Booze News: Distilled in Room 215

A blog about the Baltimore City Liquor Board

What happened at the Liquor Board on January 7, 2016.

Written by Becky Witt

All three BLLC commissioners were present for the January 7, 2016 docket.

I. Expedited Items:

Applicants Lisa Ran Hi Kim & Li Fang Jiang
Business Name Jia Jia Corporation
Trading As Federal Discount Liquors
Address 1619 E. Federal Street
Type of License Class “A” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing Application to transfer ownership
Hearing notes

Mr. Jay Yoo represented the two applicants and proffered the case on their behalf. Ms. Jiang is the 99% owner and president of the business; Ms. Kim is the required Baltimore City resident and 1% owner. Ms. Jiang is currently working at a nearby market, and, according to Mr. Yoo, is familiar with the neighborhood and knows everybody. Responding to Commissioner Hafey’s question about meeting with the community, Mr. Yoo proffered that his clients will meet soon with the Oliver Community Association. Yoo said that Ms. Kim has a good relationship with the community association.

Zoning R-8
Neighborhood Oliver
Area demographics 2% White, 96% Black, 0% Asian, 1% 2 or more races; 1% Hispanic ethnicity; 34% of households have children under age 18; Median Household Income: $21,224; 29% 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. Jay Yoo
# 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, in order for the application to be complete, the applicants must have obtained zoning approval for their business. The applicants checked the “no” box after the question “Do you have zoning approval?” The applicants wrote in the blank space provided that they would obtain a letter of approval for the zoning of their property within 30 days of the Board’s approval of the transfer.” This discrepancy with state law was not addressed during the hearing. Since the business is currently operating, it should already have zoning approval; otherwise, the business would be currently operating in violation of city law.

Also, under the section requiring the financial information for the business, the applicants wrote “please refer to original application.” It’s not clear what this means, and it was not addressed in the hearing.

Applicants George Gross & Ryan Kang
Business Name Christopher & Justin, Inc.
Trading As Block’s Discount Liquors
Address 4623 Reisterstown Road
Type of License Class “A” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing Application to transfer of ownership
Hearing notes

Attorney Jay Yoo represented the applicants in the transfer of ownership. He proffered that the applicants, Mrs. Kang and Mr. Gross, do not have criminal convictions or charges pending. Mr. Gross is the required Baltimore City resident on the license, born and raised in Baltimore City.

Commissioner Hafey pointed out that, on page 3 of the application, both licensees attest that they own 1% of the business. Mr. Yoo responded that this was a mistake: Mrs. Kang is the 99% owner, and Mr. Gross is a 1% owner. Yoo said that he would amend the application to reflect this.

Commissioner Hafey then asked about whether the applicants had contacted the community organizations in the area. Mr. Yoo replied that Mrs. Kang had contacted the one community organization that she was familiar with, called the Brothers and Sisters of All Faiths. This organization submitted a letter on behalf of the applicants, but they had thought the hearing was for a protest of renewal of the license. Yoo explained that this had been a miscommunication, but the community had been supportive of the transfer.

Chairman Neil noted that Ms. Kang’s previous business experience is in the sale of mobile phones; he asked, “what leads us to believe she will be able to operate a liquor establishment?” Mr. Yoo responded that it will be a new business opportunity for her, but he believes she will be successful.

Zoning R-6
Neighborhood Central Park Heights
Area demographics 2% White, 96% Black, 0% Asian; 1% Hispanic ethnicity; 38% households have children under age 18; 33% households living below the poverty line; median household income: $27,238.61.
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. Jay Yoo
# 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, in order for the application to be complete, the applicants must have obtained zoning approval for their business. The applicants checked the “no” box after the question “Do you have zoning approval?” The applicants wrote in the blank space provided that they would obtain a letter of approval for the zoning of their property within 60 days of the Board’s approval of the transfer.” This discrepancy with state law was not addressed during the hearing. Since the business is currently operating, it should already have zoning approval; otherwise, the business would be currently operating in violation of city law.

Also, under the section requiring the financial information for the business, the applicants wrote “please refer to original application.” It’s not clear what this means, and it was not addressed in the hearing.

