Booze News: Distilled in Room 215

A blog about the Baltimore City Liquor Board

What happened at the Liquor Board on February 11, 2016.

Written by Becky Witt

I. Regular Items:

Applicants Tzita Ephrem & Patrick Buttarazzi, Jr
Business Name MHF Baltimore DT Operating V, LLC
Trading As Fairfield Inn and Suites
Address 101 S. President Street
Type of License Class “BHM” – Hotel-Motel Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing Application to transfer ownership, Live Entertainment and outdoor table service.
Hearing notes

Ms. Leanne Schrecengost represented the applicants, one of whom was present at the hearing. Tzita Ephrem is the required “city resident” on the application for a transfer of ownership. Schrecengost proffered that the operation of the hotel is not changing with the ownership. The applicants are asking for outdoor seating in their courtyard, which is completely enclosed, and which no one can access but guests. They will only have live entertainment during special events.

Commissioner Trotter asked whether the building was zoned properly; Executive Secretary Michelle Bailey-Hedgepeth replied that it was. Commissioner Hafey asked whether the licensees will be alcohol management certified. Ms. Ephrem, who lives in Boston, is certified, but the other licensee will not be spending time on site and will not be certified. Their general manager, who was not present, was certified and trained. Hafey asked whether there was any information from any community association. Schrecengost replied that there is no community association in that area, downtown, but she has received support from the Downtown Partnership and the Waterfront Partnership.

Zoning B-3-2
Neighborhood Jonestown
Area demographics 58% Black, 29% White, 5% Asian; 7% Hispanic ethnicity; 29% of households have children under age 18; Average household income: $30,550.74; 35% households below the poverty line
Does corp entity exist, in good standing? Yes; yes.
Location of entity’s principal office Warwick, RI
One applicant reside in Balt for 2 yrs? Yes.
Pecuniary interest of Baltimore City resident 1%
Attorney for licensee Ms. Leanne Schrecengost
# 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 Art. 2B section 10-202(a)(2)
Other reasons given for decision None
Issues raised in audit present in this case or other issues observed

Community associations: According to City View, there are six potential community associations that cover this property: Brewer’s Hill Community Association, Historic Jonestown Business Association, Jonestown Planning Council, Inc., Little Italy Community Organization, Southeast Community Development Corporation, and Southeastern District Police Community Relations Council.

II. Violations:

Licensees Sierra Dennison & Vincent Griffin
Business Name GM Holdings
Trading As Lust
Address 408 East Baltimore Street
Type of License Adult Entertainment and Class BD7
Reason for hearing

Violation of Rule 14: Adult Entertainment – Preventing Nuisances – November 21, 2015– At approximately 12:10 am Baltimore City Police and Inspector Chrissomallis responded to the establishment for a physical altercation. Upon arrival, police determined that the establishment staff was attempting to exit a patron, Mr. Ridley, when he threw a bottle at the head of a dancer. The bottle struck the dancer who had to be taken to the hospital. Inspector Chrissomallis personally observed the establishment in a state of chaos: dancers were being aggressive almost starting fights between each other and dancers were being aggressive toward police officers openly cursing and attempting to instigate physical altercations.

Violation of Rule 3.12: Public Welfare – November 21, 2015– At approximately 12:10 am Baltimore City Police and Inspector Chrissomallis responded to the establishment for a physical altercation. Upon arrival, police determined that the establishment staff was attempting to exit a patron, Mr. Ridley, when he threw a bottle at the head of a dancer. The bottle struck the dancer who had to be taken to the hospital. Inspector Chrissomallis personally observed the establishment in a state of chaos: dancers were being aggressive almost starting fights between each other and dancers were being aggressive toward police officers openly cursing and attempting to instigate physical altercations.

Violation of Rule 3.03(c): Records – November 21, 2015– At approximately 12:10 am Baltimore City Police and Inspector Chrissomallis responded to the establishment for a physical altercation. During the investigation, Inspector Chrissomallis requested employee records for the dance staff and security staff. As per Inspector Chrissomallis, the establishment lacked records for a security guard and the dancer that was injured by the bottle.

