Booze News: Distilled in Room 215

A blog about the Baltimore City Liquor Board

What happened at the Liquor Board on June 18, 2015.

Written by Becky Witt

11:00 a.m. cases

I. New Applications, Transfers and Hardship Extensions:

Licensees Frank Shaulis, Lorraine Cummings & Marc Rosenberg
Business Name Kimmico, Inc.
Trading As Fantasies
Address 5520 Pennington Avenue
Type of License Class “BD7” Beer, Wine & Liquor License/Adult Entertainment
Reason for hearing Motion for reconsideration of Liquor Board hearing held on June 11, 2015.
Hearing notes

There was no one present for this hearing to argue or testify; rather, the commissioners were responding to a motion for reconsideration, filed after the previous week’s hearing. Commissioner Moore noted that the Board had received a letter from a community member on behalf of the licensee, who wrote that she had been very familiar with Fantasies for more than ten years and has never experienced a problem with trash or safety issues. Moore reiterated that what happened at the club that caused the violation was completely inappropriate and the testimony was highly salacious and shocking, but she was convinced by the testimony of the economic harm done because of the actions of two employees. She said that she would suggest a reduced suspension of 21 days and an increased fine of $3,000 (from $1,000). Chairman Ward faulted previous administrations for approving a liquor license and adult entertainment license in Curtis Bay; he said that the testimony from the police officers was clear and that the law had been violated, but that they were “almost innocent victims themselves.” He agreed with Moore’s proposal.

Zoning M-3
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? 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 Punishment reconsidered – suspension decreased; fine increased.
Vote tally 2-0 (Jones absent)
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

As mentioned before, in Calvert County v. Howlin Management Realty, the Court of Appeals of Maryland set out the test for reconsiderations: an agency “may reconsider an action previously taken and come to a different conclusion upon a showing that the original action was the product of fraud, surprise, mistake, or inadvertence, or that some new or different factual situation exists that justifies the different conclusion. What is not permitted is a ‘mere change of mind’ on the part of the agency.” If the hearing were to be appealed, a court would have to decide whether Ms. Wills’ letter, which seems to be the only new information considered by the commissioners, was a “new or different factual situation.” One could make an argument that there is no new factual situation here and that Ms. Wills’ letter merely restated the Curtis Bay community association’s position, which was made known on the record at the first hearing. The fact that the Board made the reconsideration decision on the record, at a public hearing, as opposed to the Bill’s Cafe case from the previous administration, is a valuable step in the right direction, however.

Applicants Jaswinder Singh & Andre Butler
Business Name 1542 Singh, LLC
Trading As Langermann’s on Light
Address 1542 Light Street
Type of License Class “BD7” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing Application to transfer ownership with request for live entertainment
Hearing notes

Baltimore City 11th District Councilman Eric Costello stated his opposition to the transfer of ownership rooted in his dismay at Board’s unwillingness to grant the community’s request for a postponement of the hearing. The South Baltimore Neighborhood Association (SBNA) had requested a postponement on June 10, well before the Board’s 72-hour cutoff. Costello stated that he had outstanding concerns regarding the transfer: (1) an adequate business plan for the establishment has not been provided to the community; (2) Mr. Singh did not disclose previous violations of the law that he was found responsible for in Baltimore City and County; (3) Mr. Singh has repeatedly mischaracterized his home address as being in Baltimore City, when he lives in Howard County; and (4) there is no existing relationship between the business and the Baltimore City resident who is slated to be a licensee. Mr. Butler will have a 0% financial interest in the restaurant.

Mr. Kodenski responded that he believed that the issues related to a language barrier between the licensee and the community. He reminded the Board that the license is a previously existing one at an existing location and that the transfer is for the ownership of the license only. Singh has removed his request for live entertainment and to use the second floor of the building. He told the commissioners that the applicant was a licensee in Baltimore City at the Caton House from 2010-2014. He met with SBNA two or three times, but the community wanted him to agree to a minimum food sales percentage, which he refused to do. Kodenski had no knowledge of the alleged Baltimore County violations. Mr. Singh admitted a violation for sale of alcohol to a minor, but he disagreed that he had willfully misrepresented his address and that he had been found responsible for allowing open containers outside. Mr. Butler testified briefly that he has no ownership in the business, but he agreed to be on the license because he is a personal friend of Mr. Singh’s. Mr. Andrew Dunlap, the current licensee at the establishment, testified that the neighborhood has improved and the corner has cleaned up over the past several years.

