Booze News: Distilled in Room 215

A blog about the Baltimore City Liquor Board

What happened at the Liquor Board on March 9, 2017.

Written by Becky Witt

11:00 a.m.

I. Regular Items (New, Transfers, Expansions and Hardships):

Applicant Tizita Ephrem and Patrick Buttarazzi, Jr.
Business Name MHF Baltimore DT Operating V, LLC
Trading As Fairfield Inn & Suites
Address 101 S. President Street
Type of License Class “B” (H-M) Beer, Wine &s Liquor License
Reason for hearing Application to transfer ownership with continuation of outdoor table service and request for live entertainment.
Hearing notes

Leanne Schrecengost of Royston, Mueller, McLean & Reid represented the applicants, one of whom was present. Schrecengost proffered that she and her client were present for the second time on the same application. The request was approved by the prior administration of the Board, but the 180-day time limit expired before the transfer was completed. The applicants then had to submit a new application for the same request. The hotel is currently open and operating. Ms. Ephrem testified that her company currently runs 25 hotels and purchased this hotel last year.

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

During the 2017 legislative session, the General Assembly passed SB 1122, which will allow one 90-day extension for transfers of ownership and/or location, if they cannot be completed within the initial statutory 180 days. In practice, this will make no difference to the situation that currently exists; it will merely change the form of the hearing from a new application, during which an abbreviated version of the transfer information is presented, to a hardship extension hearing.

This bill was introduced by Senator Joan Carter Conway (43rd district) at the request of the Liquor Board, without any notice to the community. The first time that the agency sent out its letter of support for the bill was at 10pm the night before the bill’s scheduled hearing in the Senate.

Applicants Jasvir Mavi and Damon Briscoe
Business Name Side Street, LLC
Trading As Side Street Lounge
Address 625-27 N. Glover Street
Type of License Class “BD7” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing Application to transfer ownership and requesting delivery of alcoholic beverages.
Hearing notes

Mr. Melvin Kodenski represented the applicants, one of whom was present. Kodenski told the commissioners that his client was in the same position as the prior case: he had already been approved, but he did not complete his transfer within 180 days. Mr. Mavi has been working as a clerk for about three and a half years in the alcoholic beverages business at Chris Liquors on Washington Boulevard. Mr. Mavi’s cousin owns Chris Liquors. Commissioner Moore asked whether Mavi was aware of any problems at his current establishment since he has worked there; Mavi replied that he was not aware of any problems, but his cousin “might have” had problems. He added, “sometimes people, they just call.” Moore asked, “do you know who it is who calls and complains?” Mavi replied, “maybe from the neighborhood.”

Commissioner Greenfield noted that, in the inspectors’ comments in an October report, that there was trash behind the store. Greenfield said that trash would be a significant issue that the licensee will have to address at his new location.

Commissioner Moore asked whether the Glover Street location is open and operating. Mavi replied that he did not know. Kodenski also did not know when or if the current owners stopped operating, though there was an inspector’s report in the file saying that the business was open in November 2015.

Inspector Mark Fosler interviewed a neighbor of the Glover Street business in October 2016, who said that the business had not been open since January or February 2016 and there had been people doing renovations. The general appearance, according to Fosler, was that the business had been closed for some time. Fosler asked the licensee to present taxes paid, receipts or invoices from wholesalers. The Chairman said that the information before them, then, was inaccurate. Fosler agreed. Commissioner Moore said that the Board cannot transfer a license that is expired.

Deputy Executive Secretary Tom Akras testified briefly that there was an open question of whether the license was valid, so the commissioners decided to postpone their decision until they could get some more information.

Result of hearing Postponed
Vote tally N/A
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 is a consistent pattern of 311 calls and complaints at Chris Liquors, going back months, about prostitution, drug sales, and loitering. See 311 calls list here. There have been no violation hearings on any of those complaints scheduled for Chris Liquors since Booze News began in 2013.

Applicant Sanjay Shah, Charles Uttenrither, and Chiragkumar Patel
Business Name Kosha, Inc.
Trading As Mall Spirits
Address 6630 Reisterstown Road
Type of License Class “A” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing Application to transfer ownership.
Hearing notes

Mr. Abraham Hurdle represented the applicants; he proffered that the existing licensees are Mr. Shah and Mr. Uttenreither. Mr. Patel is buying a 90% majority interest in the business. Nothing about the establishment will change; only the ownership will change. The license transferred previously in 2014 and there have been no violations since then. Mr. Patel testified that he had previously worked at a retail liquor store in Harford County, with no violations.

