Booze News: Distilled in Room 215

A blog about the Baltimore City Liquor Board

What happened at the Liquor Board on January 21, 2016.

Written by Becky Witt

All three commissioners were present for the January 21, 2016 hearing.

1:00 p.m.

I. Expedited Items (Transfers and Hardship Extension):

Applicant Christine Stelzen Miller
Business Name Smerttz, Inc.
Trading As Trade Name Pending
Address 2822 Hudson Street
Type of License Class “D” Beer, Wine, and Liquor
Reason for hearing Transfer of ownership and a request for outdoor table service.
Hearing notes

Ms. Kelly James represented the applicant, Ms. Miller, and proffered the case on her behalf. She told the commissioners that her client is fit and qualified to hold a liquor license, with extensive experience in the restaurant industry as a manager at Jack’s Bistro, which is owned by her husband. This business will be patterned after Jack’s Bistro, and she has a 100% ownership interest. James informed the commissioners that the tavern is currently operated as a dive bar, but her client plans to create an upscale dining experience. She submitted current and proposed floor plans and a menu.

Commissioner Hafey noted that the Canton Community Association had submitted a letter of support, except that they did not yet support the outdoor table service request. Ms. James replied that her client would be willing to withdraw the request for outdoor table service of alcohol. James said that she would amend the application to make this change.

Commissioner Trotter asked how the purchase of the business is being financed. James replied that it is being financed through a loan from Jack’s Bistro, which will then be a secured creditor on the license.

Ms. Miller testified briefly that the former business stopped operating in October, that she had purchased the business in November, and she would like to open as soon as possible.

Zoning R-8
Neighborhood Canton
Area demographics 86% White, 4% Black, 3% Asian; 5% Hispanic ethnicity; 9% households have children under age 18; median household income: $82,130
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? Yes.
Pecuniary interest of Baltimore City resident 100%
Attorney for licensee Ms. Kelly James
# 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
Other reasons given for decision None
Issues raised in audit present in this case or other issues observed

Completeness: Under Article 2B section 10-202(a)(4)(iii), “[t]he Board or the Board’s designee shall examine each application for the issuance or transfer of a license within 45 days of receipt of the application to determine whether the application is complete.” Only after an application is complete may the matter be scheduled for a hearing (subsection (v)(1)). The applicant, once the application is deemed to be complete, may not change any of the information in the application unless they have made the change at least 15 days in advance of the hearing. The Board has continued to accept changes and amendments to applications even on the day of the hearing, which is against the law.

Findings of fact and law: Court of Special Appeals case Institute of Mission Helpers v. Beasley, 570 A.2d 382 (1990) held that the due process clause of the Constitution requires that an administrative agency make findings of fact and draw conclusions of law each time it makes a decision, even if, as in the case of the Board of Liquor License Commissioners, it is not subject to the Administrative Procedure Act. In this case, as in almost all of the cases decided by this set of appointees, the commissioners made no findings of fact. Rather, they merely came to the conclusory decision that the application is sufficient under Article 2B section 10-202. This is not legally sufficient.

Applicant Evan T. Mortiz & Richard Royzr
Business Name World Theatre Company, LLC
Trading As Trade Name Pending
Address 404-06 N. Howard Street
Type of License Class “D” Beer, Wine & Liquor License
Reason for hearing Application to transfer ownership & request for live entertainment
Hearing notes

Mr. Kodenski represented the two applicants and spoke on their behalf. The applicants are requesting a transfer of ownership of a 6-day tavern license, where they are opening a space “to promote the availability of affordable real estate for visual and performing artists” (according to their corporate documents – there was no information or testimony about the actual business plan presented during the hearing). Kodenski provided a copy of a letter of support from the Downtown Partnership and signed petitions in favor of the transfer. Kodenski said that the petitions weren’t signed by people who live nearby, because there are “no real residents there.” Commissioner Hafey pointed this out, that the people who signed the petition don’t live in Baltimore. Kodenski replied that they were people who worked in nearby establishments, like the Everyman Theatre. “They like the nightlife. They like to boogie,” said Kodenski.

