Booze News: Distilled in Room 215

A blog about the Baltimore City Liquor Board

What happened at the Liquor Board on April 30, 2015.

Written by Becky Witt

Before the hearings began, Commissioner Moore took a few moments to extend sympathy to licensees who had experienced losses due to the unrest in Baltimore earlier in the week. She said that she had driven to West Baltimore and saw a licensee sitting on the steps in front of his business sobbing. She said that she experienced great sorrow and empathy for thsoe who had been affected. Chairman Ward added that the licensees’ lawyers should chip in to a fund for those impacted.

11:00 a.m. cases

I. New applications, transfers and amendments:

Applicant Justin Sharovy
Business Name Pie 360, LLC
Trading As Pie 360
Address 3731 Boston Street
Type of License Class “B” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing Application to transfer ownership
Hearing notes

This hearing was a continuation of a previous hearing in which the transferors were not present, in violation of one of the Liquor Board’s rules. Mr. Kodenski explained (again) that the current owners of the license have given up the business and are not coming back. He reiterated that the Canton Community Association is in support of the transfer and there is no opposition. Kodenski suggested that the Board could take testimony over Skype for people who have left the state.

Zoning B-2-2
Neighborhood Canton Industrial Area
Area demographics 86% White, 4% Black, 3% Asian; 5% Hispanic ethnicity; 9% households have children under age 18; median household income: $82,130
Does corp entity exist, in good standing? Yes; yes.
Location of entity’s principal office Sparks, MD
Attorney for licensee Mr. Melvin Kodenski
# 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 Xiuqin Yang & Zhu En Jiang
Business Name Lin Yan, Inc.
Trading As Gordon’s Cut Rate
Address 1655 N. Monroe Street
Type of License Class “A” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing Application to transfer ownership
Hearing notes

Attorney Jay Yoo represented the applicants, who were both present. The current owners did not seem to be present. The attorney proffered that his clients were of good moral character and satisfied the requirements to be a Baltimore City licensee.

Zoning R-7
Neighborhood Sandtown-Winchester
Area demographics
Does corp entity exist, in good standing? Yes; yes.
Location of entity’s principal office Baltimore, MD
Attorney for licensee Mr. Jay Yoo
# in support 2
Attorney for community None
# of protestants 0
# of inspectors/police officers 0
Result of hearing Approved
Vote tally Unanimous
Portions of state law cited in decision None
Other reasons given for decision None
Issues raised in audit present in this case or other issues observed

It was not completely clear from the testimony given, but it seemed as though only the two applicants for the license were present at the hearing, not the current owners. If so, holding the hearing would be in violation of Administrative Order #2, which requires the transferors to also be present.

Applicant Carlos Azor
Business Name Rumba Tropical Lounge, LLC
Trading As Rumba Tropical Lounge
Address 7 E. Lexington Street
Type of License Class “B” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing Application for a new Class “B” Beer, Wine & Liquor restaurant license under the provisions of 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

Former Chairman of the BLLC Stephan Fogleman represented the applicant, who was present. First, Mr. Chiabuotu Chikwere, owner of the real property, testified about the improvements that he has made to the building. Fogleman submitted photographs of the renovations, which included new doors, flooring, awnings and windows. The seating capacity for the restaurant is 95, with 19 tables seating four people each and 15 seats at the bar. Mr. Tom Yeager was present in support of the new license on behalf of the Downtown Partnership. Fogleman concluded his presentation by explaining that there is currently a liquor license at the property, which has “lapsed because of closure.” Executive Secretary Michelle Bailey-Hedgepeth added that the license at the address will expire on April 30.