Applicant Matthew Lasinski
Business Name Acrostic Enterprises, Inc.
Trading As Jokers And Thieves
Address 3000 O’Donnell Street
Type of License Class “BD-7” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing Application to transfer ownership
Hearing notes

Mr. Frank Shaulis represented the applicant, who was present, and proffered the case on his behalf. Mr. Lasinski currently is a manager at Blue Agave Restaurant and has had other experience in the restaurant industry in Salisbury, Maryland. He is a resident of Baltimore City and owns 100% of the business. Mr. Lasinski was found responsible for a violation of law in Salisbury: he had an underage employee on the payroll, who happened to be his brother. Mr. Shaulis explained that Lasinski is “a good boy.”

Commissioner Hafey asked whether Mr. Lasinski has reached out to the community; the applicant responded that he did speak to a community leader named Ms. Adamski who referred him to another gentleman whose name he could not remember, and he left messages for that person. Lasinski then testified that he spoke with Patricia Weaver, the head of the Canton Area Business Association and spoke individually to every single neighbor on the block to introduce himself. To Lasinski’s knowledge, the neighbors are supportive of the transfer.

Commissioner Trotter asked for more details about the financial transactions involved in the sale. Lasinski testified that he is leasing, not buying, the property. M & T Bank, from whom he had received his business loan, has a first lien on the liquor license, and the landlord has a second lien.

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 Essex, MD
One applicant reside in Balt for 2 yrs? Yes, but the section that asks for the length of time the applicant has been a city resident is blank.
Pecuniary interest of Baltimore City resident 100%
Attorney for licensee Mr. Frank Shaulis
# 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

There was no floor plan in the space provided in the application.

Lawyers as Witnesses: The attorney for the applicants, Frank Shaulis, signed as a character witness on their behalf. Though this is not a violation of state law or of Liquor Board regulations, to testify in favor of one’s client is a potential conflict of interest for the attorney.

Applicant Evan Morville
Business Name R. House Licensee, LLC
Trading As R. House
Address 301 W. 29th Street
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 requiring $200,000 in capital investment in restaurant fixtures and facilities and seating capacity for a minimum of 75 people.
Hearing notes

Ms. Caroline Hecker and Mr. Justin Williams, of Rosenberg Martin Greenberg, represented the applicant for the license, who was present with the proposed manager for the space. Hecker proffered that her clients were requesting a new Class B license, in the building formerly occupied by Anderson Automotive Body Shop in Remington. The landlord of the space is an affiliate of Seawall Development. The Planning Commission and BMZA have approved the Remington Row Planned Unit Development, which is a plan for a $60 million mixed use development. As a company, Seawall has developed a reputation for the renovation of historic structures in order to encourage collaboration and innovation among groups of professionals, said Hecker. R House will be an incubation space for chefs to operate together under one roof. This will help to lower startup and operating costs, and the chefs will collaborate with each other in the new style of restaurant. There will be 11 kitchens and an open seating area. The alcohol will be sold by the master licensee LLC from the one bar in the building from which alcoholic beverages will be sold. Each individual subtenant will not sell alcohol; only the master tenant will. There will be indoor table seating for 212 people, plus 35 bar seats and outdoor seats. Hecker said that her client will have no difficulty meeting the 50% food sales requirement for restaurant licenses found in Maryland state law. The total cost for the renovation of the building will be $5 million, of which $1 million will be spent inside, and Hecker’s client anticipates opening in late 2016. Hecker submitted letters of support from the Greater Remington Improvement Association, Charles Village Civic Association, and City Council Members Mary Pat Clarke and Carl Stokes. She also submitted a petition in favor of the new license from 24 of the residents who live in the adjoining blocks.

Ms. Joan Floyd, President of the Remington Neighborhood Alliance, expressed concern about the proposed new license with respect to the children of the neighborhood. Her neighborhood organization has been working for years to get a neighborhood school built on a property very close to the proposed R House. The community was able to get the property in question rezoned for public use, in order to preserve it for future development as a school, though it is currently being used by the Baltimore City Police Department. Floyd asked that alcohol not be served on the sidewalk area outside, which is where the neighbors imagine will be the entrance of the future school. She stated that her organization would prefer that the licensee be more family friendly and not allow drinking alcohol outside.

Ms. Hecker responded that her client could not agree not to offer alcohol outdoors. She said that the seating areas would be screened from the public. She also said that Seawall supports the future development of a school, but there is no school now and no plan to construct a school in the foreseeable future.