Zoning B-4-2
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? Yes, but not registered to vote.
Pecuniary interest of Baltimore City resident 5%
Attorney for licensee Mr. Melvin Kodenski
# in support 2
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)
Other reasons given for decision None
Issues raised in audit present in this case or other issues observed

Findings of fact and law: Court of Special Appeals case Institute of Mission Helpers v. Beasley, 570 A.2d 382 (1990) held that the due process clause of the Constitution requires that an administrative agency make findings of fact and draw conclusions of law each time it makes a decision, even if, as in the case of the Board of Liquor License Commissioners, it is not subject to the Administrative Procedure Act. In this case, as in almost all of the cases decided by this set of appointees, the commissioners made no findings of fact. Rather, they merely came to the conclusory decision that the application is sufficient under Article 2B section 10-202. This is not legally sufficient.

II. Violations:

Before the violations portion of the docket began, Chairman Neil announced that undercover agents or other police officers will not appear on camera when testifying during violation hearings. A microphone was set up at the end of the ledge, out of view of the cameras, so that the officers’ voices could still be heard. The Board decided to do this in order to protect the ongoing undercover investigations being done by the officers. Neil also noted that a Court of Special Appeals case had just been decided in which the Court stated that the cadet under the age of 21 in an underage sales investigation was not legally required to testify if the supervising officer was present to testify.

Licensee Edith Zaderman
Business Name United Liquors
Trading As Eddie’s Liquor
Address 3109 St. Paul St
Type of License Class “A” Beer, Wine & Liquor
Reason for hearing

Violation of Rule 4.01(a): Sales to Minors ­ December 11, 2015- At approximately 8:45 PM Baltimore Police Department, the Baltimore Sheriffs 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 Teshawn Dunn, who is under the age of 21, into the establishment to attempt to purchase an alcoholic beverage(s). At that time Ms. Dunn entered the establishment and asked to purchase a six pack of “Duck Pin Ale.” Utilizing a departmental $20 bill, Ms. Dunn purchased the alcoholic beverage for $10.89. Ms. Dunn then communicated to the task force of the sale. Members of the task force entered the establishment and notified the bartender/store clerk that an alcoholic beverage had just been sold to a minor and it would be reported to the BLLC. The task force then recovered the marked currency and returned both the alcoholic beverage to the bartender and the change that was provided to Ms. Dunn.

Hearing notes

Mr. Melvin Kodenski, on behalf of his client, admitted to the violation of law, which was committed by a temporary employee who is no longer working for the licensee. In mitigation, he told the commissioners that the licensee has not had any violations and has been a good neighbor. He would like to meet with the community association to iron any issues out and enter into an MOU.

Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke testified that she knows the licensee and his family, who have played a leading role in the business association along the St. Paul corridor. However, she would like to see an MOU between Eddie’s and the Charles Village Civic Association (CVCA) in order to establish a working relationship. The licensee has already agreed to this. Ms. Sandy Sparks, president of CVCA, agreed that the owners of Eddie’s had been good neighbors and had helped to redevelop St. Paul Street. CVCA wants to create a good neighbor agreement with Eddie’s, to make sure that the business is attractive and well-maintained and that underage sales do not occur. The licensee agreed to this on the record.

Commissioner Trotter said that this establishment is two blocks from Johns Hopkins University. “I know Hopkins,” Trotter said. Underage students “are always looking for alcohol,” which is a problem at schools throughout Baltimore City. Trotter suggested double-carding people, asking for a credit card as well as a regular card.

Zoning B-1-3
Neighborhood Charles Village
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, but the name of the business is “United Liquor, LLC” not “United Liquors.”
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 commuity members 2
# of inspectors/police officers 1
Result of hearing Responsible. $500 fine.
Vote tally Unanimous
Portions of state law cited in decision None
Other reasons given for decision The licensee is being proactive about addressing the problem.
Issues raised in audit present in this case or other issues observed None.
Licensee Modupeola Obayanju
Business Name Tiku, Inc.
Trading As Smith’s Place
Address 2006 Harford Road
Type of License Class “BD7” Beer, Wine & Liquor
Reason for hearing

Violation of Rule 4.01(a): Sales to Minors – December 10, 2015 – At approximately 7:57PM, Baltimore Police Department, the Baltimore Sheriffs 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 Tyler White, who is age 20 years old, into the establishment to attempt to purchase an alcoholic beverage. At that time Mr. White, utilizing a departmental $20 bill, purchased one 22oz Bud-Light Platinum bottle of beer for $2.50 from the store clerk/bartender. Mr. White then communicated to the task force of the sale. Members of the task force entered the establishment and notified the bartender/store clerk that an alcoholic beverage had just been sold to a minor and it would be reported to the BLLC. The task force then recovered the-marked-currency-and returned both the alcoholic beverage to the bartender and the change that was provided to Mr. White.