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, but the official name of the business is “Rumba Tropical Lounge Bar and Restaurant LLC.”
Location of entity’s principal office Baltimore, MD
Attorney for licensee Mr. Stephan Fogleman
# 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 Diana Fava
Business Name Trinacria Café, LLC
Trading As Trinacria Café
Address 111 W. Centre Street
Type of License Class “B” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing Request to add live entertainment, off-premises catering and outdoor table service
Hearing notes

Mr. Will Bauer and Mr. Vince Fava were present in support of the transfer. Ms. Diana Fava, the applicant, was not present because she was trying to get the business reopened after it had been significantly damaged during the riots the previous Monday night. The application is to add live entertainment and outdoor table service. Mr. Fava explained that the live entertainment will be Italian traditional music, played by local Peabody students who want experience playing before a live audience. It will never be amplified. Mr. Steve Johnson, from the Mount Vernon Belvedere Association (MVBA) testified that the community association had agreed to the live entertainment, under certain conditions (no more than three musicians, acoustic instruments only, no DJs). Mr. Bauer submitted a CD of the type of music that will be offered.

Zoning B-4-2
Neighborhood Mount Vernon
Area demographics 53% White, 32% Black, 8% Asian, 3% 2 or more races; 4% Hispanic ethnicity; 6% households have children under age 18; Median Household Income: $38,331; 5.5 % households live below poverty line
Does corp entity exist, in good standing? Yes; yes.
Location of entity’s principal office 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
Applicant Michael Matassa
Business Name Alchemy, LLC
Trading As Alchemy
Address 1011 W. 36th Street
Type of License Class “B” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing Application to transfer ownership
Hearing notes

Ms. Deborah Bell Matassa and Mr. Michael Matassa were both present as current licensees; the “transfer” is a removal of Ms. Matassa from the license and making the sole licensee Mr. Matassa.

Zoning B-2-2
Neighborhood Hampden
Area demographics 77% White, 12% Black, 5% Asian; 4% Hispanic ethnicity; 18% households have children under age 18; median household income: $54,278
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 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 Brian Mastervich & Kevin Hoff
Business Name Gypsy Vape and Pub, LLC
Trading As Gypsy Vape and Pub
Address 1400 Key Highway
Type of License Class “D” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing Application to transfer ownership from a secured creditor, request for outdoor table service & live entertainment
Hearing notes

Mr. Melvin Kodenski represented the applicants, both present. Mr. Mastervich is an applicant, as well as the secured creditor on the license. The licensees have met with the Riverside Improvement Association, who submitted a letter of support to the Board. It will be a six-day license, 6am to 1am, closed on Sundays. Kodenski submitted a copy of the proposed menu for the restaurant and pub.

Ms. Janan Broadbent, president of Key Highway Community Association, testified in opposition to the application. She said that it was not appropriate to the area, and she was concerned about public nuisance issues.

Mr. Richard Willard testified that he has owned two electronic cigarette stores and will run this establishment. He retired from the Baltimore City police department and then ran a grilled cheese truck. The establishment will sell higher end electronic cigarettes and components. He testified that the establishment will mainly be a pub and restaurant, with electronic cigarette sales as an alternate stream of revenue. He said that he would be happy to meet with Ms. Broadbent’s community association.

Commissioner Moore asked about when the license was last in use; the licensees said that the business was last open in September 2014. They submitted a hardship extension request on February 12 and applied to transfer the license in early March, within the 180 days of Article 2B section 10-504(d).

Mr. Kevin Hoff, the second applicant, testified briefly that he has had very limited experience in running a restaurant, but he has set up other vape stores. He is a retired police officer.

Zoning R-8
Neighborhood Riverside
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 poverty line.
Does corp entity exist, in good standing? Yes; yes.
Location of entity’s principal office Baltimore, MD
Attorney for licensee Mr. Melvin Kodenski
# in support 3
Attorney for community None
# of protestants 2
# 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

Chairman Ward said that there was no law prohibiting a vapor pub operation, so he has no authority to prohibit it. Commissioner Moore voted against the transfer but did not elaborate about her reasons.

