Booze News: Distilled in Room 215

A blog about the Baltimore City Liquor Board

What happened at the Liquor Board on July 9, 2015.

Written by Becky Witt

11:00 a.m. cases

The newly appointed commissioners, Chairman Benjamin Neil and Commissioner Douglas Trotter, with alternate member Harvey Jones, began hearings at 11:05am.

New Applications and Transfers:

Applicants Harry Miller & Marigot Miller
Business Name Millerz, LLC
Trading As Abbey Burger Bistro
Address 811 S. Broadway
Type of License Class “B” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing Application to transfer ownership, request for outdoor table service & off-premises catering
Hearing notes

Former Liquor Board Chairman Stephan Fogleman represented the two applicants, who were present. He asked that the request for outdoor table service be held sub curia until the Board staff receives a letter of support from Joanne Masopust, President of the Fells Point Community Organization.

Chairman Neil asked Executive Secretary Michelle Bailey-Hedgepeth whether the Liquor Board staff recommends approval of the transfer; she replied that they do.

Fogleman proffered that the Millers have been successful business owners in the past. He entered several exhibits into evidence, including a menu and letters of support from Kevin Lynch of South Baltimore and the Fells Point Residents Association (FPRA).

Zoning B-3-21
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
One applicant reside in Balt for 2 yrs? Yes, both.
Pecuniary interest of Baltimore City resident The Millers, together, own 50% of the business.
Attorney for licensee Mr. Stephan Fogleman, former Chairman of the Liquor Board
# 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

Lawyers as Witnesses: Article 2B requires that three character witnesses sign on behalf of the applicants, attesting to the applicants’ good character and fitness to be a liquor licensee. One of the three character witness signatures belonged to the applicants’ attorney. This is not expressly against Article 2B. However, Rule 3.7 of the Maryland Rules of Professional Conduct states that: “a lawyer shall not act as advocate at a trial in which the lawyer is likely to be a necessary witness unless: (1) the testimony relates to an uncontested issue; (2) the testimony relates to the nature and value of legal services rendered in the case; or (3) disqualification of the lawyer would work substantial hardship on the client.” Liquor Board hearings are not trials. However, if one of the main factual matters at issue in any transfer hearing is the character of the applicant, and the applicant’s attorney signs on his behalf as a character witness, the attorney is putting himself in a position of an inherent, irreconcilable conflict of interest.

BLLC Staff Recommendation: For each of the hearings held on July 9, Chairman Benjamin Neil asked Michelle Bailey-Hedgepeth whether the Liquor Board staff recommended approval of each application. There does not seem to be anything in Article 2B to expressly prohibit this practice. However, relying on the recommendation of Liquor Board staff runs the risk of the commissioners abdicating their responsibilities to consider the facts of each case and to apply the relevant caselaw and statutes to each situation. The job of Liquor Board staff is to evaluate whether an application is complete, not whether the application should be approved by the Board. Completeness of an application is a trigger for a public hearing; it is not a sufficient condition for approving that application. In order to decide whether an application should be approved, the commissioners must speak with the applicants and their attorneys and must have read carefully through each application, applying the criteria in the appropriate section of Article 2B to the case before them. Liquor Board staff cannot do this; it is the job of the commissioners, and it cannot be delegated.

Applicant Leigh Philipkosly
Business Name Conkling St., LLC
Trading As Of Love & Regret
Address 1028 S. Conkling Street
Type of License Class “BD7” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing Application to transfer ownership
Hearing notes

Former Chairman Stephan Fogleman represented the applicant in this case, which was taken second, out of order, as an accommodation to Mr. Fogleman. The attorney submitted a letter of support from the Canton Community Association and told the commissioners that the applicant had run a very successful restaurant and was increasing her ownership in the business, having served as manager for several years. Chairman Neil asked Executive Secretary Michelle Bailey-Hedgepeth whether she recommended approval, and Bailey-Hedgepeth responded that she did.

