issues raised in audit present in this case or other issues observed

If a case will not be heard, an announcement that it has been rescheduled or withdrawn from the docket would be helpful.

Applicant Bhaveshkumar Patel
Business Name Mesva, Inc.
Trading As New Food Way
Address 1501 Broening Highway
Type of License Class “A” Beer & Wine License
Reason for hearing Application to transfer ownership
Hearing notes

Executive Secretary Michelle Bailey-Hedgepeth announced that the hearing had been rescheduled for March 26.

Zoning B-3-1
Neighborhood Broening Manor
Area demographics 44% White, 25% Black, 2% 2 or more races; 20% Hispanic ethnicity; 32% households have children under age 18; median household income: $30,864.31; 22% households live below the poverty line
Does corp entity exist, in good standing? Yes; yes.
Location of entity’s principal office Baltimore City
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
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 Oh Sook Choi & Young Jun Kim
Business Name YJK87 Enterprise, Inc.
Trading As Pratt Liquor & Convenience
Address 1816-18 E. Pratt Street
Type of License Class “A” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing Application to transfer ownership
Hearing notes

Executive Secretary Michelle Bailey-Hedgepeth announced that the application had been withdrawn by the applicants.

Zoning R-8
Neighborhood Upper Fells Point
Area demographics 53% White, 32% Black, 8% Asian, 3% 2 or more races; 4% Hispanic ethnicity; 6% households have children under age 18; Median Household Income: $38,331; 5.5 % households live below poverty line.
Does corp entity exist, in good standing? Yes; yes.
Location of entity’s principal office Baltimore City
Attorney for licensee None
# in support 0
Attorney for community None
# of protestants 0
# of inspectors/police officers 0
Result of hearing Withdrawn by the applicant.
Vote tally None
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 William Grose
Business Name Glen Arm Station, LLC
Trading As Glen Arm Station Brewers Craft
Address 1236 Light Street
Type of License Class “D” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing Application to transfer ownership
Hearing notes

Executive Secretary Michelle Bailey-Hedgepeth announced that the hearing would be postponed until March 26.

Zoning B-2-3
Neighborhood Federal Hill
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 Glen Arm, 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
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 Santosh Poudel & Christopher Perrin
Business Name Harimaya, LLC
Trading As Yi’s Liquors
Address 600-04 Chester Street
Type of License Class “A” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing Application to transfer ownership
Hearing notes

Mr. Frank Boozer represented the applicants, who were present, and he apologized for his casual attire. He told the Commissioners that his clients were seeking to take over a Class A license in Northeast Market, which is just east of the Johns Hopkins Medical School. The applicants will run the business in the same way that it was run by the current licensees for over 30-35 years.

Commissioner Moore asked whether the licensed premises had been open and operating continuously, and Mr. Boozer said that it had, except for a week or two when the current owner had closed the business in November. Boozer said that the applicants had made a dozen attempts to contact the various community associations in the area but received no response.

Zoning B-2-2
Neighborhood CARE
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 Baltimore City
Attorney for licensee Mr. Frank Boozer
# 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 none provided in docket
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 outdoor table service
Hearing notes

Mr. James Collins represented himself; he said that his attorney lives far north of Baltimore, so he couldn’t make it, due to the snowstorm. He explained that he had held a lien on the license, which the prior licensee had defaulted on. Mr. Collins had taken back the right to the license as the lienholder and was now requesting to transfer it to himself as a licensee, to operate the business himself. He said that he has operated liquor licensed businesses in the past. He has entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with the Hollins Roundhouse community association, and there was a letter of support from the president of the association in the file. Mr. Collins lives in the neighborhood.

Commissioner Dana Moore asked whether the establishment was open and operating. Mr. Collins replied that it was not; the Board had determined in a prior hearing that Mr. Collins’ hardship extension request had been lost in the Liquor Board’s files, so they gave him extra time beyond what the statute allowed.

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? None in the docket
Location of entity’s principal office None in the docket
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

For a discussion of Article 2B section 10-504’s 180-day rule as it applies to this license, and whether the Board had the authority to extend it, check out the Booze News post for October 23, 2014.

