Taking issue with parking, occupancy levels and the ratio of liquor-to-food sales, several neighborhood associations are opposing a request for a liquor license transfer that would allow the owners of Michael's Cafe in Timonium to open an establishment in Federal Hill.
The leadership of both the Federal Hill Neighborhood Association and the South Baltimore Neighborhood Association are encouraging their membership to show up to speak against the request at Thursday's meeting of the Board of Liquor License Commissioners for Baltimore City.
The neighborhood associations say that Michael's has not agreed to the groups' desired occupancy limit of 150 and they are not satisfied with Michael's parking situation.
"Right now we have plans for seven [parking spaces]," said Steve Dellis, whose family owns and operates Michael's Cafe in Timonium. "That's seven more than anyone else has down here."
Dellis said he is requesting an occupancy of between 250 and 300 people to in order to accommodate large groups for catered events such as weddings.
"If we set it at 150, it would make it more like a bar," he said, "which is what the community said it doesn’t want."
In June, the Dellis family announced plans to build a new restaurant on what is now a parking lot at South Charles and Cross streets. The new restaurant would operate under the Michael's banner but with a different concept.
The neighborhood associations also have not been able to extract a commitment from Michael's to cap the percentage of liquor sales at the new establishment -- a cap that is not required under a tavern license, which is what Michael's is seeking.
In a letter to membership, Federal Hill Neighborhood Association president Eric Costello wrote, "[T]he proposed operators would not limit the consumption of alcohol in ways to ensure that the establishment operates as a restaurant and not a large bar."
Dellis agrees that negotiations about percentages came to a halt.
"They say they wanted us to do half [liquor] and half [food]. We're not willing to do that," he said. "A number will limit the way we can do business in an effective way. We don’t want to go down [to the liquor board] to have a gun put to our heads."
Costello of the Federal Hill Association agreed that the two sides are not close.
"We want assurances in place that protect the neighborhood, so that we know they’re operating as a restaurant and not as a large bar," Costello said in an interview. "Without that we can’t support it."
Groups representing Otterbein, Federal Hill South and Sharp-Leadenhall have also said they oppose Michael's plan.
In June, a coalition of neighborhood associations successfully opposed a license request for a proposed beer garden in Federal Hill.
"It looks like we're going to the mattresses again," Costello said.