Hearing notes

Mr. Peter Prevas, for his client, Sierra Dennison, told the commissioners that his clients do note dispute the facts of what happened but would like to be heard about the circumstances. Prevas proffered that Ms. Dennison was present during the incident. A patron became unruly in the club and was in the process of being ejected by security staff. When the patron began to fight with the security guard, another security staff stepped in for his coworker to remove the patron. The first security guard was walking away from the situation when the patron grabbed a beer bottle from the counter and threw it at him. The patron’s aim was bad and the bottle missed the security guard and hit a dancer instead. At this point, a nearby police officer came in, apprehended the patron and charged him. When Mr. Chrissomallis, a Liquor Board inspector, came in, the dancers were still upset because their friend had been hit by the beer bottle. Prevas said that, with respect to the employee records, his client did have all of the records, but some of them could not be found on that night. Ms. Dennison testified that the patron was “a little intoxicated, acting rowdy, showing off to his friends, just being rude.”

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? No; no. The corporate entity is forfeited, as of October 1, 2015.
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 1
Attorney for community None
# of protestants 0
# of inspectors/police officers 1
Result of hearing Responsible for all three violations. $1,000 fine for the records charge; $600 each for the public welfare and preventing nuisances charges.
Vote tally 2-1
Portions of state law cited in decision None
Other reasons given for decision Prior violations for similar charges
Issues raised in audit present in this case or other issues observed None.
Licensee Erika Pair
Business Name 411 East LLC
Trading As Red Room
Address 411 E. Baltimore St
Type of License Adult Entertainment and Class BD7
Reason for hearing

Violation of Rule 14: Adult Entertainment – Preventing Nuisances – November 26, 2015 – At approximately 10:17 pm Baltimore City Police responded to the establishment for an assault call for service. Upon arrival, police observed an individual lying in a pool a blood. Investigation revealed that an employee of the establishment, a Mr. Javier Reyes, had an argument with the victim over payment. During the argument Mr. Reyes stabbed the victim while in the establishment with a knife. Mr. Reyes then discarded the knife on the scene and left the establishment. The victim was taken to the hospital. Police conducted a search for Mr. Reyes and found him close to the establishment. A search of Mr. Reyes’ person revealed illegal narcotics and illegal paraphernalia. Mr. Reyes was arrested and subsequently charged with 1st Degree Assault.

Violation of Rule 3.12: Public Welfare – November 26, 2015– At approximately 10:17 pm Baltimore City Police responded to the establishment for an assault call for service. Upon arrival, police observed an individual lying in a pool a blood. Investigation revealed that the an employee of the establishment, a Mr. Javier Reyes, had an argument with the victim over payment. During the argument Mr. Reyes stabbed the victim while in the establishment with a knife. Mr. Reyes then discarded the knife on the scene and left the establishment. The victim was taken to the hospital. Police conducted a search for Mr. Reyes and found him close to the establishment. A search of Mr. Reyes’ person revealed illegal narcotics and illegal paraphernalia. Mr. Reyes was arrested and subsequently charged with 1st Degree Assault.

Hearing notes

Baltimore City Police officer Daniel Mui testified that he responded to a call from the bar on November 26, 2015 for an aggravated assault by cutting. When he arrived, the victim was lying in a pool of blood on the sidewalk outside of the club. He spoke with three witnesses, who told him that the victim was having payment issues at the club. His friend had tried to pay with two different credit cards, which were both declined. A club employee, Mr. Reyes, entered into a verbal dispute with the victim and, after a few minutes of argument, stabbed him in the back left shoulder, leaving a deep wound. Reyes immediately left, after tossing the knife he had used to stab the victim to a Mr. Palmer, who was later identified as another club employee. Palmer hid the knife in a trash can, from which it was later retrieved by the police. The police canvassed the area, where they found Reyes sitting in his vehicle. They arrested Reyes immediately.

When asked by Kodenski whether the employees were cooperative during the investigation, Mui testified that they were, in general, but they only helped police find the knife after the security camera footage showed that the knife was placed in a trash can.

Commissioner Trotter asked whether any drugs were found on the club premises. Mui responded that they did not find drugs in the club, but Reyes had drugs in his car when he was arrested.

Officer Michael Rocks testified that he had found and arrested Mr. Reyes in his car nearby. The police had knocked on Reyes’ car window, and he was unconscious. When he became conscious, they extracted him from the car and recovered narcotics from his person and from his car. Rocks said that Reyes seemed to be under the influence of narcotics.