Applicant Anastasia Keramidas
Business Name Thames Leadbetters, LLC
Trading As Leadbetters
Address 1639 Thames Street
Type of License Class “BD7” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing Application to transfer ownership
Hearing notes

Mr. Gary Maslan represented the applicant, Anastasia Keramidas. She is the daughter of Vasilios Keramidas, who owns Kali’s Court and The Admiral’s Cup. Maslan said that Mr. Keramidas is a substantial property owner in Fells Point. The bar has been in that location for over 100 years, according to Maslan, and has been named “Baltimore’s Best Dive Bar.” According to Mr. Maslan, Ms. Keramidas has grown up in the restaurant business. She submitted a petition in support of the transfer, signed by nearby neighbors and businesses. She has no plans to change the bar much, except to update flooring and bathrooms. The bar is located in a B-3 commercial district and has permission for live entertainment. The applicant plans to live above the establishment. Two community members testified in favor of Ms. Keramidas as a fit and proper applicant.

Ms. Joanne Masopust and Mr. David Martz, from the Fells Point Community Organization and the Fells Point Residents Association, respectively, appeared at the hearing to oppose the transfer. They had asked that the applicant for the transfer sign a Memorandum of Understanding with the two associations, and she had refused. The applicant had apparently had an issue with the restrictions on hours of operation, music volume, security, and upkeep of the building. The applicant had already agreed to most of the provisions of the MOU, according to Masopust, but did not want to sign the agreement.

Mr. Maslan said that his client was not going to agree not to change the character of the dive bar, though she plans to keep the atmosphere the same. If the business is not successful, she may want to change its theme. His client did not agree to the hours restrictions, which are inconsistent with the current hours of the business. He also had a problem with the clause that would require the applicant to call the police if she or her employees are suspicious of any criminal activity in or around the bar. Maslan said that the language in the provision is too vague and asked the Commissioners, “if someone walks in of a Middle-Eastern descent, are they ‘suspicious’? Are they are terrorist?”

Commissioner Moore noted that in a transfer of ownership, the only relevant criterion is whether the applicant is a fit and proper person to hold a liquor license. She noted that the license, however, will be up for renewal in April, so these provisions may come into play then.

Chairman Ward said that there is nothing in the Maryland Code that would require a liquor license to sign an MOU. Ward said that what FPCO and FPRA were doing is requiring the owner “of real property” to agree to things in exchange for a license, which he said was “totally off the wall.”

Zoning B-3-2
Neighborhood Fells Point
Area demographics 70% White, 8% Black, 5% Asian; 15% Hispanic ethnicity; 11% households have children under age 18; median household income: $69,105; 11% households live below the poverty line
Does corp entity exist, in good standing? Yes; yes.
Location of entity’s principal office Baltimore City
Attorney for licensee Mr. Gary Maslan
# in support 4
Attorney for community None
# of protestants 2
# 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

Chairman Ward reiterated that there is nothing in Article 2B that requires an applicant for a transfer to sign an MOU. Where a licensee and a community association reach an agreement, they can be very effective, but the failure or refusal to sign an MOU is not a legal defect in a transfer of ownership.

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

The commissioners were correct that the only question at issue in a transfer of ownership is the fitness of the applicant (with the very important exception of when the establishment has been closed for over 90 days, in which case the Board may consider all of the factors of Article 2B section 10-202(a), as if it were a new application). The Chairman was also correct that there is no requirement for an applicant to sign an MOU with a community association.

1:00 p.m. cases

II. Violations:

Licensees Mondell Powell & Dawn Gilliam
Business Name Tea-ology, LLC
Trading As Teavolve
Address 701 S. Eden Street
Type of License Class “B” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing

Violation of Rule 4.18: Illegal Conduct – January 14, 2015 – On this date, Inspector Joann Martin conducted a follow up routine at the establishment known as “Teavolve” located at 701 S. Eden Street, Baltimore, Maryland. While the establishment passed the physical routine inspection, a check of the State Department of Assessment and Taxation (SDAT) records indicated that the good standing of the corporate entity in which the alcoholic beverages license was issued had been forfeited. Another check was conducted on February 20, 2015 and again the corporate entity’s status was deemed forfeited by SDAT.

Hearing notes

Executive Secretary Michelle Bailey-Hedgepeth announced that the matter had been resolved, so it had been removed from the docket.