Result of hearing Approved
Vote tally Approved
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 Geoffrey Danek
Business Name Holy Frijoles, Inc.
Trading As Holy Frijoles
Address 908-12 W. 36th Street
Type of License Class “B” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing Request for a hardship extension under the provisions of the Alcoholic Beverages Article § 12-2202.
Hearing notes

Mr. Kodenski explained that there was an electrical fire at this establishment in August 2016, and his client is trying to rebuild. Mr. Danek testified that he is still waiting for building permits, but all of the demolition has been done. He has already hired the contractors to do the work, once he’s received the permits.

Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke testified in favor of the hardship extension request, noting that half of City Hall and all of her family insisted that she be present at the hearing to support the hardship extension request. She said that permits are coming out slowly from the City, since she is waiting for permits for the Book Thing’s rebuilding. Moore and Clarke both commiserated about their trunks full of books that need to be dropped off at the Book Thing.

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

Alcoholic Beverages Article section 12-2202(b) states that “The Board may grant [a hardship] extension if the Board finds after a hearing that existing hardship caused the closing or stopping of business operations.” This is the rare case in which the facts actually do support the finding required in section 12-2202(b), but the commissioners did not refer to or quote this section of the code in their decision; instead, they simply voted in favor of the extension. They did not make statements of fact or draw conclusions of law, as required by basic administrative law.

1:00 p.m.

II. Violations:

Licensees Margaret Anderson and Marie Ann Oakes
Business Name Marge’s Inn, Inc.
Trading As Fred & Margie’s Inn
Address 3603-05 Fairhaven Avenue
Type of License Class “B” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing

Violation of Rule 4.12: Gambling – December 21, 2016 – At approximately 8:50 pm, members of the Vice Squad of the Baltimore City Police Department – which included Det. Gatto, Det. Greenhill, Det. Akinwande, and Sgt. Leisher – executed a search and seizure warrant at the establishment. Among the various items seized, Police recovered numerous envelopes titled with various upcoming professional football matchups. Within these envelopes police recovered U.S. currency totaling $405.00. Based on an undercover investigation by the Vice Squad just prior to executing the search warrant, it was discovered that the licensee was running an illegal sports booking/gambling operation.

Hearing notes

Baltimore City Vice Unit Detective Abraham Gatto testified that he visited the establishment, undercover, on December 11 and 12. On the 11th, he noticed that there were four patrons playing poker machines; he sat at the bar and watched the football game. He listened to patrons talking about making bets on the game. A man named Chuck was the one who was organizing the bets; at one point, the bartender called Chuck for directions on how to place certain bets. The next night, Gatto went again and saw Chuck using a deck of cards to take bets. On the 12th, Gatto saw a patron motion to the bartender to cash out of the poker machine that she was playing, which is illegal. The bartender made a note of the points on the poker machine screen and gave the patron cash. On the 21st, the Vice Unit executed a search warrant for the establishment. They found envelopes containing various quantities of cash in the register drawer labeled with different football games.

The licensees’ attorney, Mr. Richard Karceski, objected to Gatto’s testimony about the poker machines, because the charge against his clients was related to the bets on the football games, not the illegal payoff from the poker machines.

Marie Oakes testified that she had previously told Chuck, a patron at the bar, that he was not allowed to do football pools at her bar. On the day that the police executed the search warrant, Ms. Oakes was not at the bar, but the bartender told Oakes afterward that Chuck had asked the bartender to put the money from the pool in her purse. Instead, she put the money in the register.

Commissioner Moore questioned the licensees further about Chuck and the bar. Oakes testified that she doesn’t know Chuck well, but he is in the bar two or three times per week. She added that the neighborhood around the bar has degenerated. Ms. Anderson lives upstairs and Ms. Oakes is at the bar most days. They testified that they told Chuck that he is not welcome at the bar anymore.

