Booze News: Distilled in Room 215

A blog about the Baltimore City Liquor Board

What happened at the Liquor Board on September 24, 2015.

Written by Becky Witt

Chairman Neil and Commissioner Trotter heard cases with alternate Commissioner Harvey Jones.

1:00 p.m.

I. Expedited Docket

Applicants Shaminder Kaur & Pinakin Patel
Business Name 5418-20 Harford Road, LLC
Trading As Hamilton Liquors
Address 5418-20 Harford Road
Type of License Class “A” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing Application to transfer ownership
Hearing notes

Mr. Kodenski represented the applicants, both present at the hearing.

Executive Secretary Michelle Bailey-Hedgepeth noted that she had received two letters requesting postponements: one from Hamilton Main Street and another from Waltherson. Mr. Kodenski objected to the letters, saying that they are too late, that the applicants are scheduled to go to settlement the next day. He said that they will agree to meet with both groups. Chairman Neil asked how the commissioners can know that the applicants will meet with the groups; Kodenski replied that the commissioners don’t know that, but the applicants want to be good neighbors and they’ve agreed to do it.

The applicants are buying the building from the prior owner and have prior experience.

Chairman Neil pointed out the floor plan to Mr. Kodenski and said, “I understand it comports with the law, but… really?” Kodenski replied that the plan is about what it looks like.

Zoning B-2-2
Neighborhood Hamilton Hills
Area demographics 37% White, 55% Black, 1% Asian; 2% Hispanic ethnicity; 33% households have children under age 18; 5% households below poverty line; median household income: $57,951.01
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 1%
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
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.
Applicants Orla Kane & Zaynep Tasoemir
Business Name 336 Charles, LLC
Trading As HomeSlyce
Address 336 N. Charles Street
Type of License Class “B” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing Application to transfer ownership
Hearing notes

Mr. Abraham Hurdle represented the two applicants and explained to the commissioners that the current licensee is getting “a little elderly” and has decided to move to Florida. The two applicants currently work at the business. Hurdle said that the licensee has had no violations and has had her license for a long time. The attorney did not provide a floor plan to the Board, because the new licensees will not be changing the layout of the building. Both have restaurant experience and both will be alcohol management certified.

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
One applicant reside in Balt for 2 yrs? Yes
Pecuniary interest of Baltimore City resident 1%
Attorney for licensee Mr. Abraham Hurdle
# 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 each licensee-applicant owns 1% of the business. The application states that the other 98% of the business is owned by 336 N. Charles LLC, which, according to SDAT, does not exist.

The signatures for two of the character witnesses look like they are in the same handwriting. Two of the witnesses are the same people who signed on behalf of a different applicant in July (PSA Brewery, LLC) and are also themselves licensees.

Applicant Jacqueline Beal
Business Name BSq. Wine Co.
Trading As Grand Cru
Address 5911 York Road
Type of License Class “BD7” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing Application to transfer ownership
Hearing notes

Mr. Justin Williams, of Rosenberg Martin Greenberg, represented the applicant in a transfer of ownership of an existing license. Ms. Jacqueline Beal was already a licensee at this location but is buying the share of the business previously owned by Mr. John Unitas. The operation of the business will remain the same. Mr. Jack Wells, general manager of the business, was present at the hearing, and he will remain the general manager. Williams said that Ms. Beal had met with the Belvedere Improvement Association on Tuesday, and the community association had no objection to the transfer of ownership.

Zoning B-2-2
Neighborhood Belvedere
Area demographics 69% Black, 23% White; 4% Hispanic ethnicity; 29% households have children under age 18; median household income: $44,853; 6% households live below the poverty line
Does corp entity exist, in good standing? Yes; no.
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. Justin Williams, Rosenberg Martin Greenberg
# 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 LLC on whose behalf Ms. Beal will hold the license is not in good standing, because it has not filed its yearly Personal Property Return. This issue was not raised by the Board.

