Booze News: Distilled in Room 215

A blog about the Baltimore City Liquor Board

What happened at the Liquor Board on March 30, 2017

Written by Becky Witt

11:00 a.m.

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

Applicants Richard Craft, Jr. and Eduard Popescu
Business Name Guilford Brewing, LLC
Trading As Trade Name Pending
Address 1611 Guilford Avenue
Type of License Class “B” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing Application for a new Class “B” Beer, Wine and Liquor restaurant license under the provisions of Alcoholic Beverages Article § 12-1603(C)(II) requiring $200,000 in capital investment in restaurant fixtures and facilities and seating capacity for a minimum of 75 people with off-premise catering. If approved and issued applicant shall make application to the Comptroller for a Class 7 Micro-Brewery License under the provisions of Alcoholic Beverages Article §2-209(B).
Hearing notes

Mr. Abraham Hurdle represented one of the two applicants for the restaurant license, which will operate as an accessory to a craft brewery, which will require a different state license. He proffered that the project will cost $2 million and will create around 50 jobs, 10-12 full time. The restaurant will have at least 83 seats. Hurdle submitted a letter of support from a local community association; later in the hearing, the applicants explained further that they had negotiated a parking solution that helped to alleviate the community’s concerns.

The proposed site for the brewery and restaurant is across the street from the Baltimore Montessori Public Charter School. Hurdle said that the building has been “underutilized” but that his clients hope to open in September or October. Custom equipment has to be ordered and installed.

The applicants testified briefly about their hopes for the project and to be involved in the community.

The current plan is to be open for lunch and dinner and to not be open much in the morning. Once the business gets going, they may extend their evening hours later, until midnight.

Commissioner Moore expressed concern about the proximity to the Baltimore Design School and the Montessori School. Deputy Executive Secretary Thomas Akras explained that new and transferred Class B licenses are allowed within 300 feet of a school or church outside of the 46th legislative district. Commissioner Moore noted that she lives not far from this block and the school drop off and pick up traffic issues are significant in the morning and afternoons.

Commissioner Moore also noted that Mr. Popescu lives in Florida and asked about how he plans to operate the business from so far away. Mr. Hurdle responded that Mr. Popescu will be moving to Baltimore full time by the time that the business opens, six to nine months from its approval.

Moore asked the applicants what the public need and desire is for another brewery in this neighborhood, noting that the Peabody Heights Brewery is also not far away. Hurdle responded that the brewery license is through the state, not the local liquor board. He pointed Moore back to the community’s letter of support, the jobs created, and a business open in the evening. One of the applicants responded that breweries in general are a boon to the community. Breweries work together to do community outreach and fundraisers. It’s one of the industries that gives the most back to the community, in his opinion.

Commissioner Greenfield echoed Moore’s concern about Mr. Popescu’s absence from the state.

Result of hearing Approved
Vote tally 2-1
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

Lack of facility with Alcoholic Beverages Article: during hearings, Liquor Board commissioners almost never read from or visibly refer to the state law or regulations that they are charged with enforcing. When they are unsure about the law, as Commissioner Moore was during this hearing, they often ask Deputy Executive Secretary Thomas Akras what the law says. Mr. Akras usually answers without referring to the code or regulations either. Sometimes this explanation is an accurate statement of the plain language of the law, as in this case, above, in which he correctly summarized the Alcoholic Beverages Article section 12-1605. But sometimes Mr. Akras’s explanation of the law is intertwined with his own interpretation; the commissioners, unfortunately, have no way of knowing whether Akras is telling them what the law actually says or a particular interpretation of the law (perhaps an incorrect one?), because Akras does not cite any actual sections of the code, and the commissioners do not take the time to look at the language of the statute.