Zoning B-2-4
Neighborhood Fells Point
Area demographics 70% White, 8% Black, 5% Asian; 15% Hispanic ethnicity; 11% households have children under age 18; median household income: $69,105; 11% households live below the poverty line
Does corp entity exist, in good standing? Yes; yes. SDAT shows that the entity has been forfeited three times (2009, 2010, and 2014) for failure to file personal property returns.
Location of entity’s principal office Baltimore City
Attorney for licensee N/A
# in support N/A
Attorney for community N/A
# of protestants N/A
# of inspectors/police officers N/A
Result of hearing Removed from docket
Vote tally None
Portions of state law cited in decision N/A
Other reasons given for decision N/A
Issues raised in audit present in this case or other issues observed N/A
Licensees Musibau Shittu & Christopher Nwaeze
Business Name Taste International, Inc.
Trading As Taste International
Address 4314-16 Curtis Avenue
Type of License Class “B” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing

Violation of Rule 3.12: Public Welfare – February 14, 2015 – At approximately 1:28 am the Baltimore Police Department responded to the establishment known as “Taste International” due to physical altercation involving a crowd of 25-30 people that emanated from the establishment and spilled out into the public space. The altercation was observed by Police as they were stationed outside of the establishment. The physical altercation in its entirety lasted approximately 25-30 minutes outside of the bar as police tried to contain the altercation and disperse the crowd. Police were not aided by any of the security personnel of the establishment in dispersing the fight. After the police had begun to settle the crowd, some of the patrons ran back into the establishment. Investigation revealed that a physical altercation involving almost all of the patrons in the establishment was allowed to occur within the establishment. Security personnel hired by the establishment also failed to abate the altercation in the bar. As a result of the altercation someone had been stabbed and taken to Harbor Hospital. In addition, over 20 separate police units were called to the scene of the establishment to address this incident.

Violation of Rule 4.18: Illegal Conduct – February 14, 2015 – At approximately 1:28 am the Baltimore Police Department responded to the establishment known as “Taste International” due to physical altercation involving a crowd of25-30 people that emanated from the establishment and spilled out into the public space. Investigation later revealed that an all-encompassing brawl occurred inside the establishment that involved most of the patrons. Police observed broken bottles, chairs, tables, and other items littered throughout the establishment in the aftermath of the fight. As a result of the fight a victim was stabbed in the upper torso within the establishment. As the victim was leaving the establishment, Police noticed him get into a car that sped away to Harbor Hospital.

Hearing notes

Mr. Melvin Kodenski represented the licensees in the case. He requested that the hearing be postponed, due to the snowstorm happening that day. There were witnesses for the licensee who could not be present because of the weather. Chairman Ward replied that they would take testimony from the people who were present at the hearing and then see what testimony is missing.

Baltimore City Police Sergeant Marc Camarote testified that he had driven by the establishment earlier in the evening on February 14 and had seen many people in the parking lot who he recognized from past drug arrests. The people in the parking lot were yelling, cursing, and jumping up and down on cars. They were very loud and were consuming alcohol outside. When he returned, at 1:15am, there was a crowd of around 25-30 people in the parking lot engaged in a fight. He was with one other officer, and the scene was out of control, so they called for more units. There was one or more big fights with smaller fights also going on. He estimated that there were around ten different fights happening within the crowd. The crowd at one point went back inside the bar. The dispatcher issued a “signal 13,” which is a code for an officer in distress, which brought many more units of police officers to the scene, including the police Foxtrot helicopter. Camarote did not see any security guards to help control the scene. The large crowd came back out of the bar and was still out of control. The fighting spilled over into residential blocks nearby, where residents had come out onto their porches to see what was happening. Camarote testified that the scene was so loud and chaotic that he couldn’t hear his own radio. Under cross-examination, Camarote said that he did not arrest anyone, talk to any security guard, or go inside the bar. The officer refused to give the names and addresses of the nearby residents that he had spoken to, in order to protect their safety.

Baltimore Police Sergeant Kelly Johns testified that she had also observed the large crowd in the parking lot earlier in the evening. Some of the patrons were smoking marijuana outside. She recognized some of the individuals in the parking lot and noticed that they were not in the neighborhood where they usually hung out. Sensing that there may be an issue later, she advised police officers to stay around the area. On her way home from her shift, she heard the dispatcher issue the signal 13, at which point she headed to the scene and directed one of her officers to the nearby hospital. There was a report that someone had been stabbed and transported in a private car to the hospital for treatment. She tallied up from her report that seventeen officers had responded to the signal 13s. By the time Sergeant Johns arrived, the area was under control and was roped off with police tape. She went inside the bar and spoke with a manager, named Jay Siloa. He told Johns that a woman named Brenda had reserved the bar for a memorial event for her nephew, named E, who had been killed. She was inside for around fifteen to twenty minutes and took some photos which showed the aftermath of a fight, including broken furniture and beer, glass and blood on the floor. Under cross-examination, she said that she did not make any arrests. She clarified that she recognized a few of the men outside earlier, because they usually hang around Patapsco and 9th Street, which is about a mile away from the bar in question. Kodenski asked Johns whether they were doing anything illegal, and she responded that they were smoking marijuana.