Mr. Karceski argued, in conclusion, that his clients could not be held responsible for the violation, because they did not “allow” the illegal activity to happen. Ms. Oakes and Ms. Anderson testified that they told Chuck before the Vice Unit investigation that he could not run betting pools and he did it anyway. Chairman Matricciani rejected this argument, stating that the Court of Appeals has recently held that the Liquor Board can hold licensees responsible for violations even when there is no evidence that they knew about the illegal activity. Commissioner Moore added that it is sufficient to hold them accountable, in her opinion, that the licensees were neglecting the management of their establishment. Karceski argued that in the Court of Appeals case, it was “a woman on a pole,” whereas in his clients’ case, the illegal situation was bets taken on a football game (the implication being that the illegal activity was out in the open in the former case but was hidden in his clients’ case). Matricciani disagreed, saying that the illegal activity was actually solitication for prostitution in the Court of Appeals case, which is not entirely different from solicitation for gambling. Moore agreed with Matricciani, underlining the point that “a woman on a pole” is legal, unlike the football pool.

After two following cases, this case was re-called after Mr. Karceski asked for a reconsideration of the suspension of the license, since the two upcoming days are very busy for his clients. He asked that the suspension take place during the week, perhaps Monday and Tuesday. The Chairman indicated that it would be acceptable to him to change the suspension dates. Commissioner Moore disagreed; she pointed out that the licensees had avoided responsibility on the illegal payouts from the poker machines and they got a pretty light penalty. The penalty isn’t imposed as a convenience, she said. The licensees were brought back in and Ms. Anderson testified that they have scheduled meetings at their bar over the next two days. Commissioner Greenfield suggested that the suspension be lengthened to three days and scheduled for the following week. The other commissioners agreed.

Result of hearing Responsible. $1,250 fine, three 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 Shova Serchan and Surya Thebe
Business Name Muna, LLC
Trading As Busy Bee
Address 4500-04 Erdman Avenue
Type of License Class “BD7” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing

Violation of Rule 4.01(a): Sales to Minors – January 19, 2017 – At approximately 10:27 PM, the Baltimore Sheriff’s Office, and the BLLC conducted random, joint investigations of establishments to determine if licensees would sell alcoholic beverages to minors. The joint task force responded to the establishment and sent Baltimore City Sheriff volunteer/cadet Victoria Cox, who is under the age of 21, into the establishment to attempt to purchase an alcoholic beverage(s). At that time Ms. Cox entered the establishment and purchased a 6-pack of Budweiser beer bottles. Utilizing a departmental $20 bill, Ms. Cox purchased the alcoholic beverage(s) for a total of $7.07. Ms. Cox was then provided the 6-pack of Budweiser beer bottles by the bartender/store clerk. Ms. Cox then communicated to the task force that she had purchased an alcoholic beverage(s). Members of the task force entered the establishment and notified the bartender/store clerk that an alcoholic beverage(s) had just been purchased by a minor and it would be reported to the BLLC. The task force then recovered the marked currency and returned both the alcoholic beverage(s) to the bartender and the change that was provided to Ms. Cox.

Hearing notes

The licensee admitted that the violation occurred. Mr. Kodenski proffered that this is a first time offense for this licensee. She disciplined the employee and recertified her staff.

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
Licensees Cheatan Sharma and Jatinder Singh
Business Name P.N.J., Inc.
Trading As Club House Bar & Liquor
Address 4217 Erdman Avenue
Type of License Class “BD7” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing

Violation of Rule 4.01(a): Sales to Minors – January 19, 2017 – At approximately 10:00 PM, the Baltimore Sheriff’s Office, and the BLLC conducted random, joint investigations of establishments to determine if licensees would sell alcoholic beverages to minors. The joint task force responded to the establishment and sent Baltimore City Sheriff volunteer/cadet Victoria Cox, who is under the age of 21, into the establishment to attempt to purchase an alcoholic beverage(s). At that time Ms. Cox entered the establishment and purchased a 6-pack of Budweiser beer bottles. Utilizing a departmental $20 bill, Ms. Cox purchased the alcoholic beverage(s) for a total of $7.62. Ms. Cox was then provided the 6-pack of Budweiser beer bottles by the bartender/store clerk. Ms. Cox then communicated to the task force that she had purchased an alcoholic beverage(s). Members of the task force entered the establishment and notified the bartender/store clerk that an alcoholic beverage(s) had just been purchased by a minor and it would be reported to the BLLC. The task force then recovered the marked currency and returned both the alcoholic beverage(s) to the bartender and the change that was provided to Ms. Cox.