Applicant Arjingder Singh & Michael Bradley
Business Name A & J Tavern, Inc.
Trading As J & J Bar & Liquor
Address 1801 Ramsey Street
Type of License Class “BD7” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing Application to transfer ownership
Hearing notes

Mr. Kodenski represented the applicants, one of whom was present. Kodenski pointed out that the floor plan for this application was nicer than the one in his previous hearing, and Chairman Neil agreed. The attorney proffered that the establishment will not change in its current operations or in its physical layout.

Chairman Neil asked whether patrons have to be buzzed through a locked door into the rear tavern area of the establishment. Kodenski replied that they do, and that the building has been set up that way forever, “for safety purposes.” Neil responded, “you think?”

Zoning R-8
Neighborhood Carrollton Ridge
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
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 None
Issues raised in audit present in this case or other issues observed

Mr. Bradley, the Baltimore City resident applicant, does not have any pecuniary interest in the business. Under Article 2B section 9-101(b), at least one of the applicants on the license must be a registered voter and taxpayer of Baltimore City and shall have resided in Baltimore City at least two years prior to the application. Under Article 2B section 10-103(b)(10), each applicant must state on their application that he or she “has a pecuniary interest in the business to be conducted under said license.” The Baltimore City resident on the application, however, does not have a pecuniary interest in the business, which makes the application potentially deficient.

II. Regular Docket

Applicant Bryan Palombo
Business Name The Publick Library, LLC
Trading As Publick Library
Address 3323 Eastern 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 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, request for outdoor table service
Hearing notes

Former BLLC chairman Stephan Fogleman represented the applicant and proffered that his client is opening a new restaurant in the old Highlandtown library building. The applicant is renting space from the Southeast CDC. Fogleman said to Chairman Neil, “this might be the most exciting thing in Highlandtown since you opened your law office there.” Mr. Palombo will be moving from Alewife restaurant downtown to open this new restaurant, and will bring a manager with him from Alewife to manage both businesses. There have been no liquor license violations at Alewife in their five years of business. They’ve spent $513,000 so far in building out the space and will be spending more, with 84 seats for patrons. They hope to open in November and will be serving American cuisine. Fogleman submitted letters of support from the Southeast CDC and Canton Community Association.

At the end of the hearing, Mr. Fogleman remarked that Alternate Commissioner Harvey Jones is a “zoning guru” and that everything Fogleman learned about zoning, he learned from Jones. Neil replied that he had just asked Mr. Jones some questions in the back room before the hearings began. Fogleman replied that he had gotten in trouble in the past calling it “the back room” and warned Neil to call it “conference room three.”

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 Baltimore, MD
One applicant reside in Balt for 2 yrs? Yes
Pecuniary interest of Baltimore City resident 77.5
Attorney for licensee Former Chairman Stephan Fogleman
# 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.
Applicant Michael Equbay & Tercle Zemikiel
Business Name M&T Liquor Food Mart, LLC
Trading As M&T Liquor and Food Mart
Address 2002-04 E. Oliver Street
Type of License Class “A” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing Request to reopen after being closed for more than 90 days
Hearing notes

According to the file, on June 15, 2013, the licensees submitted a letter to the Board requesting permission to reopen after being closed for more than 90 days. The request was put on the docket for July 25, 2013 but was postponed administratively. After a November 2013 email from Kodenski to the Board requesting that it be rescheduled, the Board put it back on the docket in January 2014. At the 2014 hearing, there seems to have been significant community opposition to the licensees’ request, including a letter of strong opposition from Councilman Stokes. At that hearing, under a former administration, Mr. Kodenski, for his clients, requested a postponement so that they could meet with members of the community. The Board postponed the matter and did not reschedule it until February 2, 2015. You can read a recap of the February 5, 2015 hearing at the link. At that hearing, Chairman Ward and Commissioner Moore both told Kodenski that the license had expired under the 180-day rule. Commissioner Moore said that, since Kodenski could not provide a more specific date on when the business closed, that she would need more information from him and his clients about when they closed. Though Mr. Kodenski and his clients were given an additional seven months to provide this information to the Board, he did not do so on September 24, 2015 under the Neil administration.

