Booze News: Distilled in Room 215

A blog about the Baltimore City Liquor Board

What happened at the Liquor Board on August 6, 2015.

Written by Becky Witt

1:00 p.m.

I. Expedited Items (Transfers, Amendments):

Applicants Russell Cobb & Shawn Lagergren
Business Name Ceriello Brewers Hill, Inc.
Trading As Ceriello Brewer’s Hill
Address 3700 Toone Street, Retail G
Type of License Class “D” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing Application to transfer ownership and location of a Class “D” BWL license presently located at 3831 Boston Street to 3700 Toone Street, request for outdoor table service & off-premises catering
Hearing notes

Mr. Kodenski represented the licensee. He explained that his client wishes to remove the ability to sell liquor, so he will downgrade his license to a beer and wine only license. The business is moving from Canton to Brewers’ Hill, where Mr. Cobb has had experience in the alcoholic beverage business. Kodenski described the store as a small, noncontroversial place and stated that “most of the neighbors are fine.”

Executive Secretary Michelle Bailey-Hedgepeth stated that she had received an email earlier in the week from Mr. Kodenski about the pecuniary interest of the Baltimore City resident licensee. Mr. Lagergren will become a 1% stakeholder, in order to satisfy the requirements of the statute.

Chairman Neil asked Mr. Cobb whether he understood that, if he downgrades his license to beer and wine only, that he won’t be able to upgrade it later. Mr. Cobb said that he understood and agreed.

There were no statements from the community association in the file. Kodenski said that his client had made six calls and nobody had called him back, but there was no opposition in the file.

Zoning B-2-2
Neighborhood Brewers Hill
Area demographics 66% White, 9% Black, 3% Asian; 20% Hispanic ethnicity; 17% households have children under age 18; median household income: $60,484; 15% 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 0%
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 The applicant meets the statutory requirements.
Issues raised in audit present in this case or other issues observed

The Baltimore City resident applicant has no pecuniary interest in the business; 100% of the business is owned jointly by Russell Cobb and Andrea Ceriello, who live in New York.

Applicants Charles Gjerde, Carrie Podles & John Burke
Business Name Wicked Sisters, LLC
Trading As Wicked Sisters Tavern
Address 3845 Falls Road
Type of License Class “B” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing Application to transfer ownership
Hearing notes

The three applicants were present for the hearing, without an attorney, along with the transferor, the owner of the former McCabe’s restaurant. Michelle Bailey-Hedgepeth noted that the file contained a letter of support from the Hampden Community Council. There was also an email from the Hampden Merchants’ Association, which did not oppose the project but merely explained that the Hampden Community Council did not speak for the Merchants’ Association.

Mr. Gjerde said that the three applicants had spoken at a community meeting, and that everyone they met was in support of the transfer. They didn’t realize that they should also reach out to the Merchants’ Association, but they plan to try to set up a meeting. Mr. Gjerde has owned and operated restaurants in Baltimore for the last 24 years and has been a licensee at 7 different locations. Ms. Podles, his business partner, has been on three licenses. Neither has ever had an infraction or complaint. Patrons will have access to a parking lot nearby. Gjerde described his concept as “upscale casual.”

Zoning B-1-2
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
One applicant reside in Balt for 2 yrs? Yes
Pecuniary interest of Baltimore City resident 25%
Attorney for licensee None
# in support 4
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

On the applicants’ interview form, the applicants wrote $0 for “purchase price of the business” which includes the liquor license. Presumably, they purchased the right to apply for the transfer of the license from its prior owners for some amount of money, which should have been disclosed on the form but was not.

Applicants Jay Nappo, Michael Stakias & John Stakias
Business Name Penn Restaurant, LLC
Trading As Penn Restaurant and Carryout
Address 663-65 W. Pratt Street
Type of License Class “D” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing Application to transfer ownership
Hearing notes

Former Liquor Board Chairman Steve Fogleman represented the three applicants. He raised two issues with the docket. The first issue was that the applicants had requested outdoor table service, but the docket did not list that request. Executive Secretary Michelle Bailey-Hedgepeth checked the posting and saw that the building was posted with notice of a request for outdoor table service, so the hearing continued.

