Booze News: Distilled in Room 215

A blog about the Baltimore City Liquor Board

What happened at the Liquor Board on August 20, 2015.

Written by Kristine Dunkerton

Chairman Benjamin Neil, Commissioner Douglas Trotter, and Commissioner Elizabeth A. Hafey (sworn in August 12, 2015), sat for hearings.

I. Expedited Items (Transfers, Amendments):

Applicant Amanuel Lakemarian
Business Name GABE, LLC
Trading As West Side Liquor Store
Address 2413 Frederick Avenue
Type of License A
Reason for hearing Transfer ownership
Hearing notes An attorney from Mr. Maslan’s office proffered the case. The applicant has taken the alcoholic beverages course. Commissioner Neil explained that a liquor license is a privilege, not a constitutional right. The applicant will be adding a liquor component to his grocery store.
Zoning B-2-1
Neighborhood Millhill
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 City
One applicant reside in Balt for 2 yrs? Yes
Pecuniary interest of Baltimore City resident 100%
Attorney for licensee Gary Maslan
# in support 1
Attorney for community N/A
# of protestants 0
# of inspectors/police officers 0
Result of hearing Transfer 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 N/A
Applicant Marcia Hargrove
Business Name Water for Chocolate Catering, LLC
Trading As Water for Chocolate
Address 1841 E. Lombard Street
Type of License D
Reason for hearing Transfer ownership and location of license from 717 S. Broadway and add outdoor table service
Hearing notes

This hearing was initially scheduled for July 30, 2015, and was postponed to allow the licensee time to meet with the neighborhood association on August 17, 2015.

Chairman Neil asked Ms. Moore to proffer the case, as she is a former commissioner and knows the alcoholic beverages rules well. Ms. Moore spoke of community support for the establishment, which she said was evident when there was a fire on the third floor of the current location and the community helped the owner.

The applicant has not taken the required alcoholic beverages class, but committed in the hearing to be in the next available class. Commissioner Trotter asked about zoning for outdoor table service, and Ms. Moore said that the establishment has permission from zoning to have outdoor tables, and just needs permission to sell alcohol.

Commissioner Neil emphasized that owning a liquor license is a privilege.

Zoning R-8
Neighborhood Upper Fells Point
Area demographics 70% White, 8% Black, 5% Asian; 15% Hispanic ethnicity; 11% households have children under age 18; median household income: $69,105; 11% households live below the poverty line
Does corp entity exist, in good standing? Yes; Yes
Location of entity’s principal office Baltimore City
One applicant reside in Balt for 2 yrs? Yes
Pecuniary interest of Baltimore City resident 100%
Attorney for licensee Ms. Dana Petersen Moore
# 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 application states that the applicant, Marcia Hargrove, is the owner of the property in which business is to be conducted. According to the State Department of Assessments and Taxation, however, Lombard Rocket LLC, whose Resident Agent is listed as Edward Scott in Frederick, MD, is the owner. Applicants are required to obtain the signature of the owner of the property where business is to be conducted. Ms. Hargrove’s name is written next to the signature line for the property owner on the application.

The file for this case notes that there is a church, Saint Michaels, across the street from the property in question. Whether this church lies within 300 feet of the property (and therefore affects whether the property may hold a liquor license, pursuant to state law) was not addressed during the hearing.

The third hearing on the expedited docket was postponed to August 27, 2015: Application to transfer ownership of a B license to 2112 Fleet Street and add live entertainment. The applicants are Frank Petillo and Lucia Marangoni.

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

Applicants Joe Edwardson, Kathy Polokaff
Business Name Joe Squared, LLC
Trading As Joe Squared Pizza
Address 33 W. North Avenue
Type of License B
Reason for hearing Application for a new license
Hearing notes

Mr. Edwardson said he is moving his restaurant to North Avenue and Maryland Avenue and plans on doing the same thing he does at his current location. He plans on letting his existing liquor license die, because the third person who is on it lives in a cabin in Vermont and it’s logistically hard to have him come to Baltimore for hearings, etc.