Applicant Jacob Lefenfeld
Business Name Minnow, LLC
Trading As Minnow
Address 2 E. Wells Street
Type of License Class “B” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing Application for a new Class “B” Beer, Wine and Liquor restaurant license under the provisions of Alcoholic Beverages Article §12-1609(a)-(b) the Board may issue an additional Class “B” Beer, Wine, and Liquor license to a current Class “B” Beer, Wine, and Liquor license holder if the new establishment has a (1) minimum capital investment of $500,000 for restaurant facilities, which may not include the cost of land or buildings, and (2) a minimum seating capacity of 125 individuals.
Hearing notes

Caroline Hecker explained that the prior board heard a case for this exact location, under a different set of applicants, who ran into financial difficulties and never opened. The premises is the first floor of an apartment building, in an R-8 zoning district, but it is allowed to have an accessory restaurant. Minnow will be a casual reasonably priced seafood restaurant, operated by the same person who operated La Cuchara. Seating capacity will hold 125 seats and 14 at the bar, with no live entertainment. The applicant has spent about $50,000 of their own, and the landlord has spent $950,000. Hecker submitted a letter of support from local community associations and petitions with signatures from local residents. The applicant lives in the neighborhood and has had alcohol management experience.

Result of hearing Approved, subject to MOU
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 Aaron Hammons and Samori Wyatt
Business Name A. O. Hammons Group, Inc.
Trading As Shipyard Pub
Address 3500 O’Donnell Street
Type of License Class “BD7” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing Application to transfer ownership.
Hearing notes

Mr. Frank Shaulis represented the two applicants in a transfer of ownership of an existing license. He noted that there is a letter of support for the transfer in the file from the Canton Community Association. Mr. Hammons testified that he is a military veteran who owns four other businesses and will contribute business and financial knowledge. Mr. Wyatt then testified that he has had 20 years of experience in the restaurant industry from management to chef, corporate to neighborhood pubs. He’ll be the general manager, with 12-17 employees.

Commissioner Moore noted that the license had recently transferred, in August 2016, and she asked why the license was being transferred again so soon. Mr. Shaulis responded, “truthfully?” Moore laughed, “yes!” Shaulis responded that the current licensee found out that it’s harder to run a bar than he thought it would be.

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 Miguel Moraga and Inana Blankson
Business Name El Coyote Grill, LLC
Trading As El Coyote Bar & Grill
Address 807 S. Broadway
Type of License Class “BD7” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing Application to transfer ownership.
Hearing notes

Caroline Hecker, of Rosenberg Martin Greenberg, proffered that this location was originally operated as Rye, a cocktail bar that moved to Thames Street. The El Coyote is currently operating a restaurant at this location without a liquor license. It operates as a restaurant but with 48 seats, so it is too small to request a new restaurant license. Both Fells Point community groups have offered their support under certain conditions, to which the applicants have agreed: hours should be Monday through Thursday 11am to 10pm, Friday through Sunday 10am to 2am, no outdoor tables or live entertainment.

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 Ki Jeong Lee and Kye Sung Chung
Business Name Ja Ja Liquors, Inc.
Trading As Shamrock Liquors
Address 4300 Belair Road
Type of License Class “A” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing Application to transfer ownership.
Hearing notes

Mr. Kodenski proffered, for his clients, that Mr. Lee has managed other liquor licensed establishments since 2010. Kodenski noted that Mr. Lee has had issues in the past, in multiple locations, with serving alcohol to minors. This time, he is going to have everyone alcohol management certified. Kodenski said, “what’s the name of the song, once bitten, twice shy? This time, it’s twice bitten, three times shy.” Commissioner Moore asked Mr. Lee why they should give him a license, given his history. Lee responded that this is a new business in a new area with new people. Moore noted that the record shows one violation in 2011, one in 2013 and two in 2015, in every establishment that he has owned. Commissioner Greenfield agreed with Moore that he doesn’t know why the Board should approve the transfer, given the history.

Result of hearing Denied
Vote tally 2-1 (Matricciani in dissent)
Portions of state law cited in decision None
Other reasons given for decision Commissioner Moore noted that Mr. Lee has four violations on his record, in every place he has worked. She said that she had a responsibility to the community to deny the transfer, especially since the applicant did not have any good explanation for what he plans to do differently in the future.
Issues raised in audit present in this case or other issues observed None
Applicants David Redmond and Emmanuel Fishelman
Business Name Building Two Café, LLC
Trading As Café Gourmet
Address 801 W. Baltimore Street
Type of License Class “B” Beer & Wine License
Reason for hearing Application to transfer ownership with continuation of outdoor table service.
Hearing notes

Linda Carter represented the applicants in their transfer of ownership. The corporate entity is not changing but the ownership of the entity is changing. The building where the business is located has been sold, and as part of the sale, the new property owners have also acquired part ownership of the business. There will be no operational changes. The business has been open for seven years with no violations; it is open 42 hours per week, no weekends or evenings.