Kodenski explained to the new commissioners that his clients had given the business over to the management of a branch of the Willabus family. This manager had done a terrible job managing the business, angering the community, which is why Councilman Stokes had submitted his letter of opposition in 2014. Kodenski told the Board that the license is “just a beer and wine license” and that the licensees, who had abdicated their responsibility to manage their own business, would like another chance. Kodenski said that the licensees “serve the neighborhood” by cashing checks (though, again, the business has been closed since, at the very latest, early 2013).

Chairman Neil asked Michelle Bailey-Hedgepeth and Mr. Kodenski who was responsible for the long lag. Ms. Bailey-Hedgepeth said that the blame could be equally assigned to both parties for some of the timeline. She noted that the license has not been in use since 2013.

Kodenski noted that the licensees “seem like nice enough people, as far as I’m concerned.”

Zoning B-3-2
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, the corporate entity was forfeited in October 2013.
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 Mr. Melvin Kodenski
# 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

This case is deeply troubling and shows the lack of understanding that the commissioners have of Article 2B and their own files and history of the agency.

Forfeited LLC: The LLC for this business has been forfeited by the state of Maryland since 2013. This is evidence that the business has not been running properly or paying its taxes for years. The commissioners did not raise this issue.

Expired/Zombie License: The licensees submitted a request to reopen after being closed for more than 90 days on June 15, 2013. Counting backward 90 days from June 15, 2013, the latest that this business could have been open, by the licensees’ own statement, is March 17, 2013. Article 2B section 10-504(d) states that a license expires 180 days after the licensee closes the business or ceases active alcoholic beverages business operations. 180 days after March 17, 2013 is September 13, 2013. The licensees could have requested an extension if they were suffering from an undue hardship, which would have given them a total of 360 days from when the business closed to reopen. 360 days after March 17, 2013 was March 12, 2014. This is the absolute latest day that this license was valid under state law. The Liquor Board does not have any statutory authority to give more time to licensees than what is provided in state law. The Board’s action was unlawful and outside of their authority. The most troubling part about this hearing was the complete lack of discussion of any of the above issues.

Licensees as Owner/Operators: As stated in the Booze News post for the previous hearing, “Rule 3.01 of the Liquor Board’s 1998 rules states that ‘every licensee shall be the actual owner and operator of the business conducted on the licensed premises.’ The fact that the Willabus family was allowed to conduct business under this license, apparently without any supervision by the licensees, was in itself a violation of their license. This is a very common violation, almost never enforced by this agency, and it can have a serious negative impact on the surrounding community. It is very difficult to hold licensees accountable for their businesses if they are not even running those businesses themselves.”

III. Violations:

Licensees Shelly Gordon & Dolores Reicher
Business Name Silverlud, Inc.
Trading As Circus Bar
Address 427 E. Baltimore St
Type of License Class “BD7” Beer, Wine & Liquor License/ Adult Entertainment
Reason for hearing

Violation of Rule 4.17: Sexual Practices and Obscenity- March 10, 2015- At approximately 7:20pm an undercover detective of the Vice Unit of the Baltimore City Police Department entered the establishment. While at the establishment Det Gatto engaged a dancer, later identified as Michelle Schwartz, in conversation. During their conversation Ms. Schwartz solicited Det. Gatto to engage in sexual acts in exchange for U.S.currency. Once the agreement was made, Bar Manager Terri Broseker, engaged Det. Gatto in conversation informing him that the cost of the sexual acts would be $170.00 and that he could use the basement area to engage in the sexual activity with Ms. Schwartz. Det. Gatto agreed to the conditions of the agreement and informed both parties that he would leave the establishment so that he could obtain the necessary fund to pay for services.