North Charles Community Association submitted a letter of support for the application. Documentation showing that the applicants have met the $200,000 investment threshold, and a plan to have a seating capacity for a minimum of 75 people, was submitted, though this was not in the file made publicly available online.

Mr. Edwardson is not sure if his alcoholic beverages course is up-to-date, but his general manager’s is. Mr. Edwardson said he would take the course.

Zoning B-5-2
Neighborhood Charles North
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 City
One applicant reside in Balt for 2 yrs? Yes
Pecuniary interest of Baltimore City resident 51%
Attorney for licensee None
# 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

The application states that the applicants plan on having music acts at the new establishment. Liquor Board staff has noted on the application that the applicant wishes to have live entertainment and outdoor table service, but this was not written in the docket and was not discussed during the hearing. It is therefore unclear whether live entertainment and outdoor table service were approved and are included in the license.

Applicant Anna Simms
Business Name 8Trium Bar & Grill LLC
Trading As [pending]
Address 1623 E. Baltimore St.
Type of License B
Reason for hearing Application for a new license with live entertainment and outdoor table service
Hearing notes

Exhibits entered into the docket included a written submission of opposition from community residents, a petition in support of the application, documentation showing $535,032 capital investment to date, documentation of equipment ordered, a menu, a seating chart showing the capacity to seat over 75 people, Fire Department approval, a business plan, and evidence of the applicant’s completion of the alcoholic beverages course.

There is a church within 300 feet of this establishment. State law, Md Code Art. 2B § 9-204(b) provides that no license may be granted for an establishment within 300 feet of a church unless the church waives objection in writing. Ms. Bailey-Hedgepeth, Board Executive Secretary, said that she had spoken to the Lamb of Light Church and confirmed that the church was not in opposition to the application.

Mr. Kodenski proffered the case, and said that the restaurant plans for 70% of its sales to come from food, 30% from alcohol. The restaurant will close at 10 or 11 pm during the week and later on the weekend. Mr. Kodenski said this establishment was a restaurant for a long time and had a license some time ago. He said that the establishment is two blocks from Hopkins Hospital. The applicant and her coleagues went around to the neighborhood and talked to people. The applicant will have 8 employees and will hire people from the neighborhood when she can.

The cuisine will be Creole Cajun, from Louisiana. The chef, who has worked at the Prime Rib, was in attendance at the hearing, as was the man who did the business plan for the restaurant. Mr. Kodenski told the Board that this will “absolutely be a restaurant,” and the place that was there before was more of a bar. This establishment “will not have a separate liquor area,” and patrons will not be able to buy a bottle of wine to go.

Zoning O-R-2
Neighborhood Washington Hill
Area demographics From U.S. Census American Community Survey 2013 / Social Explorer: 74.5% Black, 19.5% White, 4.6% Other race, 1.4% Asian
Does corp entity exist, in good standing? Yes; Yes
Location of entity’s principal office Baltimore City
One applicant reside in Balt for 2 yrs? Yes
Pecuniary interest of Baltimore City resident 50%
Attorney for licensee Melvin Kodenski
# in support ~5
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 Md Code Art. 2B § 9-204(b). The Board made its decision conditional upon receipt of a written waiver from the church that is within 300 feet of the establishment.
Other reasons given for decision None
Issues raised in audit present in this case or other issues observed The application states that Ms. Simms has a 50% financial interest in the license, but does not state who has the other 50% financial interest.
Applicant Duk Choon Kim
Business Name Kwangmoo, Inc.
Trading As Kwang Moo Liquor & Grocery
Address 4742 Frederick Avenue
Type of License A
Reason for hearing Request to reopen after being closed more than 90 days
Hearing notes Chairman Neil asked Mr. Kim why he had been closed for more than 90 days. Mr. Kim said he had gone to Korea and stayed longer than he expected. Mr. Kim then testified that he has taken the alcohol awareness course and knows that an inspector may ask him for certain documents, and the fact that he does not speak English very well does not excuse him from producing those documents. He said he would call his translator, who also interpreted during the hearing.
Zoning R-7
Neighborhood Tremont
Area demographics From U.S. Census American Community Survey 2013 / Social Explorer: 66.8% Black, 23.7% White, 7.7% 2 or more races, .7% other, .6% Asian, .5% American Indian / Alaska Native
Does corp entity exist, in good standing? Yes; Yes
Location of entity’s principal office Baltimore City
One applicant reside in Balt for 2 yrs? ?
Pecuniary interest of Baltimore City resident ?
Attorney for licensee None
# 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 None

