Booze News: Distilled in Room 215

A blog about the Baltimore City Liquor Board

What happened at the Liquor Board on April 20, 2017.

Written by Becky Witt

9:30 AM

Licensees Ashley Kim and Kyung Lee
Business Name Arik, Inc.
Trading As Whispers
Address 1807-11 Baker Street
Type of License Class “BD7” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing Protest of Renewal
Hearing notes

Former Liquor Board Chairman Stephan Fogleman represented the licensees, one of whom was present.

Ms. Inez Robb, president of the Fulton Community Association and the Western District Community Relations Council, testified that her community does have issues with Whispers and would like for it to be closed. She did not have any data to present about specific incidents within the past year.

Mr. Fogleman then moved to dismiss the case, saying that the petition is legally insufficient on a number of grounds. The petitioners who signed the protest of renewal, argued Fogleman, do not live or own property in the “immediate vicinity,” as required by state law. Some of the petitioners live several miles away. Chairman Matricciani responded that the Liquor Board has never defined the term “immediate vicinity.” He noted that there were only ten signatories to the petition, and the law requires at least ten, so if any one of the signatories is too far away to be in the “immediate vicinity,” the petition may not be sufficient. Fogleman continued with his second argument, that the petition itself is not specific in its complaints. All of the petitions submitted to the Board are quite similar to each other and are vague.

Councilman Leon Pinkett testified briefly that his role was to be in support of the community members who were supposed to be presenting specific information, but he is in opposition to the renewal. He noted that the Baltimore Police Department has created Transformation Zones in the city, within which this establishment falls. He submitted a letter of opposition to the renewal of the license.

Commissioner Greenfield asked both parties whether they would be willing to meet and try to come to an agreement that would address the community’s concerns. Both sides agreed that they would be willing to meet. Ms. Robb said that she often finds it difficult to communicate with licensees because of the language barrier. Chairman Matricciani and Commissioner Jones both echoed Greenfield’s suggestion.

Mr. Fogleman interjected to add that his clients have only owned the bar since 2015; in that time, they have made donations of money and sodas and snacks to the Matthew Henson Neighborhood Association. Fogleman presented a letter from the prior president of the association, Doc Cheatham, saying that they are great neighbors. He also submitted a petition with 100 signatures of people in favor of the renewal of the license.

Result of hearing License renewed
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

11:00 AM

Licensees Myung Joo Kim Lee and Myoung Seon Yum
Business Name Sunshine Locker, Inc.
Trading As Mel’s Liquors
Address 1813 West Pennsylvania Avenue
Type of License Class “A” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing Protest of renewal
Hearing notes

Mr. Peter Prevas, for his licensee clients, moved to dismiss the case on the same bases as Mr. Fogleman did in the prior hearing: that the signatories do not live in the immediate vicinity of the establishment and that the complaints in the petition are not specific enough. He submitted maps of the signatories’ addresses in relation to the business.

Ms. Inez Robb, president of the Fulton Community Association and of the Western District Community Relations Council, testified that she lives about eight blocks from the establishment. She says that she receives complaints at her meetings about this establishment. She noted that she would be willing to meet with the licensees to try to come up with an agreement.

The Druid Heights Community Development Corporation submitted a letter in support of renewal.

Shawn Owens, from the No Boundaries Coalition, testified that his organization has tried to reach out to the merchants along Pennsylvania Avenue to try to address the violence and crime in the area. Specifically, Mr. Owens reached out to Mel’s, but they have not come to the meetings they’ve been invited to. According to Mr. Owens, all of the other merchants in the area have been cleaning up their block except Mel’s. Owens wants Mel’s to do more, including trying to address the drug trafficking on the block. He explained, under Commissioner Greenfield’s questioning, that the No Boundaries Coalition works on public safety, youth programming, and food access in the Sandtown neighborhood.

Mr. Prevas responded that any lack of cooperation must be a miscommunication, because they’ve been involved with the Druid Heights CDC, among other groups.

Mr. Edward Brown testified that he and his fiance own a store across the street from Mel’s; he also has a lot of issues with drug trafficking in the store, which, he says, is a police matter. Brown testified that the owners of Mel’s have been good neighbors to him. Brown emphasized that this specific block is particularly dangerous, and it’s dangerous to tell people in your store not to sell drugs or that they have to leave.

Mr. Anthony Pressley Director of Community Resources for Druid Heights CDC, testified that he has known Mel’s for many years. He said that one of the signatories did not realize that she was signing a petition against Mel’s. Pressley stated that he did not think that the petition against Mel’s represented the will of the community residents.

Prevas submitted a petition with several hundred signatures in favor of the establishment.

Result of hearing License renewed
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

1:30 PM

Licensees Barry Moore and Jennifer Youn
Business Name JJYC, Inc.
Trading As Uptown Liquors
Address 2115 West North Avenue
Type of License Class “A” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing Protest of renewal
Hearing notes

Mr. Peter Prevas, for his clients, made the same objections that he made earlier, to the proximity of the petitioners and to the lack of specificity of the petition itself. Chairman Matricciani said in response that the Board has never had to define the term “immediate vicinity,” because it’s a case by case analysis. There’s a case from a rural part of Maryland that suggests that two miles might be within the immediate vicinity of a licensed establishment, but that may not apply in exactly the same way to a densely populated area like Baltimore City. The Chair said that, if he had to make a ruling on whether a petitioner qualifies, he would have to know information like how many other licenses are within the same radius and other information about the density of the area.

