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Appeals court: Anne Arundel liquor board must start over on Depot license

Selene San Felice
Contact Reporterssanfelice@capgaznews.com

The long-running dispute of The Depot liquor license is back to its beginning after the Maryland Court of Special Appeals overruled an Anne Arundel County judge last week.

Two years after owner Michael Mangum appealed a Circuit Court ruling that the county Board of License Commissioners was within its powers to deny him a license for a wine and liquor store in Parole, the court ruled the board failed to follow proper procedure.

“The Board had the discretion to hold that there was no public need for the proposed license within the three-mile radius around The Depot. However, the Board failed to hold a hearing before restricting the licenses within the specified area and failed to advertise the hearing ‘in the manner required for a new license,’ ” the court ruled.

Because the board failed to follow the necessary steps in 2012, the court ruled it didn’t have to decide whether denying the license was the right decision.

Neither the liquor board nor its attorney would comment on the opinion or provide a date for the new hearing.

Mangum said he has spent $1.3 million since the battle began in 2012 to get a liquor license for his business. With the court’s decision, he said he’s ready to spend even more to sue the liquor board.

“In my case, they never anticipated it going this far. This wasn’t my claim to fame. This was a hobby I bought from my aunt and uncle in 1988,” Mangum said. “I can now sue the board and I intend to. Unless someone puts me six feet in the ground, I’m not going to stop. They made this personal and they did it with the intent to harm me and my family.”

County Council Chairman John Grasso, who has become a vocal critic of the liquor board because of the dispute, predicted the board will award Mangum his liquor license. He said Mangum should sue the board.

“They were going out of the way to harm The Depot. I hope The Depot sues each and every one of those members,” said Grasso, a Glen Burnie Republican currently running for a District 32 state Senate seat. “It’s criminal what they did to this guy.”

While he was council chairman, Grasso barred the board from County Council chambers last year over frustrations with The Depot case and the appointment of John G. Warner, a Republican who has served as a liquor commissioner since 2003, as the board’s chairman.

The board continues to meet at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Annapolis, costing taxpayers about $20,000 a year.

“I was right, again, and the entire council was right. One of the key members that caused this problem is still on that liquor board,” Grasso said, referring to Warner.

Mangum said he is a strong supporter of Gov. Larry Hogan but wants Warner removed from the board. The governor appoints members of the board, but follows the recommendations of state senators from the county.

“For John Warner to be sitting on that board with this opinion, it’s shameful if the governor doesn’t do anything about it,” Mangum said.

A spokeswoman for Hogan could not be reached for comment.

The original location for The Depot in the Gateway Village shopping center has been filled by a fitness center.

Mangum said if the board approves his license, The Depot would still be located in the shopping center.

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