The next hearing was postponed to September 17, 2015: Main Street Bar & Liquors at 3724 Eastern Avenue, owned by G & S 3724, LLC (licensee Gurpreet Singh). The hearing is for three violations: illegal conduct and failure to provide inspectors with employee records on July 12, 2015, and illegal conduct on July 18, 2015.

Licensees Yamet Asress, Nurlign Nurlign
Business Name RAMA Enterprises, LLC
Trading As Mojito aka Sheba
Address 3301 Foster Avenue
Type of License BD7
Reason for hearing

Violation of Rule 3.12 Public Welfare: (“Licensees shall operate their establishments in such a manner as to avoid disturbing the peace, safety, health, quiet, and general welfare of the community.”): “July 4, 2015 – At approximately 10:30 pm Inspector Karankikolis and Inspector Chrissomallis conducted an investigation into the establishment after receiving community complaints. Upon arriving at the location both inspectors could hear ‘very loud music’ emanating from the establishment. Inspector Karanikolis entered the establishment in an undercover capacity to conduct an investigation. Once inside Karanikolis observed that the loud music was coming from the location as he saw a DJ playing the music within the establishment. Approximately 5 minutes later, Inspector Karanikolis communicated with Inspector Chrissomallis via text message and requested that he enter the establishment. Upon entering the establishment, Inspector Chrissomallis made contact with the bartender and advised her of the loud music violation”

Violations of Rule 4.18 Illegal Conduct: (“No licensee shall commit or allow the commission on his premises of any act which shall be contrary to any federal, state or local statute, law or ordinance or against the public peace, safety, health, welfare, quiet, or morals.”) (1) “Inspector Karanikolis entered the establishment in an undercover capacity and observed a male and female dancing to music being played by a live D.J. The license issued to this establishment strictly forbids live entertainment and dancing.” (2) “While conducting a routine inspection at the establishment, Inspector Chrissomallis found that the Trader’s License issued to the establishment had expired.”

Violation of Rule 3.03(a) Records: (“Licensee shall keep accurate records of all purchases of alcoholic beverages for a period of one year from the date of each purchase. Such records shall include the date of each purchase, the quantity purchased, and the name and address of each seller. Such records shall be open to inspection at all time by duly authorized representatives of the Board.”) “Inspector Chrissomallis asked the bartender for copies of recent liquor receipts. He was then informed by the bartender that they could not be located.”

Violation of Rule 4.10(a) Relations with Wholesalers: (“No licensee shall purchase alcoholic beverages except from a duly licensed manufacturer or wholesaler; nor shall any licensee sell to any other licensee any alcoholic beverages; and no licensee shall, at any time, keep or permit to be kept upon the licensed premises, any alcoholic beverages unless purchased in accordance with the Rule.”) “Inspector Chrissomallis observed an individual bring in a case of Heineken Beer. He placed the beer on the counter and the bartender took it into possession. Inspector Chrissomallis asked the bartender where the beer came from and was advised by the bartender that it came from the Liquor Store. Inspector Chrissomallis advised the bartender that purchasing alcohol from another retailer for the purposes of resale at retail was a violation of Rule 4.10 (a) Relations with Wholesalers.”

