Booze News: Distilled in Room 215

A blog about the Baltimore City Liquor Board

What happened at the Liquor Board on November 19, 2015

Written by Becky Witt

Chairman Neil and Commissioners Trotter and Hafey held hearings on November 19, 2015. The 1:00pm docket began at 1:20.

1:00pm docket

Most of the docket items scheduled for 1:00pm were moved to future Liquor Board hearing dates. Only two hearings were held on November 19.

Applicants Kevin Cooper & Margaret Koechler
Business Name DKJC, LLC
Trading As Porter’s Pub of Federal Hill
Address 1030-32 Riverside Avenue
Type of License Class “BD-7” Beer, Wine, and Liquor License
Reason for hearing Request for hardship extension under the provisions of Article 2B section 10-504(d)
Hearing notes

Mr. Melvin Kodenski represented the two applicants for the hardship extension. Executive Secretary Michelle Bailey-Hedgepeth noted for the record that a community member had called with concerns about the establishment; he spoke with Deputy Executive Secretary Tom Akras, who told him that he could raise his issues when the license is transferred to a new owner.

Mr. Kodenski said that Mr. Cooper is the former licensee, who operated the business through April 30. He actually operated the business past April 30, illegally, since he did not have a valid liquor license after April 30, which is “neither here nor there” according to Mr. Kodenski. The secured party took back the license and is trying to resell it and get the business running again.

The hardship extension was requested on October 16, 2015, before the 180-day deadline.

Zoning R-8
Neighborhood Federal Hill
Area demographics 90% White, 3% Black, 3% Asian; 3% Hispanic ethnicity; 15% households have children under age 18; median household income: $73,342; 8% 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 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 None
Other reasons given for decision

Commissioner Trotter said that the hardship extension was given due to “financial reasons.”

Issues raised in audit present in this case or other issues observed None.
Licensees Michael Buenger & Carolyn Lissau
Business Name Diamond Jim, Inc.
Trading As Diamond Lounge
Address 415 E. Baltimore St.
Type of License Class “BD-7” Beer, Wine & Liquor License and Adult Entertainment
Reason for hearing

Violation of Rule 4.05: Prohibited Hours – October 3, 2015.

Violation of Adult Entertainment Rule 9: – Code Compliance – October 3, 2015.

Violation of Rule 3.03(c): Employee Records – September 5, 2015.

Violation of Adult Entertainment Rule 2: Minimum Age of a Dancer – September 5, 2015.

Hearing notes

October 3: Baltimore Police Officer Ashley Acord testified that she was helping to close down The Block at 2:00am, like the police do every weekend, when she noticed people inside the bar after the required closing time. She saw numerous patrons still inside with open containers. She told the manager that the bar was in violation of state law. Under cross-examination, she could not remember if the manager gave her an explanation for why there were still customers inside. She remembered that the bouncer outside the bar had given the police some trouble, which is why they decided to go inside. Under questioning later in the hearing, Acord said that the whole Block is cleared and the streets are closed around closing time. Once people leave The Block, they can’t come back until everything is completely clear. Acord said that this is standard protocol, because there are large crowds and a lot of gang problems. She reiterated that there was more than just one patron in the bar when she was there after 2.

Mr. Melvin Kodenski, on behalf of his client, objected to Acord’s testimony, because she did not have identifying information for the patrons who were inside. He called the manager on duty that night, who testified that the bar was having trouble with its credit card machine, which is why one of their patrons was lingering to pay his bill. The assistant manager of the club corroborated the manager’s testimony, that the customer was not drinking but was paying his bill.

Commissioner Trotter asked, “what is the rule? Is there a rule [about prohibited hours]?” Kodenski responded that usually the rule is that customers can’t have drinks in front of them after 2:00am.

September 5: Baltimore Police Detective L.C. Greenhill testified that he was called to the Diamond Lounge by the central district due to an incident at the club. When he arrived, he found a young black woman, a Ms. Jones, who told Greenhill that she had been dancing inside. Jones told Greenhill that a man had approached her to ask for sex while she was dancing, and she was offended by his question, and it escalated into a verbal and physical altercation. Jones said that her birthday was 9/13/97, which would have made her just under the age of 18. Jones claimed that she had been hired by Mr. Marcus Brown, an employee of the bar, to be a dancer. Greenhill was not able to find Brown, because he left the establishment when the police arrived. Brown had a valid arrest warrant. Greenhill stated that he had information that Jones had worked at other establishments on The Block, and he noticed that this bar did not have their employee records in order when he requested them. Greenhill, on cross-examination, said that Ms. Jones did not have identification on her; he took her date of birth from her testimony to him.

Kodenski called the manager a second time. The manager testified that Ms. Jones had never been hired by the club and had been told before that she was not allowed inside, because she did not have ID. The manager said that, on the night in question, she found Jones inside and told her to leave, at which point Jones attacked her, breaking her wrist. The assistant manager agreed; she said that she had never seen Jones before and was not sure how she got into the building. Jones became irate when she was asked to leave, and she attacked the manager.

In his closing remarks, Kodenski argued that the bar employees did the right thing: they defended themselves and removed the girl from the bar. He said, “you don’t have a victim, you don’t have a crime.”

Zoning B-5-2
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? N/A
Pecuniary interest of Baltimore City resident N/A
Attorney for licensee Mr. Melvin Kodenski
# in support 2
Attorney for community None
# of protestants 0
# of inspectors/police officers 2
Result of hearing Responsible for the first two charges (merged). $500 fine. Not responsible for second two charges.
Vote tally Unanimous
Portions of state law cited in decision None
Other reasons given for decision

The commissioners agreed that there was not enough evidence to sustain the underage dancer charge, but there was enough evidence presented to find the business responsible for the prohibited hours charge. Trotter said that alcohol needs to be off the bar at closing. Because there was only one incident and two charges; the commissioners decided to merge the charges into one. There was a prior violation on this license from 2009.

Issues raised in audit present in this case or other issues observed None

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