Booze News: Distilled in Room 215

A blog about the Baltimore City Liquor Board

What happened at the Liquor Board on May 28, 2015.

Written by Becky Witt

11:00 a.m. cases

I. New Applications, Transfers and amendments:

Applicant Linda Brown Rivelis
Business Name The Pincus Restaurant Group, LLC
Trading As The Elephant
Address 924 N. Charles 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

Mr. Stanley Fine and Mr. Justin Williams, of Rosenberg Martin Greenberg, represented the applicants, Steven and Linda Rivelis. Each licensee will own 50% of the business. The former nightclub that operated in this building closed three years ago, to the neighborhood’s relief. Mr. Fine told the Board that the Rivelises are restoring the building to its former grandeur, as it used to be one of Baltimore’s most beautiful restaurants. The owners hope to open by October 2015, with 104 seats on the first floor, 40 on the second, and 12 outdoor seats. The restaurant will serve dinner only, seven nights a week. The owners estimate that they will invest over $400,000 in fixtures before they open.

Mr. Steve Johnson, of the Mount Vernon Belvedere Association, testified that the Rivelises are well respected members of neighborhood and have been extremely cooperative in working out suitable restrictions to address community concerns about noise and other nuisance issues.

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 Mr. Stanley Fine and Mr. Justin Williams, Rosenberg Martin Greenberg LLP
# 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
Applicants Craig Martin & Elizabeth Samolis
Business Name QG, LLC
Trading As trade name pending
Address 31 S. Calvert Street – 6th Floor
Type of License Class “BD7” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing Application to transfer ownership & location of a Class “BD7” BWL license presently located at 5625 O’Donnell Street to 31 S. Calvert Street-6th Floor, request for live entertainment
Hearing notes

Mr. Kodenski represented the two applicants. He reminded the commissioners that the license in question “was at the Travel Plaza,” was originally going to be transferred to Guilford Avenue, but after community opposition was moved to 31 S. Calvert Street. The applicants have entered into an agreement with the Downtown Partnership, and Tom Yeager from that organization was present in support of the transfer. There was also a letter of support from the Hampton Inn and Suites, Brookshire Suites and Visit Baltimore. The transferor is Lou Principio, who was stuck in traffic and could not be at the hearing. Chairman Ward said that the transfer would not be finalized without Mr. Principio’s presence, but they continued with the rest of the hearing first.

Commissioner Moore asked about the status of the license being transferred. Mr. Kodenski answered that the current owner of the license had received a hardship extension, so he argued that the transfer application was submitted in a timely manner.

Mr. Martin, an applicant, explained his concept: the new bar will be speakeasy-style, on the 6th floor of a building containing a boutique department store that sells suits and custom clothing. They also have a barber shop and salon.

Mr. Principio made it to the Liquor Board hearing room about one hour later and appeared before the Commissioners to consent to the transfer. Mr. Kodenski said, “I think everybody will be very happy to get this license out of [Principio’s] name.”

Zoning B-5-2
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 Mr. Melvin Kodenski
# in support 3
Attorney for community None
# of protestants 0
# of inspectors/police officers 0
Result of hearing Approved
Vote tally Unanimous
Portions of state law cited in decision None
Other reasons given for decision None
Issues raised in audit present in this case or other issues observed

The license at Voltage, which was transferred to a new owner during this hearing, is a fascinating look into the Board’s practices, some of which were well-hidden enough to escape mention in the 2013 Legislative Audit. The license was revoked in March 2014, then un-revoked in April 2014 to allow the owner, Mr. Principio, who had been found responsible for outrageous violations of the public safety and welfare, to sell the license and recoup his investment. Mr. Principio was then allowed an extension of time due to “undue hardship” under Article 2B section 10-504(d), even though he never proved that he had undergone any type of undue hardship. This license should not still exist to be transferred to new ownership.

