More than three years after first filing for a liquor license transfer and almost two years after opening their restaurant, the owners of Meet 27 are closer to overcoming opposition from a small group of neighbors.
The decision, from the Maryland Court of Special Appeals, went largely in favor of the Remington restaurant, which has been embroiled in what the court described as a "long-running dispute between a Baltimore City restaurant and its neighbors."
The court disagreed with a lower court ruling that went the neighbors' way. The upper court determined that the Board of Liquor License Commissioners of Baltimore City, commonly known as the Baltimore City Liquor Board, was within its rights when it granted the transfer to Meet 27 in August 2010 after first denying it two months earlier.
But the upper court also sent back a portion of the case to the liquor board for "further factfinding" on two requirements that opponents of the restaurant say make its owner, Richard D'Souza, ineligible for a liquor license.
"This has been a very long and circuitous journey for this license request," said liquor board chairman Stephan Fogleman.
The court said that one requirement, that a liquor license holder be a registered voter, "no longer appears to apply to a person in D'Souza's situation," referring to 2012 legislation that addressed the requirement's constitutionality. So the court is asking the liquor board to sort out whether the timing of the Meet 27 application complicates D'Souza's status.
The court seemed more interested in having the liquor board determine whether D'Souza is in compliance with the license's taxpayer provisions.
The neighbors, identified in court records as M. Hasip Tuzeer et. al., contend that D'Souza does not meet the board's definition of a taxpayer. The side representing Meet 27 argues that D'Souza is essentially a property-tax payer in Baltimore City by terms of his lease at Meet 27, which includes property taxes.
Tuzeer, who lives in Remington, said his opposition to Meet 27 is nothing personal. "We have too many bars and bad experiences in the past," he said.
But the president of the Greater Remington Improvement Association spoke in support of Meet 27's liqour license.
"We have supported Meet 27. We will continue to support the liqour license," said GRIA president Judith Kunst, who said she lives close to the restaurant. "They’re a lovely establishment. What more can be asked for?"
"We’re pleased with the court’s ruling," said D'Souza's landlord, Paul Goldberg. "Our goal was and is to continue to provide a quality neighborhood restaurant."
Follow Baltimore Diner on Twitter @gorelickingood