Violation of Rule 3.02 Cooperation: (“Licensees shall cooperate with representatives of the Board, members of the Police Department, Health Department, Building Engineer’s Office, Grand Jury and representatives of other governmental agencies whenever any such persons are on official business.”) “After finding numerous alleged violations, Inspector Chrissomallis requested that the managers contact the licensee so that he could speak with him about the violations. The bartenders failed to contact the licensee. After some time, Inspector Chrissomallis left the location.”

Hearing notes

Mr. Hurdle did not want the violations read aloud, but Chairman Neil said he wanted them on the record in case of appeal.

Mr. Hurdle made two preliminary motions. First, he objected to the letters submitted in protest of the license because the people who wrote them were not at the hearing, he thought the letters were hearsay, and “if it was that important, [the writers] could be here.” The letters were admitted. Second, Mr. Hurdle asked that either the violation regarding records or the violation regarding wholesalers be dismissed because he thought they were duplicative. Chairman Neil asked that Mr. Hurdle hold this motion until after testimony was heard.

The inspectors ratified their reports. Inspector Chrissomallis explained that on July 4, 2015, he and another inspector heard music across the street from the establishment and went in undercover. Music was playing and people were dancing. When the inspector entered, the bartender warned everyone that he was there. He conducted a routine inspection and found that the establishment’s trader’s license was expired. Then a man brought in a case of beer and put it behind the bar. The bartender told the inspector that she had been trying to get the licensee to get a new trader’s license, and asked the inspector how she could get the licensee to do so. The inspector asked to be put in touch with the licensee, but the bartender would not put him in touch with the licensee and would not give her own name.

In cross-examination, Mr. Hurdle asked Inspector Chrissomallis if bars are more “boisterous” than normal on July 4. Inspector Chrissomallis said that he could hear the bar’s music a block away. Mr. Hurdle asked for a decibel reading and Inspector Chrissomallis explained that the Liquor Board does not do decibel readings – the Health Department does that. Mr. Hurdle then introduced a new trader’s license showing that the business is now in good standing. Chairman Neil asked the Inspector how many times he has been to the bar. The inspector said he has been there approximately 10 times on 311 complaints. Executive Secretary Bailey-Hedgepeth then read aloud a number of service calls: 13 calls this year prior to July 4. Mr. Hurdle asked the Inspector if it is true that not all 311 complaints are violations and the inspector agreed, and added that prior to the violations at issue he gave the business two verbal warnings, which were corrected. 311 complaints have been for noise, disturbing the peace, and maybe one fight – but mostly noise. Inspector Chrissomallis also said that the licensee has tried to do some soundproofing on the neighbor’s wall, but the music still leaks out the exterior wall. Mr. Hurdle asked the Inspector if there have been any complaints in the past two weeks, and the Inspector said no, but the business has been closed.

Inspector Karanikolis then testified that when he walked into the bar on July 4, 2015, he saw a live DJ and dancing. In response to Mr. Hurdle’s questioning, he said July 4 is “maybe” an unusually celebratory date for bars. Commissioner Neil joked with Mr. Hurdle: “Didn’t get the answer you wanted on that one, did you?” Mr. Hurdle then asked if it was permissible for him to ask the Inspector to provide an example of the dancing he saw. This was not permitted.

Sean Flanigan, President of Canton Community Association, testified that he was at the bar on July 4, 2015, and that the music was audible two blocks away. He said that this is the bar’s standard operating procedure, and was not the result of July 4 festivities. He has personally gone by and heard music. He has been president of Canton Community Association for two years and has never received so many complaints and concerns about a business. Most of the complaints have been in the last 4-6 months. He said, “This is a nuisance bar and I hope this is an opportunity to put them on notice.”

Mr. Nurlign testified that all of the complaints have only been brought to his attention in the last month. He said that “when [he] investigated, [he] found out [his] manager and next-door neighbor were almost at war.” He hired a new manager 6 months ago, and this manager kept the business open until 2:00 am. Before, the bar had been an Ethiopian restaurant. Since he heard about the complaints, Mr. Nurlign fired everyone. Now he wants to stay open until 10 pm. There will be no live music, no DJs, and no dancing. He will make all purchases through wholesalers.