Applicants Stephen Davis & Gelmin Portillo
Business Name Stefer10, LLC
Trading As Skandalo
Address 4020 E. Lombard Street
Type of License Class “BD7” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing Application to transfer ownership
Hearing notes

Mr. Stephan Fogleman, former Chairman of the Liquor Board, represented the two applicants who were present with the current licensee/transferor. Neither applicant seemed to have alcohol management experience, though Mr. Portillo had some restaurant experience. Mr. Davis is a security manager at Johns Hopkins, who will, according to Fogleman, have a hands-on role in the business. Fogleman noted that the current licensee has been found responsible for violations, but the new applicants are committed to making sure all patrons feel safe and secure. They have met and negotiated an MOU with the Highlandtown Community Association.

Zoning M-3
Neighborhood Baltimore Highlands
Area demographics 52% White, 12% Black, 3% Asian, 2% 2 or more races, 30% Hispanic ethnicity, 30% households have children under age 18; Median Household Income: $39,874.02; 18% households live below the poverty line.
Does corp entity exist, in good standing? No; no. There is no entity called “Stefer10, LLC” registered in Maryland, according to SDAT.
Location of entity’s principal office N/A
Attorney for licensee Mr. Stephan Fogleman, former Chairman of the Board
# 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

Maryland’s State Department of Assessments and Taxation does not show a “Stefer10, LLC” registered in the state. It’s possible that the corporate name was misspelled in the docket.

II. Hardship Extension Request

Applicants Howard Staley & Mary Beth Staley
Business Name HVS Hospitality, LLC
Trading As Quarterhouse Tavern
Address 801 S. Decker 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

Mr. Jeffrey Letzkus, attorney for the two transfer applicants, requested a hardship extension in order to open the bar. Mr. Letzkus told the commissioners that the property was purchased last summer, and it required far more extensive renovation than the applicants had imagined. They redid the plumbing, heating, air, and electrical systems and totally demolished and reinstalled the bathrooms and kitchen. They worked with the Maryland Historical Trust and the Baltimore City Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation (CHAP) to use appropriate materials and finishes. They would like to have a soft opening around June 15 and then a grand opening later in the summer.

Commissioner Moore noted that the process before the Board is a transfer of ownership, which has to be completed within 180 days, and there is no provision for a hardship extension in the transfer section of the code. Chairman Ward proposed that Mr. Letzkus be given a week to research the law and submit a memorandum arguing for his position.

Zoning R-8
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; no.
Location of entity’s principal office Baltimore, MD
Attorney for licensee Mr. Jeffrey Letzkus
# in support 2
Attorney for community None
# of protestants 0
# of inspectors/police officers 0
Result of hearing Postponed for two weeks
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

On April 15, 2015, the Attorney General of Maryland issued an opinion on the exact question of whether transferees should be allowed to apply for hardship extensions under Article 2B section 10-504(d). The AG’s office emphatically decided that transferees did not qualify to apply for hardship extensions.

Article 2B section 10-503(d) states that “[a] transfer of any license shall be completed not more than 180 days after the Board approves the transfer.” The Attorney General stated that “shall” in this case means that the statutory deadline was mandatory, not just a suggestion. Furthermore, the AG did not believe that the hardship extension provision in Article 2B section 10-504(d) applies to transfers, because the plain language did not allow for hardship extensions for transfers. The opinion concluded that to give a transferee additional time beyond the 180 days in the statute would be to subvert and rewrite Article 2B.

To read the opinion in its entirety, please click here.

1:00 p.m. cases

III. Violations:

Licensee Sang Kil Ahn
Business Name None provided in docket
Trading As Avenue Liquor & Bar
Address 1238 Greenmount Avenue
Type of License Class “BD7” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing

Violation of Rule 4.01(a): Minors – January 14, 2015 – At approximately 9:00PM the Baltimore Police Department conducted an underage alcohol investigation at “Avenue Liquor & Bar” located at 1238 Greenmount 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 $7.62. 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 represented himself and admitted the facts as stated by Baltimore City Detective Akinwande, who was present with Police Cadet Ken Jones. Mr. Ahn testified that he has been in business for 17 years and has had only one previous violation, which occurred last year. Ahn told the Board that his employees sometimes don’t want to check IDs, because the customers get angry and complain. Ahn is currently trying to sell his business.