Ms. Adia Hoag, Liquor Chair of SBNA, testified next, in opposition to the transfer. She submitted letters of opposition from community members and organizations as well as a petition with individual signatures. Hoag said that she had tried to establish a relationship with Mr. Singh and had spoken to him at several meetings. Though Mr. Singh required a translator at the hearing, Hoag said that she had spoken with him each time in English, and she and Singh could understand each other perfectly. The bar in question is one block from an elementary school and one block from a rec center; the corner has had a history of drug dealing and prostitution. Hoag said that the community could not trust Singh, because of the straw man on the license and because he hasn’t been truthful.

Kodenski pointed out again that, for a transfer of ownership, the only relevant criterion is the character and fitness of the applicant(s); if the Board denies the transfer, the license will continue on at the location.

Zoning B-2-3
Neighborhood South Baltimore
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 ~8
Attorney for community None
# of protestants 2
# of inspectors/police officers 0
Result of hearing Denied.
Vote tally 2-0 (Jones absent)
Portions of state law cited in decision None
Other reasons given for decision

Chairman Ward said that the person who runs the business is extremely important, and he was unimpressed with what he heard from the applicants. He agreed with Ms. Hoag that the transfer should not be granted. Commissioner Moore agreed with Ward and based her concurrence on the fact that Mr. Singh said on his application that he had never been convicted of violating the liquor law, but he agreed during the hearing that he had been found responsible for a rule violation.

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

Article 2B section 10-103(b)(10) states that each application for a new or transferred license requires “[a] statement that the applicant has a pecuniary interest in the business to be conducted under said license.” Liquor Board Rule 3.01 requires that “[e]very licensee shall be the actual owner and operator of the business conducted on the licensed premises.” Under these two laws, Mr. Butler does not qualify to be a liquor licensee, and, therefore, the application is legally insufficient.

Applicant Samuel Curreri
Business Name Sammy’s Enoteca, LLC
Trading As Sammy’s Enoteca
Address 621-35 S. Broadway
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. Prevas represented Mr. Curreri in his application for a new Class B restaurant license for a new family-oriented Italian restaurant seating 131 people. The applicant provided a breakdown of a $542,000 investment in the building. Only the facades of the building were kept in the remodeling process, so there was a great deal of investment by the applicant. They met with the Fells Point Community Organization and the Fells Point Residents Association, both of whom were in support of the project. The applicant submitted a menu and additional information about the project and renovation to the Board, and Mr. Prevas corrected the record that the minimum capital investment for this area is $500,000, not $200,000 as it is in other parts of the city.

Zoning B-2-2
Neighborhood Fells Point
Area demographics 53% White, 32% Black, 8% Asian, 3% 2 or more races; 4% Hispanic ethnicity; 6% households have children under age 18; Median Household Income: $38,331; 5.5 % households live below poverty line.
Does corp entity exist, in good standing? Yes; yes.
Location of entity’s principal office Baltimore, MD
Attorney for licensee Mr. Peter Prevas
# in support 1
Attorney for community None
# of protestants 0
# of inspectors/police officers 0
Result of hearing Approved
Vote tally 2-0 (Jones absent)
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 Shirley Barner
Business Name None available in docket
Trading As Shirley’s Honey Hole
Address 2300 E. Oliver 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. Kodenski, with the applicant, informed the commissioners that Ms. Barner has been a licensee for fifteen years. On January 15, 2015, there was a massive break in the establishment’s plumbing, which flooded the property and caused a great deal of damage. She has been having trouble with getting payment to fix the damage from her insurance company, and she is working closely with her landlord, Gilbert Sapperstein, to fix up the property. Mr. Sapperstein lives in Florida and is aware of the problems and is trying to take care of it. Sapperstein had to pay the adjoining neighbor because of water damage that they sustained. Kodenski estimated that his client could get the business operational in two or three months.

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? None available in docket
Location of entity’s principal office None available in docket
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 2-0 (Jones absent)
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

This may be the first time since Booze News began that Article 2B section 10-504(d) was used correctly to issue a hardship extension to a licensee. The requirement that almost all licensees miss is that the Board must make a finding that (1) an undue hardship (2) currently exists (3) causing the closing or cessation of business operations (numbering added, not found in the code).