Zoning B-3-2
Neighborhood Remington
Area demographics 44% White, 35% Black, 3% 2 or more races, 13% Asian, 5% Hispanic ethnicity; 11% households have children under age 18; median household income: $30,130.79; 14% households live below the poverty line
Does corp entity exist, in good standing? Yes; yes.
Location of entity’s principal office Baltimore, MD
One applicant reside in Balt for 2 yrs? Yes.
Pecuniary interest of Baltimore City resident 100%
Attorney for licensee Ms. Caroline Hecker & Mr. Justin Williams, Rosenberg Martin Greenberg
# in support 2
Attorney for community None
# of protestants 1
# 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 Nathan Douglas McKinney
Business Name Das Bier Haus, LLC
Trading As Das Bier Haus
Address 1542 Light Street
Type of License Class “BD-7” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing Application to transfer ownership, off premises catering and live entertainment
Hearing notes

Mr. Peter Prevas represented the applicant in his request for the transfer of ownership of a license for a German-style restaurant. Prevas submitted a copy of the menu. The applicant will be the full time operator, but has also hired a general manager and a chef and will have 12 employees. There is a current memorandum of understanding with the South Baltimore Neighborhood Association, which contains restrictions which will become part of the license. The live entertainment at this location will be held three nights a week and will be mostly acoustic music.

The commissioners asked about the financial details of the proposed transfer of ownership. Mr. Prevas pointed out that the new BLLC application does not contain a space to include this information. Prevas proffered that the cost of the business is $170,000, and the previous licensees have a security interest in the license, which is subordinate to the loan on the note for the purchase of the business.

Zoning B-2-3
Neighborhood South Baltimore
Area demographics 90% White, 3% Black, 3% Asian; 3% Hispanic ethnicity; 15% households have children under age 18; median household income: $73,342; 8% households live below the poverty line.
Does corp entity exist, in good standing? Yes; yes.
Location of entity’s principal office Baltimore, MD
One applicant reside in Balt for 2 yrs? Yes.
Pecuniary interest of Baltimore City resident 100%
Attorney for licensee Mr. Peter Prevas
# 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 None.
Applicants Lebo Poldmae & Maret Poldmae
Business Name M & M Shine, LLC
Trading As Trade Name Pending
Address 2300 Boston Street
Type of License Class “BD-7” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing Application to transfer ownership, off premises catering and live entertainment.
Hearing notes

Mr. David Mister proffered the case on behalf of his clients, the applicants. The two applicants are a mother and son. Mr. Poldmae has been in the restaurant business in other counties (Carroll, Baltimore, and Anne Arundel) for over twenty years and has never had a license suspended or revoked. Mrs. Poldmae, according to Mister, is not going to be an operator of the business. Mister’s clients’ plan is to keep the same business model at the establishment, serving Southern cuisine. There is already an MOU in place with the community association, ratified by the Zoning Board’s decision regarding live entertainment at the location. There will be acoustic music at the restaurant, with no more than two performers. There will also be three outdoor tables, with two people at each.

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 Cockeysville, MD
One applicant reside in Balt for 2 yrs? Yes.
Pecuniary interest of Baltimore City resident 1%
Attorney for licensee Mr. David Mister
# 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 third character witness submitted as her address “1507 W. Northern Avenue.” There is no “Northern Avenue” in Baltimore City, though there is a “Northern Parkway.” Even if the witness meant to write “Northern Parkway,” however, that address is not valid, according to the State Department of Assessments and Taxation.

II. Violations:

Licensee Lois Finifter
Business Name M. M. & T., Inc.
Trading As Joe’s Place
Address 6200 Reisterstown Road
Type of License Class “BD-7” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing

Violation of Rule 4.15: Gambling- September 2, 2015/August 15, 2015/)uly 28,2015- At approximately 9:00PM, members of the Baltimore City Police Department’s Vice Squad executed a search and seizure warrant in reference to an undercover illegal gambling investigation where Det Akinwande and Det. Garrett had previously observed multiple pay outs on video slot gaming machines in the establishment on July 28, 2015 and August 15, 2015. Upon execution of the search and seizure warrant, Baltimore Police recovered: (1) 3 poker machine switches; (2) 3 power packs; (3) Poker machine mother boards; (4) Payout Slips; and (5) U.S. Currency Dollar amount:$3,931.00.