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 David Tobash
Business Name Soldi Fossa, LLC
Trading As The Chasseur
Address 3326 Foster Avenue
Type of License Class “BD7” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing Request to expand premises to include 3rd floor.
Hearing notes

Former Liquor Board Chairman Stephan Fogleman represented the current licensee, who was present at the hearing. Fogleman submitted floor plans and a dinner menu as well as communications in support of the addition from the Canton Community Association and individual neighbors. The licensee testified briefly that he does a lot to give back to the community, including hosting meetings and benefits.

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

1:00 p.m.

II. Violations:

Licensee Stephanie Oh
Business Name SNS Liquor Corporation
Trading As SNS Liquor
Address 2135 E. North Avenue
Type of License Class “BD7” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing

Violation of Rule 4.20(c)(ii): Class BD7 Licensees: Open and Operating Tavern at all Times – July 28, 2016 – At approximately 11:10 pm, members of the Baltimore City Police Department conducted a routine inspection of the establishment. Upon conducting their inspection police officers observed that the bar area/tavern portion of the establishment was not properly set up for patrons: the bar stools were stacked and pit off to the side, personal items and tools covered the bar, the three tub sink was not in use, and the beer coolers had personal food stored with the alcohol. Police advised the bar manager of their observations and that they would be notifying the BLLC of the violation.

Violation of Rule 4.16: Illegal Conduct – October 16, 2016 – At approximately 12:04 pm, BLLC staff conducted a review of the corporate status of the entity known as “SNS Liquor Corporation.” and found that the entity was deemed “forfeited” by the State Department of Assessments and Taxation. Also at that time, staff conducted a review and determined that a 2016-2017 trader’s license had not yet been issued to the establishment.

Violation of Rule 4.20(c)(ii): Class BD7 Licensees: Open and Operating Tavern at all Times – October 18, 2016 – At approximately 3:00 pm, Inspector John Howard of the BLLC visited the location for the purposes of issuing notice to the establishment for an upcoming hearing. Upon entering the establishment, Howard observed trash, stock, and other materials on the bar. He also noticed that the bar stools were turned upside down and on top of the bar. Further investigation revealed that the hallway leading to the restrooms were filled with stock and there was cleaning equipment and buckets in the women’s restroom that made it inaccessible to the any female patron that wanted to the use the restroom area. Based on the Inspector’s observations the tavern portion of the establishment was incapable of allowing for patrons to consume beverages on-site. As the package goods area was open and operating, Inspector Howard violated the establishment for not having a non-functioning tavern.

Hearing notes

Ms. Oh appeared, without an attorney, and admitted the charges. She did not know whether her corporate charter was in good standing or not, but she knew that she was on a payment plan for back taxes (whether these were federal or state taxes is not clear from the testimony). Regarding the BD-7 violation, Ms. Oh said that the bar area has since been cleared and should stay clear. Her mother and father work at the bar; her father was present on July 28. On October 18, the same situation was in place; Ms. Oh apologized. She said that they need to do some basic renovation to make sure that the violation doesn’t happen again. The inventory, for example, should be out of sight of patrons. She was not sure whether the bar has patrons regularly, because she doesn’t run the business. She used to be there almost every day, but after she had children, she can’t go there as often. She is now at the bar only twice a year. Her children are getting older, so she will be able to manage the bar more regularly. “If I must come in regularly, then I will do that,” she said.

Commissioner Moore expressed concern about the pattern and history of violations and the lack of oversight. Oh responded, “I will take a more active role as soon as the fall.” Commissioner Greenfield replied, “that’s not good enough.” He told Ms. Oh that she is not understanding the seriousness of the violations, and she has come to the commissioners without any specific plan, other than to be present in the fall. The photos from the inspector are troubling to Greenfield. The other two commissioners agreed that the violations were troubling, and Ms. Oh’s plans to fix the situation were insufficient.