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; yes.
Location of entity’s principal office Baltimore, MD
One applicant reside in Balt for 2 yrs? Yes.
Pecuniary interest of Baltimore City resident 50%
Attorney for licensee Mr. Stephan Fogleman, former Chairman of the Liquor Board
# 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

See “Lawyers as Witnesses” and “BLLC Staff Recommendation,” both in the discussion above under the Abbey Burger Bistro hearing.

The filled-out application is inconsistent: the form asks, “is there anyone else who has a financial interest in this license or the business to be conducted under it?” and the applicant checked “no,” though the application states later that she co-owns the business with Brian Strumke (50-50).

Applicant Mahmoud Shanaah
Business Name Momo, Inc.
Trading As Liquor Stop
Address 6400 Holabird Avenue
Type of License Class “A” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing Application to transfer ownership
Hearing notes

Mr. Frank Shaulis appeared on behalf of his client, the applicant, and the transferor of the license. Upon request, Michelle Bailey-Hedgepeth stated that the Liquor Board staff recommends approval of the transfer. Mr. Shaulis addressed Chairman Neil as “Your Honor,” but Mr. Neil replied that he was not a judge, stating, “I don’t think I’ll ever be an ‘honor.'” Shaulis said that there was no active community association in the area of this transfer and that there will be very little effect on the neighborhood.

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, MD
One applicant reside in Balt for 2 yrs? Yes
Pecuniary interest of Baltimore City resident 100%
Attorney for licensee Mr. Frank Shaulis
# 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

See “Lawyers as Witnesses” and “BLLC Staff Recommendation,” both in the discussion above under the Abbey Burger Bistro hearing. Mr. Shaulis signed as a character witness, on behalf of his client.

Community Associations: Mr. Shaulis proffered, for his client, that there is no community association that covers his client’s address. A brief search on Cityview shows five community associations that cover this area, at least two of whom are very active: Brewer’s Hill Community Association, Southeastern Improvement Association, Southeast Community Development Corporation, Southeast Presidents Council, and Southeastern District Police Community Relations Council.

Applicants Douglass Jeffers, III & Douglass Jeffers, Jr.
Business Name The Pub at 1513, LLC
Trading As McHenry’s Pub
Address 1513 McHenry Street
Type of License Class “B” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing Application to transfer ownership
Hearing notes

Mr. Melvin Kodenski represented the applicants, who are father and son. Michelle Bailey-Hedgepeth recommended that the commissioners approve the transfer. Kodenski proffered that the applicants have already been operating the business for three months, and that their application is complete, “subject to the checklist.” The property owner was also present to support the transfer.

Zoning R-8
Neighborhood New Southwest/Mount Clare
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? Yes; yes.
Location of entity’s principal office Baltimore, MD
One applicant reside in Balt for 2 yrs? Yes, both.
Pecuniary interest of Baltimore City resident 100%
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

See “BLLC Staff Recommendation” in the discussion above under the Abbey Burger Bistro hearing.

Mr. Kodenski said that his clients, the applicants, have been running the business for three months. This practice is in violation of Liquor Board Rule 3.01, which states that “[e]very licensee shall be the actual owner and operator of the business conducted on the licensed premises.” Also, the transferor was not present at the hearing, which is in violation of Administrative Rule #2, promulgated by the previous Chairman, Thomas Ward. It’s unclear what Kodenski and Bailey-Hedgepeth meant by the application being complete “subject to the checklist,” since all applications must be complete (and documents posted online) 14 days before a hearing, under Article 2B section 10-202(a)(4)(v)(2).

The signatures for the three character witnesses appear to be written and signed in the same handwriting.

1513

Applicant Embaye Kebrab
Business Name None provided in docket
Trading As Regal Liquors
Address 900 N. Gilmor Street
Type of License Class “A” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing Application to transfer ownership
Hearing notes

Mr. Kodenski represented the applicant. Ms. Bailey-Hedgepeth pointed out to the commissioners that the last inspection report in the file is from June 27, 2014. She did not explain why the location had not been inspected in over a year, and the commissioners did not follow up on whether the license was valid or why inspections had not occurred. Kodenski told the Board that the applicant has had three or four years of experience running a liquor store on N. Eutaw Street, and he is working with the current owner, who wants to retire. The current owner/transferor was not present at the hearing.