Fogleman said that the Stakiases will stay on the license and involved in the business as minority shareholders. The business is located near the University of Maryland and is well known for their breakfast and lunch.

Fogleman told the Board that the application was insufficient in a few ways, because the applicants did not have legal counsel when they completed it. The applicants then amended their applicants’ interview form and testified that they purchased the business for $150,000, with a down payment of $15,000 which came from personal savings; the deal will close August 15, 2015. They will pay $6,000 per month in rent. Fogleman had updated the form with this information, which the applicants initialed and submitted as an exhibit.

Zoning B-4-2
Neighborhood Ridgely’s Delight
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
One applicant reside in Balt for 2 yrs? Yes.
Pecuniary interest of Baltimore City resident Information not provided on application
Attorney for licensee Former Chairman 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

The application for this license did not have a breakdown of the pecuniary interest of each applicant; rather, it said that each applicant was a “partner/owner” of the LLC and business.

Under the 2014 reform bill, applications must be complete 14 days before the hearing; applicants cannot update or refine their applications at the hearing without a followup hearing.

II. Regular Docket (New applications and hardship extension):

Applicant Tisha Powell
Business Name None provided in docket
Trading As Pole Play Lounge
Address 417 E. Baltimore Street
Type of License Class “BD7” Beer, Wine & Liquor License/Adult Entertainment
Reason for hearing Application to transfer ownership
Hearing notes

Mr. Kodenski represented the applicant for a transfer of ownership of a BD-7 and Adult Entertainment license at the former Oasis nightclub, which is coming out of bankruptcy. Ms. Powell has worked in adult entertainment for four years in management at the Hustler Club and Ritz Cabaret. The business will be open 5pm-2am and will have five or six employees, not including the dancers. The building will have security cameras inside and outside. The rent for the building is $5,000 per month. They’ve been closed for a long time during the bankruptcy, which has been an opportunity for the new owner to “clean the place up.”

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? 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

Ms. Powell was born in 1994, according to the application, which makes her 21 years old.

Here is an image of the “floor plan” of this establishment, submitted as part of the application.

Applicant Michael Furbish
Business Name 3432 Hanover, LLC
Trading As trade name pending
Address 3432 S. Hanover Street
Type of License Class “BD7” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing Application to transfer ownership
Hearing notes

Ms. Priscilla Caroll, of Bowie & Jensen, LLC, represented one of the two applicants. Mr. Michael Furbish was in Alaska on the date of the hearing and could not attend, but Mr. Jeff Fraley, an applicant who was not listed in the docket, was present. Mr. Furbish owns 100% of the LLC; Mr. Fraley, presumably, owns 0%. Caroll submitted nine letters of support from various community members. The applicants met through the South Baltimore Business Alliance, which, according to Fraley, blossomed from a typical business coalition into a full-fleged philanthropic effort in Curtis Bay and Brooklyn. Mr. Furbish has a very specific vision for Brooklyn to serve the community and has been working with community leaders and business owners to achieve that vision. He wants to create a good restaurant for the community in a place with tremendous need. The restaurant will be directly across the street from Furbish’s place of business.

Commissioner Trotter asked if there were any letters of support from any community associations. Caroll responded that Ms. Pat Wills heads up the Brooklyn area association, and she had submitted a letter of support in her personal capacity.

Zoning B-3-2
Neighborhood Fairfield Area
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
One applicant reside in Balt for 2 yrs? Yes.
Pecuniary interest of Baltimore City resident 0%
Attorney for licensee Ms. Priscilla Carroll
# 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

Ms. Priscilla Carroll signed the character witness section, though she is also the applicants’ attorney.

The Baltimore City resident on the license has no pecuniary interest in the business.

Applicant Delaphine Henson
Business Name Big Dipper Investments, LLC
Trading As Breezy’s
Address 2015-17 E. Federal 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 504(d)
Hearing notes

Ms. Delaphine Henson appeared, on her own behalf, with her son, Darren Henson, who owned the building until recently. Michelle Bailey-Hedgepeth explained that the hardship extension request was submitted to the Board by email on June 22, 2015. The agency had a few inspection reports in the file for this address that were not dated. The building was sold on November 21, 2014.

