Booze News: Distilled in Room 215

A blog about the Baltimore City Liquor Board

What happened at the Liquor Board on April 13, 2017.

Written by Becky Witt

11:00 a.m.

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

Applicant Terence Dickson
Business Name New Terra Cafe, LLC
Trading As New Terra Cafe
Address 101 E. 25th 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 §12-1603(C)(II) requiring $200,000 in capital investment in restaurant fixtures and facilities and seating capacity for a minimum of 75 people, requesting live entertainment, outdoor table service and delivery of alcoholic beverages.
Hearing notes

Commissioner Moore mentioned, before the hearing began, that she knows the applicant well and goes to his restaurant often; she said that she did not feel that she needed to recuse herself, but offered the applicant the opportunity to object to her hearing the case.

Mr. Peter Prevas proffered that his client has been in business for nine years without a liquor license and is now requesting a new Class B license with outdoor seating and live entertainment. The BMZA has already approved the outdoor tables and live entertainment. The restaurant owner has owned the building for eighteen years and lives above the restaurant. The live entertainment plans range from open mic poetry nights to jazz to fundraisers. After the liquor license is approved, the applicant plans to expand and change the menu. Mr. Dickson testified that the establishment, years ago, was called the Red Door, and they hosted jazz nights, which excluded non-white patrons; now, Mr. Dickson says, everyone is welcome.

The applicant submitted some articles about his restaurant and the various community outreach initiatives he has participated in. He also submitted petitions with written and online signatures in support of his application as well as some letters of support.

Mr. Dickson testified that he met with the Old Goucher Community Association as well as the Charles Village Civic Association. CVCA, through its president Sandy Sparks, requested that Mr. Dickson sign a Memorandum of Understanding, but he did not agree to the terms of the agreement. After some questioning, he testified further that he did not agree with the suggested hours restrictions and believed that the businesses in his area had not been treated fairly, compared with the businesses further north.

Commissioner Greenfield told the applicant that he needs to make sure to follow the rules with respect to keeping employee records, buying from wholesalers only, and avoiding sales to minors. Mr. Dickson replied that his business has always primarily served a mature crowd.

Commissioner Moore asked whether Mr. Dickson understands and is willing to abide by the restrictions placed on the live entertainment by BMZA, and she reiterated the underage drinking concern.

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 Richard Fortune, Jr. and Joyce Park
Business Name JMT Liquors, Inc.
Trading As Wabash Liquors
Address 3741 Wabash Avenue
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, both present. Ms. Park has been a manager at a car wash and has run a retail store. Mr. Fortune will be the Baltimore City resident licensee who lives about 20 minutes away but will not work in the store. The current owners of the store have donated funds to the Ashburton Area Association’s scholarship fund, and the applicants plan to continue those donations. Ms. Park testified that she will run the business with her sister. Park lives in Germantown and will commute in to the city, but she is considering moving to Baltimore in a year. Commissioner Moore noted that it was very important to her that the owners of the building be present and hands-on and involved in the community. Commissioner Greenfield echoes Moore’s concern about physical presence at the store.

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 Suraj Bhatt
Business Name Street Foods, LLC
Trading As Sweet 27
Address 127 W. 27th Street
Type of License Class “B” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing Application to transfer ownership.
Hearing notes

Mr. Prevas proffered, for his client, that Mr. Bhatt is requesting a transfer of ownership and not location of an existing restaurant license. Mr. Bhatt has been working at the business since 2009. The president of the Greater Remington Improvement Association (GRIA) was present at the hearing and submitted a letter of support for the transfer of ownership, and the Charles Village Civic Association also submitted a letter of support. The current owner, Mr. D’Souza, is operating under an MOU with the Charles Village Civic Association, and the applicant for the transfer has also agreed to abide by the terms in that agreement. At this point, Commissioner Moore decided to recuse herself from the hearing, because she was involved in a prior application for this restaurant when she was involved with the CVCA.

Result of hearing Approved
Vote tally 2-0 (Moore recused)
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 Michael Marler and Andrea Nowowiejski
Business Name Marski Bar, LLC
Trading As Marski Bar
Address 3301 Foster Avenue
Type of License Class “BD-7” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing Application to transfer ownership.
Hearing notes

Former Liquor Board Chairman Stephan Fogleman represented the two applicants, both present. Fogleman told the commissioners that Mr. Marler has spent over a decade bartending at Kisling’s Tavern and will live above the bar. Ms. Nowowiejski has managed Winchester’s Comedy Club and lives in Canton. The bar will serve local seafood, including steamed crabs and coddies and will seat about 80 people. The bar has recently been “closed off and on,” more than six months, but the current owners had been granted a hardship extension. The Canton Community Association submitted a letter of support.