Violation of Rule 4.18: Illegal Conduct- March 10, 2015/January 8, 2015- At approximately 8:00 pm the Baltimore City Police Department executed a Search and Seizure warrant at the establishment The probable cause for the execution of the search warrant was based on a controlled purchase of illegal narcotic drugs at the establishment from a Mr. Andre Campbell, who was working as a bouncer at the establishment at time of purchase. On the date of the execution of the search warrant Mr. Andre Campbell was present and working at the establishment and was taken into custody and charged. On April15, 2015 Mr. Campbell was convicted of Conspiracy to Distribute a Controlled Dangerous Substance and Distribution of a Controlled Dangerous Substance in regards to the prior controlled purchase which occurred on January 8, 2015.

Violation of Adult Entertainment Rule 9: Codes Compliance – March 10, 2015/January 8, 2015- On March 10, 2015, at approximately 7:20pm an undercover detective of the Vice Unit of the Baltimore City Police Department entered the establishment While at the establishment Det. Gatto engaged a dancer, later identified as Michelle Schwartz, in conversation. During their conversation Ms. Schwartz solicited Det Gatto to engage in sexual acts in exchange for U.S. currency. At approximately 8:00 pm the Baltimore City Police Department executed a Search and Seizure warrant at the establishment on that same date. The probable cause for the execution of the search warrant was based on a controlled purchase of illegal narcotic drugs at the establishment from a Mr. Andre Campbell, who was working as a bouncer at the establishment at time of purchase. On the date of the execution of the search warrant Mr. Andre Campbell was present and working at the establishment and was taken into custody and charged. On April 15, 2015 Mr. Campbell was convicted of Conspiracy to Distribute a Controlled Dangerous Substance and Distribution of a Controlled Dangerous Substance in regards to the prior controlled purchase which occurred on january 8, 2015.

Hearing notes

A Baltimore City narcotics detective testified that, on January 8, a fellow sergeant in the narcotics unit was doing an undercover investigation of the club. The case documents refer to this undercover sergeant as Officer #49. Mr. Kodenski, for his clients, the licensees, objected to the testimony of the officer, because he was not present to be cross-examined. The detective testified that he and Officer #49 met an individual at Lust, a club nearby, who told them that the owner of Club Circus sold cocaine. This unnamed individual brought the undercover officers to Circus, where they spoke with Mr. Blackwell, Circus’s door man. Mr. Blackwell said that he would be the one to make the sale, because the owner of Circus only deals with people that he knows personally. The two detectives were asked to leave Circus by the bartender, but Mr. Blackwell stood directly outside the door with the undercover detectives and agreed to go make the transaction on their behalf. Mr. Blackwell went inside the club with the detectives’ money and returned with three small ziplock bags of white powder, handing them to Officer #49. The bags were chemically analyzed by the Baltimore City police department and found to contain cocaine. After he was arrested and charged, Andre Blackwell pled guilty to possession and distribution of cocaine for this incident.

Mr. Kodenski objected to the testimony, because the Board staff that wrote up the charges in the docket had said that the offense was committed by Andre Campbell, not Andre Blackwell. Ms. Bailey-Hedgepeth said that that was a mistake.

Baltimore City Vice Unit Detective Abraham Gatto testified that, on March 10, he went into the bar, sat down, and ordered a drink from the bartender. One of the dancers approached Gatto, and he bought her a drink. She asked Gatto what type of fun he was looking to have, and the two of them agreed that they would have sex. The dancer called the bartender over and told her that Gatto wanted to go downstairs to a private room. The bartender told Gatto that it would cost him $170 to rent the room, and the dancer would get a $50 tip. There were condoms behind the bar. Gatto kept drinking at the bar for a while; the bartender then came over to Gatto and told him that she was getting off her shift, so he needed to pay for the room now, so that she would get her cut. Gatto was trying to stall, because he knew that some officers would be coming in to execute the warrant for the drug charge from January 8. The bartender reminded Gatto again about the money, and he told her that he would go out and get it from his car. At this point, the officers executing the warrant arrived.

On cross-examination, Kodenski asked whether Gatto had intended to give the bartender or the dancer $170. Gatto said no. Kodenski asked whether Gatto agreed to have sex in exchange for money. Gatto replied, “I asked for it!” He never went downstairs, and he did not arrest the dancer, though he had a criminal summons issued to her home address. Kodenski asked whether the dancer was prosecuted; Gatto replied that she was given the option of a diversion program, which she did not complete, and he just received a court summons to testify in her trial. Kodenski disagreed with this and said that the dancer had not been prosecuted, according to Maryland Judiciary Case Search.