Hearing notes

The licensee appeared on her own behalf, with two family members. She admitted that the violation occurred; her employee told her that he thought that the underage person was a different regular customer, so he didn’t ask for ID. This employee was suspended as a punishment for his mistake, but she did not fire him. The licensee testified that this is the first time this has happened since she owned the business, and she has been very careful. She took over the business after her husband’s death. She stopped selling tobacco products, because she didn’t want people under 21 to come into the store. The licensee added that her business is barely surviving, and she has children to support.

Executive Secretary Michelle Bailey-Hedgepeth noted that there was a health and safety violation in 2011 because an emergency exit was padlocked, and there was a 2009 sale to minors violation, which surprised the licensee.

Zoning B-2-2
Neighborhood East Baltimore Midway
Area demographics 1% White, 96% Black, 0% Asian; 1% Hispanic ethnicity; 38% households have children under age 18; median household income: $30,821.90.
Does corp entity exist, in good standing? Yes; no. The corporate entity name is “Tiku’s, Inc.”
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 None
# in support 3
Attorney for community None
# of protestants 0
# of inspectors/police officers 2
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 Nathaniel Rugolo & David Rugulo
Business Name Pergusa Enterprises, Inc.
Trading As Jerry’s Belvedere Tavern
Address 5928 York Road
Type of License Class “BD7” Beer, Wine and Liquor
Reason for hearing

Violation of Rule 4.01(a): Sales to Minors – December 11, 2015 – At approximately 8:55PM Baltimore Police Department, the Baltimore Sheriffs 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 Teshawn Dunn, who is under the age of 21, into the establishment to attempt to purchase an alcoholic beverage(s). At that time Ms. Dunn entered the establishment and asked to purchase a 4-pack of “Seagram’s Escapes.” Utilizing a departmental $20 bill, Ms. Dunn purchased the alcoholic beverage for $5.98. Ms. Dunn then communicated to the task force of the sale. Members of the task force entered the establishment and notified the bartender/store clerk that an alcoholic beverage had just been sold to a minor and it would be reported to the BLLC. The task force then recovered the marked currency and returned both the alcoholic beverage to the bartender and the change that was provided to Ms. Dunn.

Hearing notes

Licensee David Rugulo appeared, without an attorney, but with City Councilmember Robert Curran (who does not represent the district in which this establishment is located). Rugulo admitted the violation. He testified that the business has been in his family for 38 years. When his father passed away, he took over the business. He usually is present in the package goods area every night, but the tavern side was short a cook that night, so he was filling in. If Rugulo had been there, the incident would not have happened, he testified. He has since reprimanded the employee. All of his employees are alcohol management certified.

Councilman Curran added that he used to represent this area when the district lines were different. He stated that Rugulo has taken efforts not to serve Loyola and Towson students and that Jerry’s has taken the lead among licensees in the area on underage drinking.

The last violation for sales to minors was in 2011. Trotter pointed ou that there have been four violations for underage drinking at that establishment in the last decade. He added, to Rugulo, that “we closed a place down” for underage drinking, referring to the previous administration’s decision not to renew the license for Favorites Pub.