Hearing notes

Attorney Robert Tully, on behalf of his client, Lois Finifter, admitted the violation and stipulated to the information provided by the police officers in their report. Detective Akinwande summarized the charges by stating that he, with his fellow Vice Unit officers and detectives, had observed two counts of illegal gambling on two different poker machines. Based on their observations, the detectives received a search warrant, which they executed. They found payout sheets on the machines and seized the poker machines, money, payout slips, and power packs. The total amount of money seized was nearly $4,000. The employee who was involved in the illegal gambling, who was not the licensee, was criminally charged, but his case was placed on the stet docket in District Court. Mr. Tully explained that Ms. Finifter did not know that illegal gambling was happening at her bar, because she was over her head and in the midst of selling the bar to a new owner. Since the violation, the bar has transferred to new ownership.

Zoning B-3-1
Neighborhood Reisterstown Station
Area demographics 28% White, 63% Black, 1% Asian; 5% Hispanic ethnicity; 27% households have children under age 18; median household income: $37,372.32; 18% of households living 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? N/A
Pecuniary interest of Baltimore City resident N/A
Attorney for licensee Mr. Robert Tully
# in support 1
Attorney for community None
# of protestants 0
# of inspectors/police officers 3
Result of hearing Responsible for charge. $1,000 fine.
Vote tally Unanimous
Portions of state law cited in decision None
Other reasons given for decision

Chairman Neil and Commissioner Hafey agreed on the $1,000 charge; Commissioner Trotter stated that he would have wanted a higher fine, since this was a second violation with a year and a half.

Issues raised in audit present in this case or other issues observed None
Licensee Max Moog
Business Name 34 Market Place Concessionaire, LLC
Trading As Power Plant Live!
Address 34 Market Place, Luckies Tavern
Type of License Class “B” Arena Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing

Violation of Rule 4.01(a): Minors -August 9, 2015- At approximately 1:30 am, Baltimore City Police responded to the establishment to answer a sexual assault call. Upon arriving at the establishment, Police Officer Alex Haziminas made contact with both the alleged victim and suspect of the assault. Investigation revealed that both the alleged victim and suspect were under 21 years of age. Further investigation revealed that a barback, who was working at Luckies Tavern, allowed the two minors to gain entry into the establishment through and emergency exit Both minors admitted to police that they purchased and had been served alcoholic beverages at the establishment.

Violation of Rule 4.18: Illegal Conduct- August 9, 2015- At approximately 1:30 am, Baltimore City Police responded to the establishment to answer a sexual assault call. Upon arriving at the establishment, Police Officer Alex Haziminas made contact with both the alleged victim and suspect of the assault. Investigation revealed that both the alleged victim and suspect were under 21 years of age. Further investigation revealed that a barback, who was working at Luckies Tavern, allowed the two minors to gain entry into the establishment through and emergency exit. Both minors admitted to police that they purchased and had been served alcoholic beverages at the establishment. Witnesses claimed that they observed the suspect assault the victim after the victim passed out, due to over-intoxication, in a bathroom stall.

Violation of Rule 3.12: Public Welfare- August 9, 2015 -At approximately 1:30 am, Baltimore City Police responded to the establishment to answer a sexual assault call. Upon arriving at the establishment, Police Officer Alex Haziminas made contact with both the alleged victim and suspect of the assault. Investigation revealed that both the alleged victim and suspect were under 21years of age. Further investigation revealed that a barback, who was working at Luckies Tavern, allowed the two minors to gain entry into the establishment through and emergency exit. Both minors admitted to police that they purchased and had been served alcoholic beverages at the establishment. Witnesses claimed that they observed the suspect assault the victim after the victim passed out, due to over-intoxication, in a bathroom stall.

Violation of Rule 4.02: Inebriates and Drug Addicts-August 9, 2015 -At approximately 1:30 am, Baltimore City Police responded to the establishment to answer a sexual assault call. Upon arriving at the establishment, Police observed the alleged victim of the assault passed out in a bathroom stall due to being over­ intoxicated. The victim awoke from her inebriated and unconscious state after the Baltimore City Police had arrived at the establishment.