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

II. Protest of Renewal

Licensee Elizer Neger
Business Name 4919 Belair, Inc.
Trading As Good Fellas Bar and Lounge
Address 4919 Belair Road
Type of License Class “B” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing Protest of renewal under the provisions of Article 2B section 10‐301(a)
Hearing notes

The community association withdrew their protest of renewal of the liquor license. No one was present on the protesters’ side; Mr. Melvin Kodenski was present on the other side, with the licensee. He told the commissioners that his client had worked out an agreement with HARBEL and with the Frankford community association. He said that Mr. Neger lives in New York but is transferring the license to Mr. Uzo, who is local and has met with the community.

Zoning B-3-1
Neighborhood Frankford
Area demographics 15% White, 79% Black, 2% Asian; 2% Hispanic ethnicity; 35% households have children under age 18; 15% households below poverty line; median household income: $39,144.11
Does corp entity exist, in good standing? Yes; yes.
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 Renewed.
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

III. Transfers, cont.

Applicants Uzo Nwosu & Obiefule Uwadineke
Business Name Uzo, LLC
Trading As Goodfellas Lounge
Address 4919 Belair Road
Type of License Class “B” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing Application to transfer ownership
Hearing notes

Mr. Kodenski represented the two applicants. They submitted a Memorandum of Understanding that they had signed with the community associations. Commissioner Moore asked about whether the community’s concerns had been properly addressed, and the applicants assured the Board that the community would not have any issues with their establishment.

Zoning B-3-1
Neighborhood Frankford
Area demographics 15% White, 79% Black, 2% Asian; 2% Hispanic ethnicity; 35% households have children under age 18; 15% households below poverty line; median household income: $39,144.11
Does corp entity exist, in good standing? Yes; no.
Location of entity’s principal office Baltimore, MD
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 According to the State Department of Assessments and Taxation, the corporate entity is not in good standing.

1:00 pm cases

IV. Protests of Renewal, cont.

DISCLAIMER Community Law Center attorney and Booze News writer Becky Lundberg Witt represented the community association in this case.
Licensees Brian Grace & Paul Gunshol
Business Name Fireball Entertainment, Inc.
Trading As The Big Easy Cabaret
Address 2000 Eastern Avenue
Type of License Class “D” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing Protest of renewal under the provisions of Baltimore City Code – Adult Entertainment Article 15 1-14.
Hearing notes

Mr. Prevas, for his clients, the licensees, objected to the protest, arguing that the petitioners did not specifically protest the adult entertainment license in their petition. He also argued that the petitioners could not protest the renewal of the adult entertainment license, because it had not yet been submitted. Thirdly, he argued that the petition was insufficient, because the law requires that ten of the petitioners reside or own property in the election precinct of the bar. Ms. Witt argued that, under the Adult Entertainment section of the city code, Article 15, section 1-14, the law only requires that ten written objections be filed, anytime before the end of the renewal period, and that the protest was sufficient. She submitted evidence that more than ten of the petitioners lived in the election precinct of the establishment. Chairman Ward denied Prevas’s objections and allowed the hearing to proceed.

Ms. Witt went through her four arguments: first, that the licensees had made material false statements in violation of section 1-28(a)(2); second, that the licensees had failed to comply with other sections of the adult entertainment code, in violation of sections 1-28(a)(5) and 1-23; third, that the licensees had failed to comply with other provisions of state law under section 1-28(a)(6), specifically, the labor and employment laws surrounding employees and independent contractors; and fourth, offenses by the former manager for the violation of federal law that involves distribution and possession of controlled dangerous substances (CDS). Two community members testified in opposition to the renewal of the license. Mr. Prevas argued that the false statements made in the application were not material. He also argued that there was no nuisance to the community under section 1-23. He argued that the dancers at the club were correctly classified as independent contractors. And, finally, he argued that Mr. Grace should not be held responsible for his manager’s drug trafficking charge, because Mr. Grace supposedly fired Mariano.