Mr. Kodenski, for the licensee, made a motion to combine the charges into one violation. Chairman Neil denied the motion.

In mitigation, Kodenski argued that the licensee has been at the location for 10 years, and nothing has happened since 2010, which is unusual for an Adult Entertainment venue. In this instance, they opened on Thanksgiving, which they don’t normally do. They usually have more security than anywhere else on The Block, and it’s not normally the kind of place where this happens.

The commissioners asked who Mr. Palmer is. Steven Kougl testified that Mr. Palmer is “the cleanup guy” who cleans up the bar at the end of the night. Commissioner Trotter quipped, “and knives, too.” The licensee testified that they did not do a background check on either Palmer or Reyes.

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 2
Result of hearing Responsible for both violations. $1,000 fine and 4-day suspension.
Vote tally Unanimous
Portions of state law cited in decision None
Other reasons given for decision

Commissioner Trotter noted that the adult entertainment license is a “tricky license” and that the licensee is responsible, because his employee stabbed a patron. Commissioner Hafey agreed and was concerned that there were actually two employees involved in the incident.

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

During the hearing, Kodenski complained that the victim of the stabbing was not summonsed to be present for cross-examination. Under Art. 2B section 16-410, the Board is authorized to issue summonses for witnesses for any hearing or inquiry. However, the Board has the discretion to decide whether it is necessary to issue summonses to additional witnesses. The summonses must be served by the sheriff or by Liquor Board inspectors (not by the licensee’s attorney or representative, as suggested by the Board during this hearing). The Board may also subpoena any records or papers pertaining to a licensed business or establishment.

Licensees Louis Burch & William Packo
Business Name Po Do Pac, Inc
Trading As Greene Turtle
Address 718 South Broadway
Type of License Class “B” Beer, Wine and Liquor
Reason for hearing

Violation of Rule 4.16: Illegal Conduct – December 27, 2015 – At approximately 12:07am Inspector John Chrissomallis, Tom Karanikolis, and Agent Mark Fosler responded to the establishment based on 311 Complaint 15-00957552 (Sales to Minors). While investigators did not personally observe any Sales to Minors, investigators did observe one patron – in a light green t-shirt – exit the establishment with a bottle of beer. The patron crossed the street and continued consuming the open container on a public side walk, off the licensed premises and in full public view.

Hearing notes

Liquor Board Inspector Mark Fosler testified that, on December 26, 2015, he and Inspectors Karanikolis and Chrissomallis conducted a special investigation of the Green Turtle, after receiving a 311 call complaining that the bar was hosting a college party with underage students. The inspectors did not see any evidence of underage drinking, but they did see one person leave the bar with an open container of alcohol and cross Broadway. When he realized that the inspectors had seen him, he kicked the bottle into the gutter. Fosler testified that he didn’t try to stop the individual for safety reasons, because there was no visible police presence and there were a lot of people in the street. He did not call the police.

The licensee at the Green Turtle testified that carrying around open containers on weekend nights is common practice in Fells Point, because there’s no significant police presence until closing time. He said that the young person deceived the door security guard, which he sees all the time. After questioning by Commissioner Trotter, the licensee says that he does not call the police when he sees people with open containers.

Prevas argued that someone walking out onto the public street with an open container is a violation of the law; however, he said that the licensee did not allow the commission of the violation of law, and the open container violation was on the sidewalk, not on the licensed premises. Commissioner Hafey disagreed, saying that, especially with a young crowd, licensees have to be on the lookout to prevent people from sneaking out open containers. To Prevas’s first argument, Inspector Fosler noted that he could easily see the young man leave with the container, even from across the street.

Zoning B-3-2
Neighborhood Fells Point
Area demographics 53% White, 32% Black, 8% Asian, 3% 2 or more races; 4% Hispanic ethnicity; 6% households have children under age 18; Median Household Income: $38,331; 5.5 % households live below poverty line.
Does corp entity exist, in good standing? Yes; yes.
Location of entity’s principal office 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 1
Attorney for community None
# of protestants 0
# of inspectors/police officers 3
Result of hearing Responsible. $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 None.

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