Mr. Kodenski asked that the case be dismissed, because the rule, according to him, requires that the police officer prove that the licensees knew that their employees were soliciting patrons for prostitution. The Board did not agree with him and denied his request as to the violation of Rule 4.17.

The licensees testified next. Ms. Dolores Reicher said that she has been a licensee for 18 years, and she never allows her employees to solicit for prostitution. If she finds out about any illegal activity, said Reicher, she fires the employee(s) immediately. Mr. Jules Gordon testified next that he has also been an owner of the Circus for 18 years, and he tells his dancers, “your job is to dance, make drinks, and that’s it.” Gordon, who is not a licensee, said that he’s improved The Block, adding lights to the alley. He works with the Baltimore City Health Department to give out condoms and do needle exchanges. He testified that Mr. Blackwell did work for him as a door man who ran “little errands.” Gordon fired Mr. Blackwell when he heard about the drug charge, and he said that he didn’t know what Blackwell was talking about when he told the officers that the “owner” of the Circus was selling cocaine. Gordon said that he himself was the owner of Circus, though he’s not on the license. Mr. Gordon is not a licensee at this club, because he owned a different bar that “burned down when the peep show caught on fire,” and BD-7 tavern licensees can only be on one license in Baltimore City.

When asked why a bar whose employees do not solicit for prostitution would need the Health Department to distribute condoms, Mr. Gordon replied, “for the customers, to practice safe sex.” Then he corrected himself and said that he throws away the condoms, since his customers don’t need them. Ms. Reicher confirms that they often throw away “hundreds of bags of nothing but condoms.”

Concluding the case, Mr. Kodenski argued that the charges were duplicative and said, “you can’t recharge for the same case.” He said, “for God’s sake, we’re in adult entertainment; we’re not going to Disney,” adding “everything happens, but you don’t lay it at the foot of the licensee.”

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? Yes; yes.
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 Mr. Melvin Kodenski
# in support 2
Attorney for community None
# of protestants 0
# of inspectors/police officers 3
Result of hearing Responsible for charges. $1,000 fine, 3 day suspension.
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.
Licensees Ernest Hatmaker & Bradley Simmons
Business Name Chez Joey, LLC
Trading As Chez Joey
Address 415 E. Baltimore Street
Type of License Class “BD7” Beer, Wine & Liquor License/Adult Entertainment
Reason for hearing

Violation of Rule 4.17: Sexual Practices and Obscenity- March 10, 2015- At approximately 8:00pm an undercover detective of the Vice Unit of the Baltimore City Police Department entered the establishment While there Det jackson engaged a dancer, later identified as Jasmine Vallare, in conversation. During their conversation Ms. Vallare solicited Det Jackson to engage in sexual acts in exchange for U.S. currency. Ms. Vallare confirmed a range of prices for various services and agreed to a specific set of sexual services for $100.00 in U.S. currency.

Violation of Rule 4.18: Illegal Conduct- March 10, 2015/December 11, 2014- At approximately 8:00 pm the Baltimore City Police Department executed a Search and Seizure warrant at the establishment. The probable cause for the execution of the search warrant was based on a controlled purchase of illegal narcotic drugs at the establishment from a Mr. Charles Thomas, who was working at the establishment at time of purchase, on December 11, 2014. On the date of the execution of the search warrant Mr. Charles Thomas was present and working at the establishment and was taken into custody and charged.