First, an undue hardship must currently exist. Many licensees use “the economy” as their hardship excuse, but there is no serious discussion, usually, of whether their excuse for why they haven’t opened or sold their license is really a “hardship” or whether it is “undue.” One example of an extremely due hardship was the Voltage case, in which a license was revoked for extremely dangerous behavior by the licensee but was then given back in a reconsideration. The “hardship” that the attorney argued was that the Board had ordered the licensee to remain closed; however, this was not an undue hardship, because it was a well-deserved closure, based on hours of police testimony.

The second requirement is that the hardship must currently exist, as of the time of the request. This is rarely if ever raised.

The third requirement is that the hardship must have caused the cessation of the business. Most of the time, licensees come in and cite hardships like difficulties in obtaining building permits. But slow City administrations in no case caused the business to close. They merely prevented the business from reopening once it closed for other reasons.

This licensee, from her testimony at the hearing, satisfies all the prongs: there was a plumbing break which caused damage to her building, which is an unusual and undue hardship. The damage still exists, which is why she hasn’t yet reopened. And, finally, the water damage caused the cessation of business.

Booze News welcomes the submission of other hardship extension requests in the past two years that qualify under all of the requirements in the law, if readers can think of others.

Applicants Bechara Nammour, Patrick J. Buttarazzi, Jr and Sarah Conlin
Business Name J Paul’s Harborplace, Inc
Trading As J Paul’s Restaurant
Address 301 Light Street
Type of License Class “B” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing Request for a hardship extension under the provisions of Article 2B Section 10-504(d)
Hearing notes

Ms. Caroline Hecker, for the applicants, who were not present, told the commissioners that the tenants at this location had terminated their lease suddenly and had turned their interest in the license over to the landlord. The landlord has been trying to re-lease the premises, but has been unable to find another entity to take over. Ms. Valerie Whiteside was present on behalf of the landlord. The space was developed in the 1980s, according to Hecker, which means that it needs a lot of work, and the prospective tenants are having difficulties with the time and cost for reconfiguration. The unrest in April and May also caused some cancellations of appointments to show the space, due to the presence of the National Guard. Hecker said that her clients were present to request a second hardship extension, but Executive Secretary Michelle Bailey-Hedgepeth corrected her that this was the first hardship extension and “there’s no such thing as a second hardship extension.” The hardship extension request had been submitted April 24, 2015, and they had been closed since October 28, 2014. (There are 178 days between those two dates.) Mr. Tom Yeager, from the Downtown Partnership, was present in support of the request.

Zoning B-5-1
Neighborhood Inner Harbor
Area demographics 80% White, 12% Black, 4% Asian. 3% Hispanic ethnicity. 11% households have children under age 18. Median household income: $78,578. 12% 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 Ms. Caroline Hecker and Mr. Justin Williams of Rosenberg Martin Greenberg
# in support 2
Attorney for community None
# of protestants 0
# of inspectors/police officers 0
Result of hearing Approved
Vote tally 2-0 (Jones absent)
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 testimony provided at this hearing was not sufficient under the third prong of Article 2B section 10-504(d) (see hearing directly above for an explanation of the three determinations that the Board must make).

II. Violations:

Licensees Christopher Nwaeze & Musibau Shittu
Business Name Anyado Group, LLC
Trading As Oxygen Lounge
Address 10 S. Calvert Street
Type of License Class “B” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing

Violation of Rule 4.18: Illegal Conduct– March 22, 2015 – At approximately 2:30am Baltimore Police Officer John Witter was on routine foot patrol when he observed a large crowd gathered in front of the establishment after hours. Witter then went about dispersing the crowd and was requested by club staff to enter the premise to investigate an assault that occurred within the establishment. As a result of the physical altercation that occurred in the club, the victim was transported to the hospital.

Violation of Rule 3.12: Public Welfare– March 22, 2015 – At approximately 2:30am Baltimore Police Officer John Witter was on routine foot patrol when he observed a large crowd gathered in front of the establishment after hours. Witter then went about dispersing the crowd and was requested by club staff to enter the premise to investigate an assault that occurred within the establishment. As a result of the physical altercation that occurred in the club, the victim was transported to the hospital.

Violation of Rule 3.12: Public Welfare – March 22, 2015 – At approximately 2:30am, while at the establishment in response to an assault, Baltimore Police Officer John Witter observed a male patron of the establishment leave the bar and openly urinate on the sidewalk. Witter approached the male and conducted a field interview. While conducting Witter discovered that the male had not identification on his person and was allowed into the establishment. While conducting the interview with the male patron the promoter of the event being held at the establishment spoke with Witter and told him the male patron was with him and told Witter he had brought the patron to the establishment.