Mr. Hurdle renewed his motion to dismiss what he thought were duplicative violations, and said that the records that were not available on July 4, 2015 are available now. Executive Secretary Bailey-Hedgepeth explained that the violations pertained to two different rules, and read those rules onto the record. One is about maintaining records and one is about buying from wholesalers.

Commissioner Trotter pointed out that whether or not Mr. Nurlign knew what was happening at his business, he is in charge of the license. Chairman Neil said that all he’d heard in defense was about future remediation, but nothing about July 4. Mr. Hurdle then admitted to 5 violations and said that his client will return to his “successful, quiet, community-caring ways” and reminded the Board that Mr. Nurlign has had no previous violations. He said that “for better or for worse, [Mr. Nurlign] had no idea that these terrible things were happening.”

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 City
One applicant reside in Balt for 2 yrs? N/A
Pecuniary interest of Baltimore City resident N/A
Attorney for licensee Mr. Abraham Hurdle
# in support 1
Attorney for community None
# of protestants 1
# of inspectors/police officers 2
Result of hearing Responsible for 5 violations. (Violation of Rule 3.03 and Violation of Rule 4.10 were merged). $250 fine for each violation = $1250, with 60 days to pay. 30-day suspension. Chairman Neil told Mr. Nurlign that an administrative rule has been passed saying that an appeal stays the penalty.
Vote tally Unanimous
Portions of state law cited in decision None
Other reasons given for decision Mr. Nurlign’s lack of knowledge about what was happening at his business is no excuse, because it is his establishment and his license and his employees could not reach him. Commissioner Trotter said that people live around this bar and “it’s obvious this man does not manage his own business.”
Issues raised in audit present in this case or other issues observed The Board merged violations of Rules 3.03 and Rule 4.10. Rule 3.03 pertains to the maintenance and availability of records. Inspectors found that no records were available at the time of inspection. Rule 4.10 pertains to the purchase of alcoholic beverages from wholesalers. Inspectors observed beer purchased at a liquor store being placed behind the bar. It is not clear why these two rules were merged and not treated as separate violations.
Licensees Christian Rugel & Carlos Sotelo
Business Name Amigos Bar, Inc.
Trading As Amigos Bar
Address 400 S. Eaton Street
Type of License D
Reason for hearing

Violation of Rule 4.05 Prohibited Hours (“(a) No licensee shall permit any person to consume alcoholic beverages on the licensed premises during hours when such sales are prohibited by law. (b) No alcoholic beverages shall be served, dispensed, furnished, or given away in any part of the premises during the hours when such sales are prohibited by law.”): “July 11, 2015 – At approximately 12:45 am, Inspector Karanikolis and Agent Fosler visited the establishment to conduct an inspection. Upon arriving at the establishment Inspectors parked their vehicle near the location and observed its operations continue past 1:00 am. As the establishment is a Class D licensee, it is only permitted to operate until 1:00 am. At approximately 1:08 am Inspectors were able to look through the window and observe patrons still present in the establishment and consuming alcohol. At approximately 1:13 am, Inspectors entered the establishment and observed approximately 25 patrons inside the establishment. Once inside inspectors observed at least four (4) buckets of beer on the floor and numerous alcoholic beverages in front of patrons.”

Violation of Rule 4.18 Illegal Conduct (“No licensee shall commit or allow the commission on his premises of any act which shall be contrary to any federal, state or local statute, law or ordinance or against the public peace, safety, health, welfare, quiet, or morals.”): “At approximately 1:13 am…Inspector Fosler attempted to open the front door of the establishment to allow for police to enter the establishment to assist with the inspection, but the front door was locked with numerous locks, thereby disallowing entry by the police and prohibiting exit by the patrons.”