Violation of Adult Entertainment Rule 9: Codes Compliance – March 10, 2015/ December 11, 2014 – At approximately 8:00pm an undercover detective of the Vice Unit of the Baltimore City Police Department entered the establishment. While there Det Jackson engaged a dancer, later identified as Jasmine Vallare, in conversation. During their conversation Ms. Vallare solicited Det. Jackson to engage in sexual acts in exchange for U.S.currency. Ms. Vallare confirmed a range of prices for various services and agreed to a specific set of sexual services for $100.00 in U.S. currency. Shortly thereafter Det. Jackson’s investigation, Baltimore City Police executed a Search and Seizure warrant at the establishment. The probable cause for the execution of the search warrant was based on a controlled purchase of illegal narcotic drugs at the establishment from a Mr. Charles Thomas, who was working at the establishment at time of purchase, on December 11, 2014. On the date of the execution of the search warrant Mr. Charles Thomas was present and working at the establishment and was taken into custody and charged.

Hearing notes

Executive Secretary Michelle Bailey-Hedgepeth announced at the beginning of the hearing that the Rule 4.18 charge was dismissed, because the Board did not have a copy of the lab results for the suspected narcotics found at the establishment.

Detective Fletcher Jackson, from the Vice Unit of the Baltimore City Police Department, testified that on March 10, 2015, he entered the club and spoke with a dancer who solicited him for sex. He did not give her any money or arrest her. Jackson was not able to find the dancer’s information in Maryland Judiciary Case Search, although he said that he did submit the documents to charge her with solicitation. On cross-examination, Mr. Kodenski noted that the woman had told Jackson that he can get a private room, but she didn’t say where. Kodenski suggested that maybe she was offering to get a room at a hotel or somewhere else. Jackson replied that, with what clothing she had on, she wasn’t going to go outside the bar.

Detective L.C. Greenhill, from the Vice Unit of the Baltimore City Police Department, testified that he came into the bar on the same night as part of the raid team. Commissioner Trotter noted that in Greenhill’s report after the raid, he stated that there were condoms throughout the club, both used and unused. Greenhill corroborated this, that there were used and packaged condoms strewn throughout the club. He did not go into any private rooms. Kodenski asked Greenhill whether any condoms were taken and analyzed; Greenhill replied that they were not.

Licensee Ernest Hatmaker, who lives in Ohio, testified that, when dancers leave, the proprietors don’t know what they do or where they go. Every employee signs a document saying that they will follow the law. This particular dancer was fired, and the bar was never officially warned by police that solicitation for prostitution was happening. Hatmaker’s bartender corroborated this testimony. Commissioner Jones asked Hatmaker how much time he spends at the establishment; the licensee replied that he spends about three or four days there per month, but he has other obligations for his other companies.

Kodenski closed by arguing that the “condom thing” that was “floating around” is not such a big deal; they give them out at schools and on the Block. The police don’t know whether the used condoms were used there or somewhere else, and their case is “weaker than weak.”

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? Yes; no.
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 Mr. Melvin Kodenski
# in support 2
Attorney for community None
# of protestants 0
# of inspectors/police officers 2
Result of hearing Responsible. $500 fine, 3 day suspension.
Vote tally Unanimous
Portions of state law cited in decision None
Other reasons given for decision

Neil noted that Rule 4.18 had been dismissed at the request of staff, and “Rule 9 is duplicitous” (duplicative). He said that the licensees were responsible for violating Rule 4.17. Commissioner Jones suggested the $500 fine and three-day suspension, since it was a first offense. Commissioner Trotter suggested that the licensees put more cameras in the business.

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

There is no requirement or rule that the Liquor Board have a copy of the lab report for the alleged drugs found on the premises. The Board could have easily held the hearing and decided whether the evidence presented was sufficient to find the licensee responsible for the drug charge. The Liquor Board makes its decisions under a much lighter evidentiary burden: that of a “preponderance of the evidence.” In other words, if it is more likely than not that the offense took place, the Board should find the licensee responsible. In contrast, in a criminal court, the standard is generally that the offense has to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt, which is much more difficult to do and which would require a lab report. To throw out the charge altogether is to let the licensee off the hook without even allowing the evidence to be presented and the commissioners to make a determination about whether the evidence is strong enough.