Violation of Rule 4.05: Prohibited Hours – March 22, 2015 – At approximately 2:30am Baltimore Police Officer John Witter was on location inside of the establishment conducting an investigation into an assault. While on the premise Witter observed 20 people sitting on couches with alcoholic beverages either in their hands or placed in front them. The establishment’s license only allows them to serve alcoholic beverages until 2:00 am.

Hearing notes

Mr. Kodenski first made a postponement request, because Commissioner Jones was not present; his objection was overruled.

Baltimore City Police Officer Witter testified that, on March 22, at 2:30am, he was assigned to go to Oxygen to help with club closings in the area. Patrons were leaving, standing outside and dispersing through the area, when he received a call to come inside the bar, where an assault had taken place. He went inside and saw an unconscious woman on the ground. No one had seen what had happened to her; they saw her on the floor when the lights came on at the end of the night. Witter called for an ambulance, and the victim of the assault was taken to the hospital. No one was detained or arrested. When Officer Witter went back outside, he saw a man leave Oxygen, go outside and urinate into a planter on the sidewalk directly in front of the club. As he was beginning to question the man, the police got a call to respond to a different club, so he left and did not arrest the urinator.

One of the licensees, Mr. Musibau Shittu, confirmed that, when they turned the lights on at the end of the night, there was a young woman on the ground who said that another woman had punched her. Shittu said that the security guard held the woman who had supposedly assaulted the other, but she found a way to leave in the chaos. Furthermore, Mr. Shittu said that the urinating person was not a customer; he was someone who was just waiting for his friend to be done with work. He had not ordered any alcohol. One of the employees corroborated Shittu’s story that the public urinator was waiting to pick him up after work and was inside the building less than 10 minutes.

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; no.
Location of entity’s principal office Baltimore, MD
Attorney for licensee Mr. Melvin Kodenski
# in support ~10
Attorney for community None
# of protestants 0
# of inspectors/police officers 1
Result of hearing Responsible for Rule 4.18 charge on the assault and for the 3.12 charge on the public urination. Not responsible for other two charges.
Vote tally 2-0 (Jones absent)
Portions of state law cited in decision None
Other reasons given for decision

Chairman Ward said that the Rule 3.12 charge for the crowd wasn’t sustained, because it seemed as though the bar staff did everything they could do to avoid harm to the community. However, since he has said many times that bars are responsible for the conduct of their customers, and a customer apparently assaulted another person, the licensees were responsible for the Rule 4.18 charge. Ward said that public urination is disgusting and unsanitary for the community. There wasn’t any testimony provided about after hours consumption or service of alcohol, so the final charge was dismissed. Commissioner Moore agreed with the reasoning and judgment of Chairman Ward. She remarked that it was interesting to her that there are such overwhelming records of cases of public urination in Baltimore City, and she also found it disgusting and preventable, if establishments have functioning bathrooms inside.

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

1:00 Cases

III. Violations:

Licensees Stephanie Kuzma & Andrea Burkert
Business Name Exile on Broadway, LLC
Trading As The Rockwell
Address 702 S. Broadway
Type of License Class “BD7” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing

Violation of Rule 4.18: Illegal Conduct – March 14, 2015 – At approximately 6:15 pm, BLLC inspector John Chrissomalliss responded to the establishment. While there Chrissomalliss observed two individuals directly in front of the establishment with open containers in their hands. One individual had a bottle of Budweiser and the other appeared to have a mixed drink in a clear plastic cup in her hand. Chrissomalliss then observed the two individuals to continue to stand directly outside the bar and drink. While observing these individuals, Chrissomalliss observed numerous individuals enter and exit the establishment with drinks in hand. In addition, Chrissomalliss observed that there was no security guard present to either check the identifications of patrons or ensure that open containers were not allowed to be taken out of the establishment.