Result of hearing Responsible for three violations. 30 day suspension.
Vote tally Unanimous.
Portions of state law cited in decision None
Other reasons given for decision History and seriousness of violations.
Issues raised in audit present in this case or other issues observed None
Licensee Annie Winston
Business Name None provided in docket
Trading As Winston Lounge
Address 2343 E. Monument Street
Type of License Class “BD7” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing

Violation of Rule 4.05(a): Prohibited Hours – February 11, 2017 – At approximately 2:05 am, members of the Baltimore City Police Department – Det. Abraham Gatto and Det. L.C. Greenhill – conducted a special investigation based on anonymous information that the establishment was operating and serving alcoholic beverages during prohibited hours. While on location at the aforementioned date and time, detectives observed enter and exit the establishment. Upon making these observations Detectives entered the establishment and observed 10 to 12 patrons seated at the bar portion of the establishment and standing around the entrance. Detectives also observed seven (7) plastic cups containing mixed alcoholic beverages on the bar, which were being consumed by patrons. Detectives noted that there were also two (2) bartenders working at the time. At this time, detectives cleared the establishment of all patrons and informed the bartender on duty, Ms. Sarah English-Williams, of the violation.

Violation of Rule 4.05(b): Prohibited Hours – February 11, 2017 – At approximately 2:05 am, members of the Baltimore City Police Department – Det. Abraham Gatto and Det. L.C. Greenhill – conducted a special investigation based on anonymous information that the establishment was operating and serving alcoholic beverages during prohibited hours. While on location at the aforementioned date and time, detectives observed enter and exit the establishment. Upon making these observations Detectives entered the establishment and observed 10 to 12 patrons seated at the bar portion of the establishment and standing around the entrance. Detectives also observed seven (7) plastic cups containing mixed alcoholic beverages on the bar, which were being consumed by patrons. Detectives noted that there were also two (2) bartenders working at the time. At this time, detectives cleared the establishment of all patrons and informed the bartender on duty, Ms. Sarah English-Williams, of the violation.

Hearing notes

Mr. Melvin Kodenski, for his client, who was not present but sent a personal representative, admitted the charges. He noted that the staff were cooperative with the police. The licensee had a hard time getting people out the door by closing time, but since the violation, there is a new policy of last call at 1:30am. The manager testified briefly that “most of my people can’t wait” to leave and go to the Horseshoe, which has a 24-hour liquor license.

Commissioner Matricciani asked Mr. Akras the difference between Rules 4.05(a) and 4.05(b). Akras responded that subsection (a) refers to a licensee permitting consumption of alcohol after hours, and subsection (b) refers to serving and/or dispensing alcohol after hours.

Result of hearing Responsible. $500 fine, total.
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

Another example of commissioner lack of familiarity with the Rules and Regulations: the chairman asked Mr. Akras for his explanation of the rules but did not seem to look up the rules, read them and apply them to the situation himself.

Licensee Scott Schleupner
Business Name SCS Holdings, LLC
Trading As Social Pub and Pie
Address 25 E. Cross Street
Type of License Class “BD7” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing

Violation of Rule 4.08(a): Relations with Wholesalers – January 19, 2017 – At approximately 1:15 pm, members of the Field Enforcement Division of the Comptroller of Maryland, which included Agent Pyle, were conducting a routine inspections in the area of Dock Street and Randall Street in Annapolis, Maryland. While conducting inspections, Agent Pyle noticed individuals exiting the location of 132 Dock Street, t/a Armadillos Restaurant, in Annapolis, Maryland carrying cases of Bud Light beer and loading them into the back of a waiting pick-up truck. Agent Pyle observed this activity for approximately 15 minutes. After the pick-up truck was loaded, a male entered the vehicle and drove it away from the location. Agent Pyle followed the vehicle to Baltimore City from Annapolis where it parked in the alley directly behind the establishment. At that time, Agent Pyle observed individuals begin to off-load the cases of alcohol from the vehicle and into the establishment. Upon making this observation, Agent Pyle, along with other members of the Field Enforcement Division identified themselves to the individuals and conducted an inspection. As per the inspection, Agents discovered numerous cases of alcoholic beverages located within the establishment, all of which were purchased from a wholesaler by “Aramadillos Restaurant” and not the establishment. These items were seized. Further investigation by Agent Pyle revealed that the owner of “Armadillos Restaurant” purchased a number of alcoholic beverages from a wholesaler and made a verbal agreement with the licensee of the establishment to share the products in violation of BLLC Rule 4.08 (a) Relations with Wholesalers.