Zoning R-8
Neighborhood Sandtown-Winchester
Area demographics 1% White, 96% Black, 0% Asian; 0% Hispanic ethnicity; 73% households have children under age 18; median household income: $23,974
Does corp entity exist, in good standing? None provided in docket
Location of entity’s principal office None provided in docket
One applicant reside in Balt for 2 yrs? Yes.
Pecuniary interest of Baltimore City resident 100%
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

See “BLLC Staff Recommendation” in the discussion above under the Abbey Burger Bistro hearing.

The transferor of this license was not present, in violation of Administrative Ruling #2.

Applicant Evan Dvorkin
Business Name PSA Brewery, LLC
Trading As trade name pending
Address 4216 Shannon Drive
Type of License Class “D” Beer
Reason for hearing Application for a new Brewery license with outdoor table service and live entertainment
Hearing notes

Mr. Abraham Hurdle represented the applicant; he stated that his client had received approval from the Board of Municipal Zoning Appeals (BMZA) about fourteen months prior. He had worked with Councilman Branch to get through the zoning process of getting the zoning designation “adjusted.” Commissioner Jones asked whether the community had been involved in the project, and Hurdle repeated that Councilman Branch had been helpful through the zoning process. Michelle Bailey-Hedgepeth stated that the staff has “no objections” to the application.

Zoning M-1-1
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? Yes; yes.
Location of entity’s principal office Baltimore, MD
One applicant reside in Balt for 2 yrs? Yes; yes.
Pecuniary interest of Baltimore City resident 100%
Attorney for licensee Mr. Abraham Hurdle
# 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

See “BLLC Staff Recommendation” in the discussion above under the Abbey Burger Bistro hearing.

The signatures for the three character witnesses appear to be written and signed in the same handwriting.

brewery

Applicants John Sen & Omar Semidey
Business Name Latin Taste, LLC
Trading As Tortilleria Sinaloa II
Address 415 S. Central Avenue
Type of License Class “D” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing Application to transfer ownership, request for outdoor table service
Hearing notes

Mr. Stephan Fogleman represented the two applicants and was accompanied by a zoning consultant on the project. He explained to the commissioners that Mr. Sen owns Tortilleria Sinaloa, nearby, which only has eight seats; he is now opening the second restaurant with 51 seats. Fogleman submitted an original signed Memorandum of Understanding with the Little Italy Community Association.

Zoning B-2-2
Neighborhood Little Italy
Area demographics 58% Black, 29% White, 5% Asian; 7% Hispanic ethnicity; 29% of households have children under age 18; Average household income: $30,550.74; 35% households below the poverty line
Does corp entity exist, in good standing? Yes; yes.
Location of entity’s principal office Sparks, MD
One applicant reside in Balt for 2 yrs? Yes.
Pecuniary interest of Baltimore City resident 0%
Attorney for licensee Mr. Stephan Fogleman, former Liquor Board Chairman
# 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

Pecuniary Interest: Article 2B section 10-103(b)(10) states that an application must contain a statement that an applicant “has a pecuniary interest in the business to be conducted under said license.” In this case, the Baltimore City resident applicant has no pecuniary interest in the business; therefore, the application is insufficient.

See “Lawyers as Witnesses” and “BLLC Staff Recommendation,” both in the discussion above under the Abbey Burger Bistro hearing. Mr. Fogleman signed as a character witness on behalf of his client.

Article 2B section 9-101(c) requires that the applicants for a license on behalf of a limited liability corporation (LLC) be “authorized persons.” There is no indication in the application that the Baltimore City resident applicant in this case is an “authorized person,” which is defined in the Maryland Code of Corporations and Associations section 4A-101(c). He owns no stock and is not mentioned in any corporate documents.

At the end of the hearings, Chairman Neil stated that future hearings would consist of a consent docket at the beginning of the afternoon, with all other hearings to follow, and the hearings will begin at 1pm instead of 11am.

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