Zoning B-2-3
Neighborhood Johnston Square
Area demographics 2% White, 96% Black, 0% Asian, 1% 2 or more races; 1% Hispanic ethnicity; 34% of households have children under age 18; Median Household Income: $21,224; 29% households live below 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 None
# in support 1
Attorney for community None
# of protestants 0
# of inspectors/police officers 2
Result of hearing Responsible, $1500 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 Thomas Yong Kim
Business Name Good Times, LLC
Trading As Good Times Liquor & Bar Lounge
Address 1600 W. Baltimore Street
Type of License Class “BD7” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing

Violation of Rule 4.01(a): Minors – January 15, 2015 – At approximately 12:45 am the Baltimore Police Department conducted an underage alcohol investigation at “Good Times Liquor & Bar Lounge” located at 1600 West Baltimore 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/licensee. 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/licensee 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. Kim, the licensee at this address, represented himself at the hearing; he admitted the facts as read by Detective Akinwande. Mr. Kim has a prior violation on his record for failure to cooperate in 2011. Kim told the commissioners that he only allows people 25 and older into his store and that the bar side of the building isn’t a problem, but the package goods side is. The licensee submitted a photograph of the signs that he posted around his store to remind his employees to check IDs. He told the commissioners that his business is a victim and that his windows had recently been broken.

Zoning B-3-2
Neighborhood Franklin Square
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? 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. $2000 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 Emmanuel Karelas, Dimitri Vengalakos & Nickolaox Hapsis
Business Name TDF Corporation
Trading As Loafers
Address 1401 Bloomfield Avenue
Type of License Class “BD7” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing

Violation of Rule 4.01(a): Minors – January 15, 2015 – At approximately 12:13 am the Baltimore Police Department conducted an underage alcohol investigation at “Loafers 2” located at 1401 Bloomfield Avenue in Baltimore City, Maryland. Police Cadet Jones, who was under the age of 21, entered the establishment and purchased a bottle of “Corona Extra” from the bartender/store clerk for $6.00. 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

On behalf of his clients, Mr. Kodenski waived the reading of the charges and admitted to the facts as stated in the police report. Kodenski, in mitigation, told the commissioners that this bar is not a place with a history of service of alcohol to minors. The owners fired the server who was responsible for the violation and have instructed their employees to make sure thye make the required ID checks. This set of owners has committed no prior violations of the law.

Zoning B-2-2
Neighborhood Violetville
Area demographics 48% White, 36% Black, 2% Asian. 10% Hispanic ethnicity. 40% households have children under age 18. Median household income: $32,888.50
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 3
Attorney for community None
# of protestants 0
# of inspectors/police officers 2
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
Licensees William McFaul & Jennifer Reda
Business Name 26 E. Cross, LLC
Trading As Stalking Horse
Address 26-30 E. Cross Street
Type of License Class “BD7” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing

Violation of Rule 4.01(a): Minors – January 15, 2015 – At approximately 1:28 am the Baltimore Police Department conducted an underage alcohol investigation at “Stalking Horse” located at 26 East Cross Street in Baltimore City, Maryland. Police Cadet Jones, who was under the age of 21, entered the establishment and asked for a “Corona Extra” from the bartender/store clerk. At that time the bartender/store clerk furnished Cadet Jones with a “Corona Extra” by placing an open bottle of “Corona Extra” in front of Cadet Jones for him to consume. 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 furnished to a minor and the incident will be reported to the BLLC.

Hearing notes

Mr. Kodenski represented the two licensees, waived the reading of the police report, and admitted the facts as written by Detective Akinwande. Mr. Kodenski passed out a few of the fraudulent licenses that the employees of the bar had seized, to show the commissioners how good the fakes are. The cadet had been served by a new employee, who was fired the day after the incident. Kodenski said that his client had been in business for eight years with no violations.

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 Baltimore, MD
Attorney for licensee Mr. Melvin Kodenski
# in support 2
Attorney for community None
# of protestants 0
# of inspectors/police officers 2
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

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