Violation of Rule 3.03(c) Employee Records (“Licensees shall keep on their premises records containing the legal names, aliases, addresses, ages, and Social Security numbers of all persons employed by them. Such records shall be open for inspection at all times by duly authorized representatives of the Board, the Police Department of Baltimore City, and other governmental agencies.”): “[I]nspectors asked for copies of the employee records of all personnel employed and working at the establishment. The bartender/store manager could not provide inspectors with employee records as required by BLLC rules and regulations.”

Hearing notes

Councilman Scott and Councilman Kraft had both submitted letters expressing concern about the establishment just before the hearing. Mr. Prevas objected to these letters, because he had reviewed the file before the hearing and they were not in it. Chairman Neil sustained the objection, leaving the letters out of the record, and said that letters must be submitted before lunch on the day of a hearing in order to be admitted.

Neither of the licensees appeared at the hearing. Javier Sotelo, the brother of Carlos Sotelo and full-time operator of the establishment, appeared instead. Javier Sotelo was at the establishment on July 11, 2015, the night of the alleged violations.

Mr. Prevas said his clients admitted to all three violations, and wanted to be heard in mitigation. He explained that there are approximately 60 class D licenses, with 1:00 am closing times, left in the City, and his clients are hassled from customers who don’t understand why his clients’ bar has to close at 1:00 am when other bars do not. Mr. Prevas said that this is not an excuse, and that he has explained to his clients that 1:00 means everyone out, except employees cleaning up. He said that Mr. Sotelo “let his guard down.”

Mr. Prevas asked what this Board’s policy is on looking back at previous violations. The Board said they look back three years. According to the file, this establishment was found guilty in December 2014 of violating Rule 4.05 (a) Prohibited Hours and Rule 4.18 Illegal Conduct. Mr. Prevas referenced a case on appeal with the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland, which might be regarding these December 2014 violations. Chairman Neil said that he would not concern himself with the issue(s) on appeal.

Inspector Karanikolis testified that there were about 25 people in the establishment at 1:13 am. 311 calls were not pulled.

After the hearing, off the record, Mr. Prevas commented to the Board that it is his understanding that violation hearings are not subject to the Open Meetings Act and therefore Commissioners needn’t discuss their decision in public. Chairman Neil said that he understands this, but it is the Board’s policy to put everything on the record so that everyone, including the community and press, gets to hear everything that is said. He motioned to the cameras and said, “The whole world can watch.”

Zoning B-3-2
Neighborhood Highlandtown
Area demographics 66% White, 9% Black, 3% Asian; 19% 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 City
One applicant reside in Balt for 2 yrs? N/A
Pecuniary interest of Baltimore City resident N/A
Attorney for licensee Mr. Peter Prevas
# in support 1
Attorney for community None
# of protestants 0
# of inspectors/police officers 2
Result of hearing Responsible for three charges. $250 fine per violation = $750 violation. No suspension. Chairman Neil said that if this happens again, “it’s gonna be a different outcome.”
Vote tally Unanimous
Portions of state law cited in decision None
Other reasons given for decision Since the doors were locked after 1:00 am, allowing for neither entry nor exit, the Commissioners felt that someone knew the 1:00 rule and was deliberately breaking it, or was putting a lot of people at risk.
Issues raised in audit present in this case or other issues observed

Liquor Board Administrative Decision #2, dated November 17, 2014 and effective January 15, 2015, requires that one licensee be present at all hearings involving a license. Neither of the licensees was present at this hearing. Administrative Decision #5, dated July 16, 2015 and effective immediately, provides that the transferor is not required to attend a transfer hearing involving his/her license. Since this was not a transfer hearing, Administrative Decision #5 does not apply.

The last hearing was postponed: Washington Bar & Liquor at 2501-03 Washington Boulevard, owned by PNA, Inc. The hearing is for two violations: illegal conduct and failure to provide inspectors with employee records on July 11, 2015.

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