Violation of Rule 3.12: Public Welfare – March 14, 2015 – At approximately 6:30 pm, BLLC inspector John Chrissomalliss entered the establishment after making preliminary observations that patrons were allowed to enter and exit the establishment with open containers. At this time he made contact with one of the bar managers who identified herself as the manager. At this time, Chrissomalliss observed 40-50 patrons in the bar. Chrissomalliss asked the manager how she manages to ensure that patrons do not exit the establishment with open containers, and she stated it “was not an issue.” When asked about the lack of a security guard to patrol and card/id check patrons, she stated that the security guard would “get here around 9:00pm.” At this time, Chrissomalliss informed that bar manager that the establishment’s operation must conform to BLLC rules and regulations.

Violation of Rule 3.12: Public Welfare – March 21, 2015 – At approximately 1:45 am, BLLC inspector John Chrissomalliss and Lt. William Coburn responded to an assault allegedly going on in front of the establishment. Upon arrival both Chrissomalliss and Coburn came into contact with the victim who stated he was hit over the head with an object by the assailant, who fled the scene. While present, Chrissomalliss and Coburn observed a large group of people gathered around the victim. About 8-10 of the individuals had various bottles of beer and clear cups from which they were consuming alcoholic beverages.

Hearing notes

Liquor Board Inspector John Chrissomallis testified that he was doing a routine drive-by of the establishment on the weekend before St. Patrick’s Day. He pulled up in front of the bar and saw two women drinking outside, one with a bottle of beer and the other with a clear cup, containing a substance that looked to Mr. Chrissomallis like beer. People were walking in and out of the bar with cups in their hands. The inspector looked to see if anyone was at the door as security, and no one was there. There were forty to fifty customers inside. Chrissomallis told the bar manager what he had seen outside. She responded that their security usually comes at 9pm. He responded to her that 9pm was too late that night because of the number of people at the bar, and she agreed to call security in early. She went outside and told the people standing there to either come inside or leave the front of the bar. Chrissomallis did not investigate the contents of the cups, though it looked like beer to him. The cups were plastic, to his recollection, not glass.

Baltimore Police Liutenant Williams Colburn testified that on March 21, he was in the area and a passerby told him there was a fight in front of the bar. He walked over and saw a large crowd around a young man who was bleeding from the head. The man told police that he had been hit in the head but was not cooperative and left the location on foot. A witness said that someone had thrown a smoker’s station at the victim. The victim said that he had been in a dispute that began in the bar and had become violent outside the bar. Colburn also saw people with beer bottles outside, within five feet of the entrance of the bar. He did not see anyone walk in or out of the bar and did not closely observe the contents of any cups.

Stephan Fogleman, for the establishment, submitted three affidavits regarding the March 21 incident: one from a security guard on duty that night, one from the victim and one from the aggressor. Mr. Jenco, the victim, said in his affidavit that the perpetrator of the incident, Mr. Robert Jones, had been thrown out of the bar earlier for being aggressive. Hours later, Mr. Jones had seen Jenco exit the bar and had attacked him by throwing a beer bottle at his head. The other two affidavits corroborated this story. The security guard’s affidavit said that customers from nearby establishments had come over to watch the fight with their drinks in hand; those people with drinks that Colburn saw were not from The Rockwell.

The bartender on duty during the March 14 alleged incident testified that they are usually not open until 7pm, but they were open early for a pub crawl that day. No one, to her knowledge, attempted to leave the bar with a drink in their hand. She said that the bar only uses glassware for alcoholic drinks and plastic cups for soft drinks and water. This testimony was corroborated by one of the licensees, Stephanie Kuzma.

Zoning B-3-2
Neighborhood Fells Point
Area demographics 53% White, 32% Black, 8% Asian, 3% 2 or more races; 4% Hispanic ethnicity; 6% households have children under age 18; Median Household Income: $38,331; 5.5 % households live below poverty line.
Does corp entity exist, in good standing? Yes; yes.
Location of entity’s principal office Fulton, MD
Attorney for licensee Mr. Stephan Fogleman
# in support 2
Attorney for community None
# of protestants 0
# of inspectors/police officers 1
Result of hearing Not responsible for akll charges.
Vote tally 1-1 on first charge; 2-0 on second and third charges (Jones absent)
Portions of state law cited in decision None
Other reasons given for decision

Chairman Ward did not think that the evidence presented rose to the level of a violation of the rules, since, in his opinion, the establishment did everything they could have done. He pointed out that the inspector and lieutenant had not investigated the contents of the containers that they saw. Commissioner Moore did think that the evidence was sufficient for a violation for the March 14 incident, because the inspector did see someone with a bottle of beer in their hand in front of the bar, who he believed had come from inside the establishment.