Mr. Darren Henson, Delaphine’s son, testified that he operated the bar until March 2015, though the property was sold in November. To be specific, he estimated that his last date of operation was on or around March 1, 2015. The commissioners asked if the licensees could provide any receipts or documents that would show that they had been open until March. Mr. Henson responded that there had been some burst pipes in March that actually caused the business to shut down permanently and which destroyed all of their records. Chairman Neil gave Mr. Henson some examples of documents that he could get copies of, including retail sales tax records, receipts showing purchases from distributors, or employee records. Both Hensons insisted that they had no records at all and could not find any. Neil responded that they would need to find something and get rescheduled.

Michelle Bailey-Hedgepeth suggested that the Board give a provisional approval, subject to the future submission of documents that show that the business was open. Neil said that he didn’t want to give approval without seeing the documents first.

Zoning B-1-2
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? No; no. The corporate entity is forfeited.
Location of entity’s principal office Baltimore, MD
One applicant reside in Balt for 2 yrs? N/A
Pecuniary interest of Baltimore City resident N/A
Attorney for licensee None
# in support 2
Attorney for community None
# of protestants 0
# of inspectors/police officers 0
Result of hearing Postponed
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

Executive Secretary Michelle Bailey Hedgepeth stated that the commissioners could provisionally approve the hardship extension request, subject to the licensees’ providing the board with evidence. But this is exactly the kind of poor process that the 2013 Legislative Audit warned about. If the licensees provided the evidence later, off the record, who would be the person authenticating the evidence and deciding whether it was sufficient? Would it happen on or off the record? Chairman Neil made the legally correct decision in postponing the case until the licensees provided sufficient evidence that they had been open. The licensee is the only party with access to the necessary documents, so it is the licensee’s responsibility to make their case; the Board is the regulator and should not have to bend over backwards to keep the license alive for the licensee.

Applicants Daniel Halpern, Brooke Edmond & Sabreen Shaw
Business Name Atlanta Restaurant Partners, LLC
Trading As TGI Friday’s
Address 2435 Liberty Heights Avenue
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, request for outdoor table service
Hearing notes

Ms. Linda Carter, from the firm of Meyers, Rodwell & Rosenbaum, represented the two applicants for a new restaurant license for a TGI Fridays at Mondawmin Mall. She submitted a floor plan and menu. The business already operates forty TGI Fridays as well as other food outlets in hospitals and colleges. The restaurant will be large: 7,000 square feet. They will employ Baltimore City police officers on site, in plainclothes. There is ample parking, and they will invest over $3.6 million in construction costs. The restaurant will open in September and will begin hiring 150 employees next week.

Executive Secretary Michelle Bailey-Hedgepeth noted that Ms. Shaw did not have a pecuniary interest in the business, which will need to be modified in the application. Carter said that she would take care of it.

Zoning B-2-1
Neighborhood Mondawmin
Area demographics 1% White, 96% Black, 0% Asian; 1% Hispanic ethnicity; 30% households have children under age 18; median household income: $38,912.3; 12.8% households live below the poverty line.
Does corp entity exist, in good standing? Yes; yes.
Location of entity’s principal office Atlanta, GA
One applicant reside in Balt for 2 yrs? Yes
Pecuniary interest of Baltimore City resident 0%
Attorney for licensee Ms. Linda Carter
# 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

The Baltimore City resident has no pecuniary interest in the business.

III. Violations:

Licensee Leandra Jones
Business Name Jacob and Jones Enterprises, LLC
Trading As Lee’s Place
Address 322 N. Franklintown Road
Type of License Class “BD7” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing

Violation of Rule 3.12: Public Welfare – July 11, 2015 – At approximately 1:30 am Baltimore City Police responded to the establishment for reports of a shooting. Police conducted an investigation and determined that a physical altercation had occurred within the establishment. One of the individuals involved in the altercation left the establishment and retrieved a gun and started shooting in the direction of the bar. By this time the fight had spilled outside of the bar and an individual who was attempting to break up the physical altercation was shot in the left arm. After being struck by the bullet, the victim ran inside the establishment for protection. Officers could find no employee who observed the fight nor could police make contact with anyone who could contact the licensee to discuss the matter. Furthermore, upon initial contact the security personnel assigned to the door denied he was the security personnel. He later admitted being employed as security at the establishment and having been drinking alcoholic beverages while he was working.