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 Anne Rowley
Business Name Patrick’s of Pratt Street, Inc.
Trading As Patrick’s
Address 131 S. Schroeder 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 represented the applicant in this request, who was present with her husband. Kodenski proffered that the establishment has been there since the 1840s. The applicants had decided to sell their business, but their first buyer defaulted on the purchase and they’ve been having issues with their bank. A few others have shown interest, according to Kodenski, but there is no deal in place. The property was built to be a restaurant, so it would have little value without the accompanying license, the attorney argued. The location closed September 15, 2016, and the applicants applied for a hardship extension on March 1, 2017, the 167th day after the business closed and within the required 180 days.

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

Hardship extensions: Maryland Code, Alcoholic Beverages Article section 12-2202(b) sets out the requirements for a hardship extension of the expiration of a liquor license: “The Board may grant an extension if the Board finds after a hearing that existing hardship caused the closing or stopping of business operations.” Mr. Kodenski presented a very common set of facts to the Board: licensees decided to close their business, stopped selling alcohol, and a sale fell through. However, crucially, the licensees chose to close their business. No hardship was presented as a cause of the closing of the business. Until the licensee shows that some hardship condition existed that caused the closing of the business, which is still existing 180 days later, they cannot legally qualify for a hardship extension under the law.

The commissioners, as in this case, never refer to this section of the code, much less cite it during the hearings or read it out loud to try to apply it to the situation before them.

1:00 p.m.

II. Violations:

Licensees Nickolaos Hapsis, Emmanuel Karelas, and Dimitri Vengalakos
Business Name TDF Corporation
Trading As Loafers
Address 1401 Bloomfield Avenue
Type of License Class “B” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing

Violation of Rule 4.14(a): Live Entertainment without Authorization – March 11, 2017 – At approximately 1:00am members of the Baltimore City Police Department (BCPD), which consisted of Det. Greenhill, Det. Gatto, and Lt. Colburn, and BLLC Agent John Chrissomallis conducted a random inspection of the establishment. Upon arrival, both the BCPD and Agent Chrissomallis made entry into the establishment and observed a large crowd of people dancing in front of a live Disc Jockey, who was playing music within the establishment. At this time, the BCPD reviewed and the liquor license issued to the establishment and observed that the privilege to provide “live entertainment” had not been placed on their license by the BLLC. The BCPD and BLLC informed the manager/bartender of the violation and left the establishment.

Violation of Rule 4.14(a): Live Entertainment without Authorization- March 18, 2017- At approximately 11:11 pm Officer Timothy Haefner of the Baltimore City Police Department conducted a routine business check of the establishment. At this time,Officer Haefner observed the liquor license and noted that the establishment was not authorized to provide ulive entertainment.” After review the license, Officer Haefner observed a live Disc Jockey playing music within the establishment and approximately 10-15 people dancing to the music played by the Disc Jockey. Officer Haefner informed the manager/bartender of the violation and left the establishment.

Hearing notes

Mr. Kodenski, on behalf of the licensee, admitted the violations. He explained that the restaurant was originally part of a hotel, where there used to be live entertainment permission, but it had been separated from that hotel. The applicants are in the process of getting live entertainment and dancing permission from BMZA, but they have not yet had their hearing.

Chairman Matricciani noted that this licensee has been cited for this violation before. Kodenski replied, “you know that saying, once bitten, twice shy? Well now it’s twice bitten… not shy anymore.” Mr. Karelas testified that they had eliminated the DJ, which helps to discourage people from dancing. The licensees have had this license since around 2010, with one prior violation.

Result of hearing Responsible for both violations. $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 Leonard Popa and Joan Popa
Business Name Club 438, Inc.
Trading As Sooner’s Tavern
Address 1600 Hazel Street
Type of License Class “BD7” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing

Violation of Rule 3.12: General Welfare – March 11, 2017 – At approximately 12:01am members of the Baltimore City Police Department (BCPD), which consisted of Det. Greenhill and Det. Gatto, and BLLC Agent John Chrissomallis responded to a call for assistant from Officer Rico Perry regarding an “officer in need of assistance call.” Upon arriving to the scene, the BCPD and BLLC conducted an investigation as to the reason for the call. Investigation revealed that Officer Perry was outside the establishment in his patrol car when he observed numerous individuals run into the location and heard shouting coming from the within the establishment. At that time Officer Perry exited his vehicle and radioed a call requesting assistance and entered the establishment. Upon entering the establishment, Officer Perry observed that a large number of patrons within the establishment were involved in a physical altercation.In order to calm the crowd and end the fight Officer Perry utilized his police issued pepper spray to disperse the crowd.