Zoning B-2-2
Neighborhood Rosebank
Area demographics 69% Black, 23% White; 4% Hispanic ethnicity; 29% households have children under age 18; median household income: $44,853; 6.3% of households live below the poverty line
Does corp entity exist, in good standing? Yes; no.
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 None
# in support 2
Attorney for community None
# of protestants 0
# of inspectors/police officers 2
Result of hearing Responsible. $600 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
Licensee Shailja Anand
Business Name 5302 Frankford LLC
Trading As Tusker Lounge
Address 5302 Frankford Avenue
Type of License Class “BD7” Beer, Wine & Liquor
Reason for hearing

Violation of Rule 4.01(a): Sales to Minors- December 10. 2015- At approximately 11:00 PM Baltimore Police Department, 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 Tyler White, who is age 20 years old, into the establishment to attempt to purchase an alcoholic beverage. At that time Mr. White, utilizing a departmental $20 bill, purchased a six-pack of Coors Light cans for $6.00 from the store clerk/bartender. Mr.White then communicated to the task force of the sale. Members of the task force entered the establishment and notified the bartender/store clerk that an alcoholic beverage had just been sold to a minor and it would be reported to the BLLC. The task force then recovered the marked currency and returned both the alcoholic beverage to the bartender and the change that was provided to Mr. White.

Hearing notes

Mr. Kodenski, on behalf of his client, admitted the violation. He said that she has been a licensee for a year. The person who served the underage volunteer was a new employee. In response to the incident, his client has had all of her employees recertified through the alcohol management certification program. Kodenski said that his client had made a mistake, and the Board won’t see her again in the future.

Zoning B-2-1
Neighborhood Frankford
Area demographics 15% White, 79% Black, 2% Asian; 2% Hispanic ethnicity; 35% households have children under age 18; 15% households below poverty line; median household income: $39,144.11
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 1
Attorney for community None
# of protestants 0
# of inspectors/police officers 2
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
Licensee Eka S.Ekanem
Business Name Woodbourne Lounge, Inc.
Trading As York Club Tavern
Address 5407 York Road
Type of License Class “BD7” Beer, Wine & Liquor
Reason for hearing

Violation of Rule 4.01(a): Sales to Minors- December 11. 2015- At approximately 10:05 PM Baltimore Police Department, 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 Teshawn Dunn, who is under the age of 21, into the establishment to attempt to purchase an alcoholic beverage(s). At that time Ms. Dunn entered the establishment and asked to purchase a “Bud Light Strawberry Rita.” Utilizing a departmental $20 bill, Ms. Dunn purchased the alcoholic beverage for $3.00. Ms. Dunn then communicated to the task force of the sale. Members of the task force entered the establishment and notified the bartender/store clerk that an alcoholic beverage had just been sold to a minor and it would be reported to the BLLC. The task force then recovered the marked currency and returned both the alcoholic beverage to the bartender and the change that was provided to Ms. Dunn.

Hearing notes

Ms. Eka Ekanem testified on her own behalf, without representation. She took over the business after her husband passed away and is the sole provider for her family. She says that she is a good neighbor and addresses issues, including loitering. She feels terribly about the mistake that her employee made. She made all of her employees go through the alcohol management class. She put up signs inside the store reminding her employees to check IDs and card everybody.

Zoning B-2-2
Neighborhood Mid-Govans
Area demographics BNIA did not provide demographic data for this neighborhood.
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 None
# in support 1
Attorney for community None
# of protestants 0
# of inspectors/police officers 2
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

Comments are closed.

Disclaimer: While the author makes every effort to provide the most accurate and up-to-date information on this blog, the accuracy of some information is subject to change and cannot be guaranteed. Neither the author nor the publisher is responsible for any errors or omissions. All information in this blog is provided “as-is,” with no guarantee of completeness, accuracy, timeliness, or of the results obtained from the use of this information, and without warranty of any kind, express or implied. This blog is not intended to do harm to, defame, libel, or malign any religious or ethnic group, club, organization, company, individual, or government entity. In no event will the author, her employer, or the publisher be liable to you or anyone else for any action taken in reliance on the information in this blog or for any consequential, special or similar damages incurred, even if advised of the possibility of such damages.

The materials contained on this website have been prepared by Community Law Center, Inc. for informational purposes only and are not intended to be legal advice. Transmission of the information is not intended to create, and receipt does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship. Internet subscribers and online readers should not act upon this information without seeking professional counsel.

Copyright: Text, photos and other materials found on this website are the property of CLC, except where otherwise noted. Such materials may not be reproduced without CLC’s written prior consent.