Issues raised in audit present in this case or other issues observed None
Applicant Jose Ribadeneira
Business Name Latin Palace Numero Uno
Trading As Latin Palace
Address 509-13 Broadway
Type of License Class “B” Beer, Wine, Liquor License
Reason for hearing

Violation of Rule 3.12: Public Welfare– April 19, 2015 – At approximately 1:20 am, Inspector Chrissomallis received two 311 complaints for loud music, disturbing the peace, and a violation of the MOU between the licensee, community association, and next door neighbor which stemmed from the establishment. At that time Inspector Chrissomallis went to the establishment and made observations for approximately 20 minutes. Inspector Chrissomallis entered the establishment and observed approximately 20-25 people dancing on a dance floor to music being played by a D.J. As per the restriction on the license, this licensee cannot offer dancing to the general public. At that time, Inspector Chrissomallis made contact with the owner and informed him of the infraction.

Violation of Rule 3.12: Public Welfare– April 23, 2015 – At approximately 11:00 pm, Chief Inspector Jones received a neighbor’s complaint for loud music, disturbing the peace, and a violation of the MOU between the licensee, community association, and next door neighbor which stemmed from the establishment. At that time Jones responded to the establishment and observed advertisements for live entertainment inside the establishment. Jones identified himself as a representative from the BLLC and observed a live band playing on stage. The live band consisted of multiple instrumentalists whose instruments were being amplified by a speaker system. Jones observed the noise level to be extreme and disturbing At that time, Jones made contact with the owner and informed him of the infraction.

Violation of Rule 4.18: Illegal Conduct– May 6, 2015 – At approximately 9:30 pm, Inspector Chrissomallis received complaints concerning the loading of equipment into the establishment for the purposes of allowing a live band to play at the establishment. Chrissomallis responded to the scene and made observations through the front window. Chrissomallis observed a singer on stage performing. At that time he made contact with the owner and the owner stated that this was a private show that was booked three months in advance. Chrissomallis also observed performers on stage playing instruments and singing both of which were amplified by a speaker system. At that time, Inspector Chrissomallis informed the owner of the infraction.

Violation of Rule 4.18: Illegal Conduct– May 29, 2015 – The BLLC received complaints concerning the advertisement of an event that promoted live entertainment by flyers that placed throughout the immediate neighborhood. This is in direct violation of the board decision to not approve live entertainment. BLLC inspectors went to the location on the evening of May 29, 2015 to find out the event had been canceled.

Hearing notes

Chief Inspector Shelton Jones testified that he received a call on April 23 from neighbors complaining of loud music at the Latin Palace. He went to the establishment and saw a band set up with a guitar, drum set, keyboard and computer, plugged into the sound system. At least two, possibly more, speakers had been added to the sound system, which Jones was familiar with, because the noise from the speakers had been a source of contention between the establishment and the neighborhood. The noise was quite loud, but Jones did not bring a decibel reader with him. There was a sign at the front of the building advertising open mike night, with a $5 cover charge. He told the licensee that he was in violation of his liquor license; when the licensee saw Jones in the establishment, he ran right for the band and cut the music immediately, before even talking to Jones.

On May 29, Jones had received emails earlier in the week with advertisements for an upcoming event, but the licensee ended up cancelling the event. Inspector Kevin Hillenburg corroborated that he had gone to the bar on May 29, and no one was really there. There were two couples dancing on the dance floor, but there was no DJ.

Inspector Chrissomallis testified that, on April 19, he had received 311 complaints of loud music and noise. When the inspector arrived to investigate the complaint, he couldn’t hear any music from the outside, but he saw twenty people dancing to music played by a DJ, which was coming out of amplified speakers. The inspector apparently did not bring a decibel reader with him on that day but he testified that the noise sounded to him like a 5 out of 10. On May 6, he received a tip that band equipment was being unloaded in front of the Latin Palace. He arrived at 9:30 and did not observe any activity outside. Looking through the window, he saw a man singing and a small audience. When he entered, he spoke to the owner, who said that the event was a private party. The inspector corroborated that the establishment was closed to the public, but live entertainment was forbidden under the Latin Palace’s license.

Several community members testified next. Ms. Dawn Gilliam and Mr. Mondel Powell, who live together in an adjoining house to the Latin Palace, testified about the ways in which the noise from the establishment has been disruptive to their daily lives. Joanne Masopust, of the Fells Point Community Organization, testified that she had worked hard to come to an agreement, on behalf of her association, with the licensee, and he had broken the agreement almost immediately.