Officer Stewart testified that he responded to the hospital and spoke with the victim of the stabbing. The victim said that he had been trying to break up a fight and felt something on his left side. He never saw the person who stabbed him, because he was stabbed from the back.

Detective Green-Dargen testified that she also interviewed the witness, his wife, and his sister-in-law. Mr. Akras then played the recording of Green-Dargen’s interview with those witnesses, who corroborated Officer Stewart’s testimony. The victim, according to his wife and sister-in-law, had been trying to break up a fight when he was stabbed in the side from behind. There were a lot of guys in the fight, according to the witness: guys from “different areas” and “different affiliations.”

Chairman Ward complained to Mr. Akras that he was very unhappy with the taped testimony, because he couldn’t hear or understand it well.

Mr. Kodenski then called his witnesses to testify about what happened on February 14.

Mr. Musibau Shittu, one of the two licensees, testified that he was there at the bar on the night. He had hired three security personnel to work. He did not see anyone get stabbed, and the police did not talk to him. No one from the community made any complaints to him. He said that there was only one fight, by the bar, which lasted five minutes. The other licensee, Christopher Nwaeze, who also owns the building and the parking lot, also testified, but he was not present on the night in question.

Mr. Paul Mason testified next, as part of the three-person security team from the night in question. He was stationed at the door, checking patrons as they came in. He spoke to one officer earlier in the evening, who told Mason that the police wanted the area clear by 1:30pm. At around 1:05, the DJ was told to shut music off, and the security team started moving people outside, which was when an argument started. Mason said that the fight grew so large that the security guards were outnumbered.

Mr. Jamal Wright, another security guard, testified that he asked the police in the parking lot to help them calm the fight that was happening inside, but the police told the security guards to wait. They also said that their protocol is not to walk into an establishment during a fight like this, because they wouldn’t know what they were walking into. He testified that he did see blood on the floor afterwards.

In his final argument, Mr. Kodenski pointed out that nobody knows how the fight started. He also complained that the police did not help the security guards inside break up the fight. No charges were filed against anyone. He did admit that an incident happened, but he argued that the licensees couldn’t have done anything more than what they did. He pointed out that there were no community members present in opposition to the bar.

Zoning B-2-2
Neighborhood Curtis Bay
Area demographics 48% White, 36% Black, 4% 2 or more races; 10% Hispanic ethnicity; 40% households have children under age 18; median household income: $33,644; 22% households live below the poverty line
Does corp entity exist, in good standing? No; no. The corporation has been forfeited by the state of Maryland for failure to pay personal property taxes.
Location of entity’s principal office Baltimore City
Attorney for licensee Mr. Melvin Kodenski
# in support ~6
Attorney for community None
# of protestants 0
# of inspectors/police officers 4
Result of hearing Responsible for charges. 3 week suspension. $1,000 fine.
Vote tally Unanimous
Portions of state law cited in decision None
Other reasons given for decision

Chairman Ward said that there was no question that the licensees had disturbed the neighborhood, since so many people had come out of their homes in the middle of the night. The licensees seem unable to control their patrons, and even the police were wary of going into the crowd. They were also responsible for the illegal activity violation, because they were unable to control the giant fight.

Mr. Kodenski, in mitigation, pointed out that the bar has had no prior history of violations, in nine years in business.

Commissioners Jones and Moore concurred with Chairman Ward. Jones said that the licensees and their employees need to recognize dangerous situations and move more quickly and be more vigilant. Moore agreed with Jones. She said that the licensees have the responsibility to understand who was in their “house,” and they “had a house very much divided.”

Issues raised in audit present in this case or other issues observed None
Licensee Siam Mason
Business Name None provided in docket
Trading As Yolo Bar and Lounge
Address 4502-04 Erdman Avenue
Type of License Class “BD7” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing

Violation of Rule 3.12: Public Welfare – January 3, 2015/August 1, 2014/July 4, 2014/February 8, 2014 – On January 7, 2015 BLLC conducted a review of Baltimore City police reports from 2014 and 2015 of criminal incidences at the establishment known at “Yolo Bar and Lounge” located at 4502 Erdman Avenue in Baltimore City, Maryland. A review of the record indicates that there were a number of criminal incidents that occurred during 2014 and 2015 that taken as a whole show a persistent pattern of violent and disruptive activity that cause a nuisance to the surrounding area. On January 3, 2015 there was a homicide that occurred in the bar. The victim was a patron seated at the bar who was shot in the back of the head while at the bar. On August 1, 2014, police responded to the scene to break up a crowd of patrons who were involved in a fight. Some individuals involved in the fight were actual employees of the establishment. July 4, 2014 police had to respond to the scene to break up loitering and loud noise coming from the establishment. On February 8, 2014 police responded to the location in report of a shooting that occurred on the parking lot of the establishment after a verbal altercation that occurred in the establishment.