Ms. Ruby Purnell, president of the Smallwood Street Association, testified in opposition to the renewal of the license, stating that she has been in the neighborhood since 1955, and that her neighborhood has too many liquor establishments. Property values are going down, because businesses are not being kept up properly. She said, “I think it’s time for us to live in a place decent.”

Ms. Adeline Hutchinson, of the Greater Mondawmin Coordinating Council and the Robert W. Coleman Community Organization, also testified in opposition to the renewal. She testified that she sees people loitering outside from open to close, every day except Sunday, since this establishment has a six-day license. She stated that this liquor store has not provided any resources to the community, comparing it with other businesses and nonprofits that have invested nearby, like Sagamore and the Neighborhood Design Center. Hutchinson pointed out the significant health disparities between her community and the city as a whole and suggested that alcohol is not a healthy product to consume.

Mr. Keith Bailey also testified in opposition to the renewal. He said he stopped by recently to buy a soda and there was a crowd of perhaps fifty people inside the store, drinking and selling drugs.

Councilman Leon Pinkett submitted a letter of opposition to the renewal of the license. Pinkett echoed Ms. Hutchinson’s testimony about the tens of millions of dollars in investment that has been happening along West North Avenue. He has seen the negative impacts of Uptown Liquors on the community. At some point, said Pinkett, the city and its agencies need to make decisions that will help the economic revitalization of West Baltimore, or we will continue to see the health disparities that Hutchinson mentioned. Matricciani replied that he sympathized with the community complaints, but that the Board was not invested with the authority to do much about it. Pinkett said that this community has been dealing with these problems for so long that they don’t have the capacity to advocate for themselves.

Baltimore Police Vice Unit Detective Abraham Gatto testified about fifteen complaints, most of which related to disorderly behavior and loitering. Gatto explained that these calls are dealt with by patrol officers, who do not routinely forward their reports to the Liquor Board. He further explained that any establishment that sells liquor tends to draw a crowd and when this happens it becomes a strain on the neighborhood and “other things occur.” Some of the fifteen calls were from the licensee himself.

Ms. Robb reiterated her organizations’ opposition to the renewal of the license.

Mr. Prevas submitted a petition in support of the renewal of the license as well as a sign in sheet from some individuals who were present to support the renewal. He offered to try to facilitate communication between the community representatives and his clients.

Result of hearing License renewed
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

3:00 PM

Licensees Sung Koo Kang, Mi Cha Park, and Yeun Im Yang
Business Name Glof, Inc.
Trading As Oxford Tavern
Address 1741 West North Avenue
Type of License Class “BD7” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing Protest of renewal
Hearing notes

Former Liquor Board Chairman Stephan Fogleman made the same motions that he and Mr. Prevas had made in all of the prior cases. He argued that the ten signatories to the petition do not all live in the immediate vicinity of the establishment, and he argued that the petition itself was too vague and did not contain any specific complaints about this establishment.

Rev. Keith Bailey, president of the Fulton Heights Community Association, testified that he lives across the street from Oxford Tavern. During the 2015 unrest, protesters destroyed that bar, he said; Mr. Bailey said that the people who destroyed the bar are the ones who hang out there, selling cigarettes in the doorway. The police are often at the bar to clear it out at the end of the night, which he knows because he lives across the street. Mr. Bailey suffers from some medical conditions, and the lost sleep from this establishment is harmful to his health. One night, he witnessed a person “beating the devil” out of an ATM with a sledgehammer in the middle of the street. He submitted a letter from Councilman Leon Pinkett in opposition to the renewal of the license.

Mr. Fogleman pointed out that the licensee donates to the Matthew A Henson community association as well as the elementary school and a local church. Bailey responded, “I donate too.”

Ms. Inez Robb testified on behalf of the Western District Community Relations Council and the Fulton Community Association. She noted that the licensee does donate to some community events, but that does not absolve him of the responsibility to take care of his business. From 6am to 2am, people hang out there, every day. When Mr. Fogleman asked her about the lack of 311 calls for this business, Ms. Robb responded that 311 is not open after 10pm, which could account for it. Residents call 911 instead.

Ms. Adeline Hutchinson, from Robert W Coleman Community Organization and the Greater Mondawmin Coordinating Council. She lives within four blocks of Oxford Tavern, and she said “the hangout is atrocious.” Fogleman asked Hutchinson about the bus stop in front of Oxford Tavern; she responded that it is the business’s responsibility to monitor who is coming and going at the bus stop and make sure they’re not just loitering. “But if you’re standing behind a plate glass window and you don’t come out and you’re shooting things through a turnstile, you don’t know what’s going out there anyway,” she said.

Mr. Kang, one of the three licensees, submitted a petition of his customers in favor of the business. Kang has been operating the bar for two and a half years. When he bought it, he found that the bar side of the tavern has been unused by the previous owner. He admitted that there is loitering in front of the business but that he tells them to leave. There is a bus stop in front of the bar, and they tell the licensee that they’re waiting for the bus. He calls the police occasionally and keeps a log book. He donates to local causes and churches. Fogleman submitted an email of support from local leader Doc Cheatham. The licensee, through Fogleman, agreed to meet with the nearby neighbors and with the Matthew Henson neighborhood association to discuss how they can work together to address the issues they raised.

Ms. Robb testified again that Fulton Heights is closer to the establishment than the Matthew Henson community. She emphasized that providing drinks for a community event outside of the immediate neighborhood does not make up for the daily struggles that the community has from 6:00am to 2:00am.

Result of hearing License renewed
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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