Mr. John Pica, for his client, the licensee, did not put on any testimony, but he submitted letters and petitions from organizations and individuals who support the Latin Palace. Mr. Pica said that his client was originally granted a license that does not suit his business needs. The licensee is having financial difficulties: he’s lost one home and is in foreclosure on his other home. He cannot operate without live entertainment at this location. If the Board revokes the license, the building will be empty.

Zoning B-2-2
Neighborhood Fells Point
Area demographics 53% White, 32% Black, 8% Asian, 3% 2 or more races; 4% Hispanic ethnicity; 6% households have children under age 18; Median Household Income: $38,331; 5.5 % households live below poverty line.
Does corp entity exist, in good standing? Yes; yes.
Location of entity’s principal office Baltimore, MD
Attorney for licensee Mr. John Pica
# in support ~10
Attorney for community None
# of protestants 0
# of inspectors/police officers 2
Result of hearing Responsible for all charges except the May 29 charge. Three week suspension.
Vote tally 2-0 (Jones absent)
Portions of state law cited in decision None
Other reasons given for decision

Chairman Ward said that the community members and Liquor Board staff have bent over backwards to help the licensee, but he refuses to comply with the law. “It’s a miracle we haven’t shut him down for good,” said Ward. Moore agreed. The commissioners chose a suspension over a fine because of the licensee’s financial difficulties.

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

The Latin Palace has previously received two different 2-month suspensions for exactly the same kinds of charges, so a 3-week suspension is a reduced penalty from what the Latin Palace had received before.

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

Violation of Rule 4.18: Illegal Conduct – May 12, 2015 – At approximately 10:28 pm Baltimore City Police responded to the scene of the establishment for a shooting. Upon arrival, police interviewed and made contact with the victim, a Mr. Nathaniel Cottman, the bouncer of the establishment who stated he was shot when extracting a patron from the premises. The patron had attempted to enter the women’s bathroom and was stopped by security. Mr. Cottman, along with another bouncer, removed the patron from interior and exited him from the establishment. Upon turning around and reentering the establishment, Mr. Cottman heard a shot and felt a pain on his side. He had been shot from by the patron who was outside of the establishment. The shooter ran from the area after the shots were fired.

Violation of Rule 3.12: Public Welfare – March 14, 2015 – May 12, 2015 – At approximately 10:28 pm Baltimore City Police responded to the scene of the establishment for a shooting. Upon arrival Police interviewed and made contact with the victim, a Mr. Nathaniel Cottman, the bouncer of the establishment who stated he was shot when extracting a patron from the premises. The patron had attempted to enter the women’s bathroom and was stopped by security. Mr. Cottman, along with another bouncer, removed the patron from interior and exited him from the establishment. Upon turning around and reentering the establishment Mr. Cottman heard a shot and felt a pain on his side. He had been shot from by the patron who was outside of the establishment. The shooter ran from the area after the shots were fired.

Hearing notes

Baltimore Police Officer Murphy testified that he received a call for a shooting at Isis Lounge. The victim, according to Murphy was a security guard for the lounge and had been shot in his left side and back by an individual who had just been ejected from the bar. There were about ten people at the lounge, who were gathered around the victim. The officer said that everyone who was present identified the victim as being an employee of the establishment. Three shots had been fired, and the victim had been hit twice.

Licensee Elaine Fordham, unrepresented, was not at the scene during the incident but testified to what she had been told by her employees. She said that a stranger had come in the bar whom no one knew and was acting strangely; the man went to the back of the building near the women’s restroom. At this point, Mr. Cottman, who Fordham said does not work for her but works as security for a hookah bar across the street and was waiting for his shift to begin, told the man to leave and ejected him from the building. As Cottman was turning to go back inside, the man shot Cottman twice. Fordham did not bring any other witnesses with her to corroborate her testimony.

Deputy Executive Secretary Thomas Akras pointed out in closing that Ms. Fordham was not there when the incident occurred, so she was testifying based on what she had been told. Ms. Fordham replied that the police officer wasn’t present at the time of the shooting either, so he was just testifying based on what he understood from witnesses. Chairman Ward replied to Fordham, “that’s a good point! You should go to law school.”

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 0
Result of hearing Not responsible for charges.
Vote tally 2-0 (Jones absent)
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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