Violation of Alc. Bev. Art. 6-311(B)(3) Storage of Alcoholic Beverages – January 19, 2017 – At approximately 1:15 pm, members of the Field Enforcement Division of the Comptroller of Maryland, which included Agent Pyle, were conducting a routine inspections in the area of Dock Street and Randall Street in Annapolis, Maryland. While conducting inspections, Agent Pyle noticed individuals exiting the location of 132 Dock Street, t/a Armadillos Restaurant, in Annapolis, Maryland carrying cases of Bud Light beer and loading them into the back of a waiting pick-up truck. Agent Pyle observed this activity for approximately 15 minutes. After the pick-up truck was loaded, a male entered the vehicle and drove it away from the location. Agent Pyle followed the vehicle to Baltimore City from Annapolis where it parked in the alley directly behind the establishment. At that time, Agent Pyle observed individuals begin to off-load the cases of alcohol from the vehicle and into the establishment. Upon making this observation, Agent Pyle, along with other members of the Field Enforcement Division identified themselves to the individuals and conducted an inspection. As per the inspection, Agents discovered numerous cases of alcoholic beverages located within the establishment, all of which were purchased from a wholesaler by “Aramadillos Restaurant” and not the establishment. These items were seized. Further investigation by Agent Pyle revealed that the owner of “Armadillos Restaurant” purchased a number of alcoholic beverages from a wholesaler and made a verbal agreement with the licensee of the establishment to shae the products.

Hearing notes

Mr. Frank Shaulis, for his client, admitted the violations, but then he challenged the citations. He said that there is no evidence that any money ever changed hands between the two licensees, arguing that there was no violation of the law.

Agent Pyle testified that he decided to follow the truck loaded full of alcoholic beverages, because it’s very unusual to see a licensee load up his truck in that way.

The licensee testified that he used to work at the bar in Annapolis; this product was close to its expiration date, so he bought it to use at his business in order to do the Annapolis bar owner a favor. He was not aware that selling alcohol from one licensee to another within the state was illegal, but once he was caught, he applied for and received a bulk transfer permit.

Result of hearing Responsible. $500 fine, total.
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 Ralph Boarman, Sr. and Thomas Wirth
Business Name None provided in docket
Trading As Tom & Olive’s Café
Address 2942 E. Monument Street
Type of License Class “BD7” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing

Violation of Rule 4.20(c)(ii): Class BD7 Licensees: Open and Operating Tavern at all Times – January 27, 2017 – At approximately 1:45 pm, Chief Inspector Mark Fosler and Agent John Howard conducted a special investigation into the establishment in response to citizen’s call that the operator would not allow African Americans into the tavern portion of the establishment. At that time, Agent Howard entered the establishment and requested to be allowed entry into the tavern portion of location. The licensee/bartender, Ralph Boarman, stated that the tavern portion of the establishment was closed. However, Agent Howard observed that the packaged goods portion of the establishment was open and operating. Agent Howard left the establishment and returned with Chief Fosler. At that time both Fosler and Howard identified themselves and informed the licensee/bartender of the BD7 violation.

Hearing notes

Mr. Boarman and Mr. Wirth, without an attorney, admitted the violations. Boarman said that he was restocking the bar and was by himself, so he did not let the inspector into the tavern area.

Chief Inspector Fosler testified that he had received a call from a community member that this bar did not allow African Americans into the tavern portion of the building. Fosler asked Inspector John Howard, who is African American, to go to the establishment and attempt to gain entrance to the building; as the licensees admitted, Howard was turned away. Agent Howard then testified that when he entered the establishment, Mr. Boarman was waiting on some other customers in the package goods portion of the store. Howard asked Boarman if he could get into the tavern, and Boarman told Howard that they were closed, so Howard left the business and came back in a few minutes later with Inspector Fosler. At that point, Boarman let them in to the tavern, because he realized who they were. Inspector Howard did a routine inspection and found that the men’s bathroom’s water faucet was broken; he gave the business five days to get it repaired.

Mr. Rocky Brown from the Bocek Madison Eastend Community Association testified in favor of the licensees. He said that the bar has been a great asset in the community.

Commissioner Greenfield pointed out that the community allegation was confirmed by the licensee refusing service to Inspector Howard; he suggested that Mr. Boarman rethink his staffing.

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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