Violation of Rule 4.18: Illegal Conduct – July 11, 2015 – At approximately 1:30 am Baltimore City Police responded to the establishment for reports of a shooting. Police conducted an investigation and determined that a physical altercation had occurred within the establishment. One of the individuals involved in the altercation left the establishment and retrieved a gun and started shooting in the direction of the bar. By this time the fight had spilled outside of the bar and an individual who was attempting to break up the physical altercation was shot in the left arm. After being struck by the bullet, the victim ran inside the establishment for protection.

Violation of Rule 3.02: Cooperation – July 11, 2015 – At approximately 1:30 am Baltimore City Police responded to the establishment for reports of a shooting. Police conducted an investigation and determined that a physical altercation had occurred within the establishment and as a result an individual was shot. After transporting the victim, police began to question some of the staff in regards to the fight. Officers could find no employee who observed the fight nor could police make contact with anyone who could contact the licensee to discuss the matter. Furthermore, upon initial contact the security personnel assigned to the door denied he was the security personnel. He later admitted being employed as security at the establishment and having been drinking alcoholic beverages while he was working.

Hearing notes

The licensee, Leandra Jones, testified first, who appeared without an attorney or any witnesses to the incident. She was not present on the night in question, but her employees told her that a young woman was shot in the street and ran to the bar for help. The bar was closed, and nobody saw the actual shooting take place. The man that the officers spoke to was a security guard sometimes, but not on the night in question. She said that she never received any phone call from the police.

Baltimore City Police Detectives Akinwande and Garrett then testified about what they saw. Akinwande said that he arrived after the scene had been secured by other officers and detectives. He went inside the bar to talk to the employees, and they were very uncooperative. He was trying to figure out who owned the bar, and the employees wouldn’t talk to him about it. One employee said that she had never met Ms. Jones before and that she gets paid in cash. The employees wouldn’t provide any employment records and made it difficult for Akinwande to get any useful information. Akinwande spoke to the other officers and detectives, who said, from their investigation, they believed that an altercation had occurred inside that spilled outside and became violent. Jones said that the bar was closed, but Akinwande said that he arrived at 1:30, which would have been a time when the bar was open (Jones testified that she usually starts to close around 1:30).

Detective Jonathan Garrett confirmed Akinwande’s testimony, that they were not the first responders and had arrived after the scene was under control. There were more than three people inside the bar; Garrett assumed they were employees and customers, but they were uncooperative, so it was difficult to tell. The detectives didn’t call Leandra Jones because none of her employees would give them her phone number. Akinwande added that the employees he talked to didn’t know who Leandra Jones was; when they were asked who their boss was, they gave Akinwande a nickname for another person, not Ms. Jones.

Ms. Jones said that just because something happened nearby doesn’t mean it has anything to do with her business. She has been open for a year and does not tolerate any violence. She said that she has a mature crowd and she doesn’t let trouble makers inside. She said that there was no manager on duty when the incident occurred.

Commissioner Jones asked the licensee whether her customers know how to get in touch with her. The licensee said that they all have her contact information. She said that her business is run casually, like a family operation, where “people help out.” The licensee is usually at the bar two to three times per week.

Zoning B-1-2
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; no.
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 for Rule 3.02 charge of noncooperation; not responsible for Rule 3.12 and Rule 4.18 charges. $500 fine.
Vote tally 2-1 (Neil voted for a suspension; other two against)
Portions of state law cited in decision None
Other reasons given for decision

Chairman Neil said that it was difficult to know where the incident actually occurred, from the facts presented, so he didn’t find the bar responsible on the Rule 3.12 and 4.18 charges. It was clear to Neil, however, that the employees were not cooperative with police in their investigation, so he found them responsible for that charge. Neil suggested a $500 fine and a suspension of some length. Commissioner Jones agreed with the responsibility for the one charge but disagreed with the suspension. Trotter agreed with Jones. He said that he wished they could postpone the case to get the testimony of the officer or detective who was on the scene earlier.

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

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