Licensee Tania Ramos
Business Name La Rumba, LLC
Trading As La Rumba
Address 1650-54 E. Pratt Street
Type of License Class “BD7” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing

Violation of Rule 3.05: Lighting – July 18, 2015 – At approximately 12:55 am, Inspector Chrissomallis and Karanikolis were working with Lt. William Coburn of the Baltimore City Police Department in conducting routine checks of licensed establishments. While on duty the Inspectors and Lt. Coburn visited the establishment to conduct a routine inspection. Upon making entry inspectors observed that the back portion of the bar area where the restrooms were located were completely dark. Upon informing the owner/manager of this observation, the owner/manager flipped on a breaker switch to illuminate the area. Inspectors informed the owner/manager of the violation.

Violation of Rule 3.06: Sanitation and Safety- July 18, 2015- At approximately 12:55 am, Inspector Chrissomallis and Karanikolis were working with Lt. William Coburn of the Baltimore City Police Department in conducting routine checks of licensed establishments. While on duty the Inspectors and Lt. Coburn visited the establishment to conduct a routine inspection. While conducting their inspection, Inspectors observed that the bathrooms had no paper towels, no bathroom tissue, and no soap. In addition, the bathrooms lacked doors. Inspectors informed the owner/manager of the violation.

Violation of Rule 3.07: Restroom Facilities – July 18, 2015 – At approximately 12:55 am, Inspector Chrissomallis and Karanikolis were working with Lt. William Coburn of the Baltimore City Police Department in conducting routine checks of licensed establishments.While on duty the Inspectors and Lt.Coburn visited the establishment to conduct a routine inspection. While conducting their inspection, Inspectors observed that the bathrooms had no paper towels, no bathroom tissue, and no soap. In addition, the bathrooms lacked doors. Inspectors informed the owner/manager of the violation.

Violation of Rule 4.18: Illegal Conduct – July 18, 2015- At approximately 12:55 am, Inspector Chrissomallis and Karanikolis were working with Lt. William Coburn of the Baltimore City Police Department in conducting routine checks of licensed establishments.While on duty the Inspectors and Lt. Coburn visited the establishment to conduct a routine inspection. Upon conducting their inspection of the bathroom area- once it was illuminated – inspectors observed within a closet of exposed wires, which seemed to be providing power to the establishment’s interior and trash and debris. Inspectors informed the owner/manager of the housing/health violations.

Hearing notes

A man representing himself to be the licensee represented himself during the hearing. Inspectors Chrissomallis and Karanikolis testified to the charges that they witnessed on July 18, which were that the lights had been turned off in part of the establishment, and the building was in very poor condition. The bathrooms were unusable, and there was trash and debris throughout the premises.

Mr. Ramos testified that the business is not making any money right now. He said that his customers steal his toilet paper and soap, so he keeps them in a closet. At the time that the inspectors visited, the circuit breaker was tripped, which he has since fixed.

Ms. Christina Anderson, president of Fells Prospect Community Association, testified that she had been receiving complaints from neighbors since May about deplorable conditions in and around La Rumba. She said that Mr. Ramos’s tenants told her that they have no water and electricity sometimes. She showed the commissioners photographs that she and Baltimore City inspectors had taken of large piles of garbage behind the building. She has also witnessed and taken photos of people who are so drunk that they are incapacitated coming from La Rumba, passing out behind the building.

Mr. Ramos said that the empty lot, though he does own it, has nothing to do with La Rumba. He said that the people in the photos aren’t his patrons. He also said that his tenants don’t have any problems with him. Other people dump debris on his property.

Commissioner Trotter asked Mr. Ramos, “is this a viable business?” Mr. Ramos replied that he was struggling to provide for his four children and that he was working at his business all the time, but that he wasn’t making much money.

Zoning R-8
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; no.
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 1
Attorney for community None
# of protestants 1
# of inspectors/police officers 2
Result of hearing Responsible. $750 fine for all four charges together.
Vote tally Unanimous
Portions of state law cited in decision None
Other reasons given for decision

Commissioner Trotter noted that Mr. Ramos is struggling but that his business is very close to a blight on the community. If Mr. Ramos comes back, Trotter would recommend a suspension.

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

None

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