Hearing notes

Baltimore Police Detective LC Greenhill testified that on March 11, he and his fellow officers in the Vice Unit responded to a Signal 13, a police code which means that an officer needs immediate assistance. Officer Perry stated over the radio that there was a bar fight at Sooner’s Tavern, and he needed more officers to assist him. By the time that the vice detectives arrived, the patrons had been cleared out by the Southern District officers who had arrived first. The bartender told Greenhill that some female patrons had gotten into a verbal and then a physical altercation; Officer Perry was sitting outside of the tavern in his marked police vehicle at the time and heard the commotion. Perry entered the bar to find a large fight and deployed his pepper spray, which cleared the patrons.

Baltimore Police Officer Rico Perry then testified to the same information already presented by Greenhill. He exited his patrol vehicle after noticing several individuals at the side entrance: some were running out, some were running in, and he heard shouting. He saw the fight, including punches and thrown chairs. The dispatcher couldn’t raise Officer Perry on the radio, when he was inside the bar, because of the commotion, so the dispatcher issued the Signal 13. Perry discharged the pepper spray, and the bar cleared out and people calmed down. Under questioning by the licensees’ attorney, Perry testified further that he didn’t make any arrests, because he was by himself and the fight was out of control.

Liquor Board Inspector John Chrissomallis then testified that, when he arrived, he asked the bartender whether the bar has security. She laughed and said that they didn’t. He then told her that the bar owner should consider hiring security to prevent and/or address fights and loitering.

The bartender, Jennifer, testified that one of her patrons that night has “been having problems with the girls in the neighborhood.” The patron who started the fight drank two Malibu and pineapple juice mixed drinks that night, but, according to the bartender, was not drunk. There were two families involved in the fight, which happened after last call, and there were too many people to break it up. Jennifer said that the bar hasn’t really had an issue with fights, and that “they usually go outside and I call 911.” There are a lot of drug dealers, she explained, in the neighborhood, and sometimes they come inside and start problems, so you have to call 911 to have them removed. They were closed after the incident for almost a month. There is no plan to get security for the bar. All of the women involved in the fight were banned from the bar.

Commissioner Moore noted that calling 911 when troublesome people come in to the bar is not a sustainable strategy. “That’s not why the police department is here,” she added.

Mr. Popa, the licensee, then testified that there aren’t too many issues with fights in his bar. Popa stated that at the time of the incident, “my security was sitting at the curb, right in front of the door: an armed police officer. This police officer was overwhelmed, to the point that he had to use pepper spray to get these people under control. The people that were outside are not my customers. I don’t allow them in my bar. The bar holds 30 people. I haven’t had 30 people in my bar in the last five to six years, because of drug dealers, who infest Curtis Bay and chase them all away. They hang on the corner – I have a record book here of how often I call 911, because that’s the only thing I can do. I spoke to the last four commanding officers of the Southern District; they’ve all told me the same thing: “don’t put yourself in harm’s way; call 911.” It makes sense to me; that’s what I pay taxes for. So we call 911. Now I did inquire one time about hiring an off-duty police officer. … It didn’t go nowhere at that time. … I had to stop cashing checks because I could see what was happening to the neighborhood. It’s infested by drug dealers. Throughout our nation, these drug dealers prefer the corners to do their business. They particularly like mine because they have a sight line for 10 blocks down Pennington Avenue where they can see any police car coming. … I need this business. … It is of diminishing value as long as I am plagued by these drug dealers. … They’re like roaches. You turn on the lights, they scatter. You turn off the lights, they come back. … I’m the victim here. Not the perpetrator.” He added that the police officers provide enough security for his business, “within the limits of what Baltimore City can afford to spend.” Later, he added that politicians refuse to do what needs to be done to address the drug problem, “because it harms their constituents.”

Commissioner Moore noted that there is a significant history of violations, including multiple sales to minors, charter not in good standing, and gambling. She noted that this is a very troubled business. Mr. Popa interrupted Moore many times throughout her statement, in a combative tone of voice, insisting that he had no control over any of the violations or situations that she listed from the file.

Result of hearing Responsible. $500 fine.
Vote tally Unanimous
Portions of state law cited in decision None
Other reasons given for decision Chairman Matricciani noted that this is a very serious violation, and people could have been seriously hurt, both patrons and police.
Issues raised in audit present in this case or other issues observed None

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