Zoning B-2-2
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, MD
Attorney for licensee Mr. Peter Prevas
# in support 1
Attorney for community Ms. Becky Lundberg Witt (see disclaimer above)
# of protestants 3
# of inspectors/police officers 0
Result of hearing Adult Entertainment license not approved
Vote tally Unanimous
Portions of state law cited in decision None
Other reasons given for decision

Chairman Ward based his decision primarily on the false statements in the renewal application, which he believed to be material. Commissioner Jones agreed with Chairman Ward. Moore agreed but based her decision more on the letters from the community who have said that they’ve experienced serious nuisance issues from the establishment.

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

V. Violations:

Licensee Virginia Anderson
Business Name Sportsters, Inc.
Trading As Characters Corral
Address 2148 Wilkens Avenue
Type of License Class “D” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing

Violation of Rule 4.10(a): March 23, 2015 – At approximately 1:30 pm Inspector Kevin Burley from the Comptroller of Maryland, Field Enforcement Division, conducted a Routine Dealer Inspection of the establishment located at 2148 Wilkens Avenue, t/a Characters Corral. Upon conducting his investigation Inspector Burley discovered the following items that were purchased from a retail dealer, but were behind the bar and kept on the premises of the establishment: (1) bottle 750ml Kinky Vodka Blue, (1) bottle 750ml Kinky Vodka Pink, (21) 12oz bottles of Heineken Beer. Inspector Burley was also able to obtain a copy of a sales receipt indicating that the aforementioned alcoholic beverages were purchased from a retail establishment and not a wholesaler or distributor as required by licensees.

Hearing notes

The licensee was not present for the hearing, but her bar manager was. She admitted that her daughter had brought the liquor in for a party and that it was her mistake. She apologized to the commissioners and said that it would not happen again.

Mr. Thomas Akras, Deputy Executive Secretary of the Board, read a statement of the charges into the record, and the Comptroller’s inspector was present at the hearing but did not testify.

Zoning R-8
Neighborhood Carrollton Ridge
Area demographics 17% White, 76% Black, 1% Asian; 4% Hispanic ethnicity; 36% households have children under age 18; median household income: $28,513.80; 30% households live below the poverty line
Does corp entity exist, in good standing? No; no. The corporation has been forfeited.
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 1
Result of hearing Responsible. $250 fine.
Vote tally Unanimous
Portions of state law cited in decision None
Other reasons given for decision The commissioners gave the licensee a $500 fine for not appearing, but the employee then told them that she hadn’t informed the licensee of the violation. The commissioners then reversed that extra fine.
Issues raised in audit present in this case or other issues observed The corporate entity has been forfeited by the state of Maryland, which was not raised during the hearing.

The rest of the violation hearings scheduled for April 30 were not heard on that day, because the police officers were not available to testify due to the unrest in Baltimore that week.

Comments are closed.

Disclaimer: While the author makes every effort to provide the most accurate and up-to-date information on this blog, the accuracy of some information is subject to change and cannot be guaranteed. Neither the author nor the publisher is responsible for any errors or omissions. All information in this blog is provided “as-is,” with no guarantee of completeness, accuracy, timeliness, or of the results obtained from the use of this information, and without warranty of any kind, express or implied. This blog is not intended to do harm to, defame, libel, or malign any religious or ethnic group, club, organization, company, individual, or government entity. In no event will the author, her employer, or the publisher be liable to you or anyone else for any action taken in reliance on the information in this blog or for any consequential, special or similar damages incurred, even if advised of the possibility of such damages.

The materials contained on this website have been prepared by Community Law Center, Inc. for informational purposes only and are not intended to be legal advice. Transmission of the information is not intended to create, and receipt does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship. Internet subscribers and online readers should not act upon this information without seeking professional counsel.

Copyright: Text, photos and other materials found on this website are the property of CLC, except where otherwise noted. Such materials may not be reproduced without CLC’s written prior consent.