Violation of Rule 4.20(c)(ii): Class BD7 Licensees: Open and Operating Tavern at all Times – January 19, 2017 – At approximately 10:00 PM, the Baltimore Sheriff’s Office, and the BLLC conducted random, joint investigations of establishments to determine if licensees would sell alcoholic beverages to minors. Upon the conclusion of the underage purchase investigation, the BLLC conducted a routine inspection of the establishment. BLLC inspectors observed that the tavern portion of the establishment was filled with stock and personal items, the coolers were not plugged in and operating, and the public were barred from use of the restroom. As the package goods area was open and operating, BLLC officials violated the establishment for not having a non-functioning tavern.

Hearing notes

The licensees admitted the violations. Mr. Kodenski proffered that, regarding the tavern portion of the charge, his clients had just gotten a big delivery and they had their stock on the floor and were putting it away, which is why the tavern was closed. A subsequent inspection showed that the tavern side was in operation.

Five years ago, the licensees were held responsible for the same violation for having the tavern portion of the business closed. Seven years ago, the licensees were held responsible for a sale to minors violation.

Result of hearing Responsible. $1,500 fine ($750 per violation).
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
Licensee Marka Browning
Business Name Dogwatch Tavern, LLC
Trading As Dogwatch Tavern
Address 709 S. Broadway
Type of License Class “BD7” Beer, Wine & Liquor
Reason for hearing

Violation of Rule 4.01(a): Sales to Minors – January 19, 2017 – At approximately 11:12 PM, the Baltimore Sheriff’s Office, and the BLLC conducted random, joint investigations of establishments to determine if licensees would sell alcoholic beverages to minors. The joint task force responded to the establishment and sent Baltimore City Sheriff volunteer/cadet Victoria Cox, who is under the age of 21, into the establishment to attempt to purchase an alcoholic beverage(s). At that time Ms. Cox entered the establishment and purchased two (2) Bud Light beer bottles. Utilizing a departmental $20 bill, Ms. Cox purchased the alcoholic beverage(s) for a total of $8.18. Ms. Cox was then provided the two (2) Bud Light beer bottles by the bartender/store clerk. Ms. Cox then communicated to the task force that she had purchased an alcoholic beverage(s). Members of the task force entered the establishment and notified the bartender/store clerk that an alcoholic beverage(s) had just been purchased by a minor and it would be reported to the BLLC. The task force then recovered the marked currency and returned both the alcoholic beverage(s) to the bartender and the change that was provided to Ms. Cox.

Hearing notes

The licensee admitted the violation; she brought her whole management staff down to the Liquor Board hearing to hear from the commissioners. She told the Board that she was not making excuses or apologies. She has her entire staff TIPS-certified. Because of the violation, she had her whole staff re-trained. The employee who served the cadet was suspended but not fired; he is on a one-year probation.

There is a history of violations, but they were several years ago.

Result of hearing Responsible. $750 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
Licensees Maria Alvarado and Edward Carlvello
Business Name Los Amigos Bar & Restaurant, Inc.
Trading As Los Amigos Restaurant
Address 5506 Harford Road
Type of License Class “B” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing

Violation of Rule 4.01(a): Sales to Minors – January 19, 2017 – At approximately 9:10 PM, the Baltimore Sheriff’s Office, and the BLLC conducted random, joint investigations of establishments to determine if licensees would sell alcoholic beverages to minors. The joint task force responded to the establishment and sent Baltimore City Sheriff volunteer/cadet Victoria Cox, who is under the age of 21, into the establishment to attempt to purchase an alcoholic beverage(s). At that time Ms. Cox entered the establishment and purchased two (2) Bud Light beer bottles. Utilizing a departmental $20 bill, Ms. Cox purchased the alcoholic beverage(s) for a total of $4.00. Ms. Cox was then provided the two (2) Bud Light beer bottles by the bartender/store clerk. Ms. Cox then communicated to the task force that she had purchased an alcoholic beverage(s). Members of the task force entered the establishment and notified the bartender/store clerk that an alcoholic beverage(s) had just been purchased by a minor and it would be reported to the BLLC. The task force then recovered the marked currency and returned both the alcoholic beverage(s) to the bartender and the change that was provided to Ms. Cox.

Hearing notes

The licensee admitted the violation. Mr. Gary Maslan told the commissioners that the licensee terminated the server who sold alcohol to the cadet. Maslan submitted updated alcohol management certificates for herself and her staff.

Result of hearing Responsible. $300 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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