Booze News: Distilled in Room 215

A blog about the Baltimore City Liquor Board

What happened at the Liquor Board on July 16, 2015.

Written by Becky Witt

11:00 a.m. cases

Chairman Benjamin Neil, Commissioner Douglas Trotter, and Alternate Commissioner Harvey Jones sat for hearings on July 16, 2015. The third full commissioner has not yet been appointed by Governor Hogan.

Transfers and New Applications:

Applicants Joginder Singh & Joginder Samra
Business Name 2300 West Baltimore Street, LLC
Trading As Club 2300
Address 2300 W. Baltimore Street
Type of License Class “BD7” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing Application to transfer ownership
Hearing notes

Mr. Kodenski represented the two applicants. The current owner of the license was not present at the hearing, in violation of Administrative Order #2 of the previous Board. (The Executive Secretary has said recently that the new commissioners plan to rescind Administrative Order #2, which was promulgated by former Chairman Thomas Ward, but they have not yet publicly done so. Though the language in the order is not precise on this point, the commissioners of the previous administration had always interpreted the order to require the presence of the transferor as well as the applicants for the transferred license.) Kodenski told the commissioners that Mr. Singh is experienced in the liquor business, having worked at a store on Belair Road. The business will continue to be operated in the same way that the previous licensees operated it. The applicants will make “every effort” to contact the community and become alcohol management certified.

The Liquor Board’s file showed that the last time the business had been inspected was in June and July of 2014, one year prior to the hearing. The commissioners asked for proof that the business had been open within the past 180 days, and Kodenski said that he would submit affidavits from the prior owner that he was open intermittently over the past year. The applicants did not have the affidavits or any receipts from the past year at the hearing with them. The Executive Secretary noted that the water for the building had been turned off in June 2015 for failure to pay previous years’ bills.

Zoning R-8
Neighborhood Penrose/Fayette Street Outreach
Area demographics 17% White, 76% Black, 1% Asian; 4% Hispanic ethnicity; 37% households have children under age 18; median household income: $27,751.89
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 0%
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, subject to affidavits being submitted
Vote tally Unanimous
Portions of state law cited in decision Article 2B section 10-202(a)
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. Some have argued that this requirement only applies to one of the applicants. However, there is nothing in the statute that would support this reading. The other requirements are not read in that way; for example, the same section of the code requires that the application contain a statement that “the applicant has never been convicted of a felony.” Would it make sense to interpret this provision to say that only one of the applicants has to be a non-felon?

Validity of the License: Under the 180-day rule, a license expires if it is not used for over 180 days. The establishment has not been inspected, according to the file, for almost one full year, and those 2014 inspections stated that the business was closed when the inspector went out. Online water records show that the owner of the building has not paid a water bill since 2009. The owner has averaged a water bill of around $148 per quarter including fees and penalties for his delinquency over four years. This, in addition to the complete lack of inspection reports showing the bar open, make the board’s decision to approve the transfer somewhat curious. It seemed, from the discussions at the hearing, that the commissioners’ future inspection of the affidavits and receipts, if any are provided, and their decision on whether those documents are sufficient and reliable, would be off the record and administrative, which may violate Maryland’s Open Meetings Act. It may also violate Article 2B section 10-202(a)(4), which requires that an application must be complete and its documents posted online fourteen days before a scheduled hearing and that licensees may not amend or add to their application materials without a new hearing. This case highlights the importance also, of updating the BLLC’s rules and regulations: the Board should clearly spell out what it means for an application to be “complete.” The burden of proof that a license is valid and operational should be on the current licensee and applicant, not the Board, since they have access to the receipts and other documents that would prove their case.

Below is a screenshot of the online water record, taken July 16, 2015.

Applicant Dean Jankovil & Jessica Sandlin
Business Name Smokehouse Ventures, LLC
Trading As Jokers N Thieves
Address 3000 O’Donnell Street
Type of License Class “BD7” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing Application to transfer ownership
Hearing notes

Ms. Kelly James, on behalf of the applicants, informed the board that her clients are fit and qualified to hold a liquor license. Mr. Jankovil is currently a manager at 3000 O’Donnell Street under the current owner, and both applicants have experience in the alcoholic beverages business. James submitted a letter of support from a representative of the Canton Community Association. The applicants have also met with a pastor of a church across the street and with other residents, who are all in support of the transfer.

Zoning B-2-2
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 Lutherville, MD
One applicant reside in Balt for 2 yrs? Yes.
Pecuniary interest of Baltimore City resident 0%
Attorney for licensee Ms. Kelly James
# 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 Art. 2B section 10-202(a)
Other reasons given for decision

Commissioner Jones said that his reason for approving the transfer was the support of the community.

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 each applicant “has a pecuniary interest in the business to be conducted under said license.” In this case, the Baltimore City resident applicant, Ms. Sandlin, has no pecuniary interest in the business.

Character Witness Signatories: Some of the character witness signatories have very similar handwriting. (Apologies for the low quality scans of the signatures; these are the scans sent out by the BLLC staff.)

Applicants Amy Okiebisu & Shigehiko Okiebisu
Business Name Kippo Ramen, LLC
Trading As Kippo Ramen
Address 606 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 Article 2B section 6‐201(d)(vii) $500,000 in capital investment in restaurant fixtures and facilities and seating capacity for a minimum of 75 people
Hearing notes Executive Secretary Michelle Bailey-Hedgepeth announced that the hearing would be postponed.
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 Ellicott City, MD
One applicant reside in Balt for 2 yrs? Yes.
Pecuniary interest of Baltimore City resident 10%
Attorney for licensee N/A
# in support N/A
Attorney for community N/A
# of protestants N/A
# of inspectors/police officers N/A
Result of hearing Postponed
Vote tally N/A
Portions of state law cited in decision N/A
Other reasons given for decision N/A
Issues raised in audit present in this case or other issues observed None

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