Hearing notes

Mr. Frank Boston represented the licensee and moved that the first three charges be merged into one, since the supporting facts are the same. Boston, on behalf of his clients, admitted that the facts, as stated by the police in their reports, were correct.

A Baltimore City Police officer, in his “secondary employment” at Power Plant Live testified that he was on duty on August 9, 2015, at 1:30am when security staff notified officers that there was an incident taking place in Luckies Tavern. He identified two individuals who were in the women’s bathroom and involved in sexual activity. The two individuals, one male and one female, were both highly intoxicated and were both under the age of 21. The officer identified them using their Maryland state IDs. At first, the individuals could not identify each other, and the officers and security personnel treated the situation as a potential rape. The young woman was taken to the hospital, and the young man was taken to the sex offense department of the police department and debriefed. The two individuals had gained access to Luckies Tavern through a side door, which was held open for them by their friends, who were employees of Luckies Tavern.

Mr. Boston asked the officer whether it was later determined that there was no sexual assault. The officer replied that there were no charges filed. Boston asked whether the sexual activity turned out to be between a boyfriend and girlfriend. The officer said that this may have been the case, but when he got to the scene, the two individuals did not know who each other were.

The licensee for Power Plant Live as well as the general manager and general counsel for the business testified briefly about their oversight over the 12 restaurants and bars that operate under the Power Plant Live’s arena license. The only power in the lease agreements between Power Plant Live and its subtenants is termination of the lease. Each individual establishments purchases and manages its own alcoholic beverages. Chairman Neil pointed out that arena licenses can be problematic for the Liquor Board to manage, because the offense takes place at a particular subtenant, but the Board only has the power to fine, suspend or revoke the entire license. Neil and Trotter agreed that they would prefer to have access to management agreements that would allow the Board to fine, suspend or revoke the licenses for just the individual subtenants. The Power Plant Live representatives testified that they do not inspect the individual records of each subtenant. They stressed that a rogue employee had let the two individuals inside, and this person had been terminated, along with the bartender who served the individuals and the manager who was on duty at the time. They have also installed alarms at all doors leading outside and motion-detection security cameras.

In mitigation, Mr. Boston also submitted a letter of support from a member of the Baltimore County underage drinking coalition, who commended Power Plant Live for voluntarily stopping advertising to 18-year-olds. Boston pointed out that Power Plant Live has charitable partners, including Cupid’s Undie Run. He said that his clients would like to be the model citizen in alcohol service in Baltimore City. He called three Liquor Board inspectors to testify in support of Power Plant Live. Assistant Chief Inspector Mark Fosler testified extensively about his interactions with Power Plant Live as part of the Baltimore County underage drinking task force. In 2005, Power Plant Live voluntarily stopped doing college nights, which decreased the issues with underage drinking. Inspectors Howard and Chrissomallis also said that they had not personally seen any issues or violations at Power Plant Live.

At the end of the hearing, Chairman Neil granted Mr. Boston’s motion, merging the Rule 4.18 (Illegal Conduct) and Rule 4.02 (Inebriates) charges with the Rule 4.01(a) charge. He found the licensees responsible for the remaining two violations and suggested a $500 fine for each charge, for a total of $1,000. Commissioner Trotter thought that there should be a $1,000 fine per minor, since there were two of them. Commissioner Hafey voted in favor of a $1,500 fine ($1,000 for the first offense and $500 for the second). Trotter agreed with Hafey.

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. Frank Boston
# in support 3
Attorney for community None
# of protestants 0
# of inspectors/police officers 4
Result of hearing Responsible for two violations, $1,500 fine.
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

Commissioner Hafey asked whether there was a maximum charge for the second violation (3.12 – public welfare) of $500. Executive Secretary Michelle Bailey-Hedgepeth answered “correct.” This is not correct, actually. Article 2B section 16-507(d) states that, for “any violation that is cause for suspension,” the BLLC may “for a first offense, impose a fine of not more than $500 or suspend the license or both” or “for any subsequent offense, impose a fine of not more than $3,000 or suspend the license or both.” The Board had already found the Power Plant Live responsible for a sale to minors charge (the fine for which, after a 2014 statutory change, is capped at $1,000). Therefore, for the subsequent violation, the maximum fine was $3,000, not $500.