Hearing notes

Mr. Melvin Kodenski represented the licensee. He objected to the old violations being lumped in together; the objection was overruled.

January 3, 2015: Detective Akinwande testified that when he entered the establishment, there was blood on the floor. A male patron had been drinking at the bar when an unknown man came into the bar and shot the patron in the back of the head with a 22-caliber handgun. The assailant left the scene immediately and was not apprehended. No one in the bar could explain how the gunman got through security. The employees did not have the ability to access the security cameras to give footage to the police.

August 1, 2014: Sergeant Chris Schmidt testified that he had responded to a vehicle accident in front of the bar. A car had flipped over, and a large crowd was starting to get out of control in front of the bar. Schmidt said there were around thirty people standing around, yelling and screaming, looking like they were about to fight. He testified that he had asked the individuals to go back inside several times. Employees of the Yolo Bar were yelling derogatory comments at the police; one of them called Schmidt a leprechaun and used profanity.

February 8, 2014: Detective Greenhill testified that he was not present at the scene, but he knew that there was an altercation that ended in a shooting. There were other officers who were supposed to come to the hearing to testify to their direct knowledge, but they did not show up.

Chief Inspector Shelton Jones testified that, after the shooting in January, he spoke to the licensee about her security plan, which he thought she should update.

Ms. Siam Mason testified that she has owned the business since January 2013. She usually has two security officers at the bar, one at the door and one inside. On the date of the homicide, her security guard at the door was a woman; Chief Inspector Jones told her during their meeting that sometimes people don’t respect female security guards.

Mr. Antonio Johnson testified that he was inside the bar on August 1, 2014, during the car accident. They heard a loud boom and saw a car flipped over in the street. They pulled a man out of the flipped car, which had caught on fire. Another person then pulled up and was angry with him, because his mother had been involved in the accident in a different car. During an altercation with the man in the car, the man pulled a gun on Mr. Johnson. It was a “very confusing situation.”

Mr. Esteban Morales testified that the cops were arguing with him for no reason. Another officer had started joking with him about Morales’s ponytail, so he started “snapping on” the officer.

Mr. Christopher Ervin was also present on August 1 and testified that “uniformed police officers came out a little aggressive.” Ervin said that the bystanders told the police that they were just trying to help. The first responders asked everyone to move back, so people were standing in front of the bar who were not actually patrons. The plainclothes officers who showed up later were even more aggressive and exchanged words with his friends. The jokes started out good-natured, but Sergeant Schmidt escalated the situation. Ervin said that the joke was a “leprechaun-related remark.” When the commisioners asked if the remark was disrespectful, Ervin responded, “I don’t have leprechaun insecurities.” Ervin then showed a video he had taken at the scene of the altercations between patrons and Sergeant Schmidt and another officer.

Zoning B-2-1
Neighborhood Orchard Ridge
Area demographics 32% White, 53% Black/African-American, 1% Asian; 11% Hispanic ethnicity; 35% households have children under age 18; median household income: $31,970; 16% households live below the poverty line
Does corp entity exist, in good standing? None provided in docket
Location of entity’s principal office None provided in docket
Attorney for licensee Mr. Melvin Kodenski
# in support ~6-7
Attorney for community None
# of protestants 0
# of inspectors/police officers 4
Result of hearing Responsible for January 3, 2015 charge. One week suspension.
Vote tally Unanimous
Portions of state law cited in decision None
Other reasons given for decision

The licensee has no prior violations.

Chairman Ward said, regarding the January 3 charge, that “a murder is a serious thing,” no matter the circumstances. He said that, as to the August charge, that the police were obviously under a misapprehension when they entered the bar, but people can’t interfere with police investigations.

Commissioner Moore noted that the summer of 2014 was a hot one with relations between police officers and community members across the country, specifically in New York and in Ferguson. The job of the police is to de-escalate situations. She said that community members have every right to videotape police officers. But she agreed with the finding of responsibility for the homicide charge and agreed with the one-week suspension.

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

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