The police report for this incident provides a good deal more detail about the incidents than was provided by the officer during the hearing. The police report stated that “during the course of the evening, [the young woman] went to the female bathroom and passed out inside of a stall in the female bathroom. Somehow, [the young man] ended up inside the stall with her.” Two female witnesses were in the bathroom and saw that a young woman and young man were in the same stall. They were worried that the young man would try to assault the young woman, so they notified security. The witnesses told the police and security that the young man was “on top of” the young woman but they were unable to see anything else that took place inside the stall. The alleged victim refused a pelvic exam at the hospital.

Under the facts as stated by the police report, the question of whether the young man and young woman were boyfriend and girlfriend, as raised by Mr. Boston, was made irrelevant by the fact that the young woman was, by all accounts, unconscious during the alleged sexual activity.

III. Protest of Renewal

DISCLAIMER Community Law Center staff attorney Becky Lundberg Witt represented the community association in this case.
Applicants Brian M. Grace & Haley Scott Taggert
Business Name Fireball Entertainment, Inc.
Trading As The Big Easy Cabaret
Address 2000 Eastern Avenue
Type of License Adult Entertainment License
Reason for hearing Protest of renewal under the provisions of Baltimore City Code- Adult Entertainment Article 15 1-14.
Hearing notes

Mr. Peter Prevas began the hearing by explaining the history behind the case. The prior administration of the Board had held a hearing on a protest of renewal of the adult entertainment license for the Big Easy on April 30, 2015. The Board had voted not to renew the adult entertainment license. The licensees had appealed to the Circuit Court, where the judge ruled that the protest of renewal had been filed prematurely and remanded the case to the agency. The licensee had then submitted their adult entertainment renewal application, which the community had again protested, which brought the case back for a hearing. Mr. Prevas also objected to the entire adult entertainment ordinance on First Amendment Constitutional grounds, arguing that the city code is overbroad because it does not contain a carve-out provision for artistic expression and theatrical performances. The Board denied his motion to dismiss based on First Amendment grounds.

Ms. Becky Witt (see disclaimer above) represented the Fells Prospect Community Association in this protest of renewal. First, Witt went through previous testimony taken at a November 20, 2014 violation hearing and the April 23, 2015 protest hearing of the renewal of the liquor license. Previous testimony by Mr. Brian Grace about his residence on the Eastern Shore, his full time job in Washington, DC, and his hiring of his full time manager, Richard Mariano, was introduced into the record. Then, Witt went through federal court documents from the case against Mr. Mariano for one count of possession of cocaine with the intent to distribute. The documents showed that Mr. Mariano had used the Big Easy as a place to discuss future drug transactions with federal confidential sources and, in one instance, as a location where he sold cocaine. Mr. Mariano’s cell phones had been wiretapped, and he also said on that call that a large fight on September 21, 2014 had actually taken place inside the Big Easy, though he testified in person on November 20, 2014 that there was no fight.

Four community members testified against the Big Easy: Ms. Marianne Furgison, Mr. Robert Burch, Ms. Chrissy Anderson, and Ms. Deborah Tempura. All of them testified that the establishment had been a danger and a nuisance to them individually and to the community collectively.

Mr. Prevas called Mr. Grace to testify that hiring Mr. Mariano, a convicted drug trafficker, had been a mistake, but he had learned his lesson and would run a better business in the future, if given the opportunity by the board. Ms. Haley Taggart, a proposed new licensee, also testified briefly about her qualifications.

Zoning B-2-2
Neighborhood Upper Fells Point
Area demographics 53% White, 32% Black, 8% Asian, 3% 2 or more races; 4% Hispanic ethnicity; 6% households have children under age 18; Median Household Income: $38,331; 5.5 % households live below poverty line.
Does corp entity exist, in good standing? Yes; yes.
Location of entity’s principal office Baltimore, MD
One applicant reside in Balt for 2 yrs? N/A
Pecuniary interest of Baltimore City resident N/A
Attorney for licensee Mr. Peter Prevas
# in support 2
Attorney for community Ms. Becky Lundberg Witt (see disclaimer above)
# of protestants 6
# of inspectors/police officers 0
Result of hearing Renewal denied
Vote tally 2-0 (Chairman Neil decided not to vote)
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.

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