The owners of Michael's Cafe in Timonium said Tuesday they will not pursue a restaurant in Federal Hill.
"We have decided that we can not alter the brand and image of Michael's Cafe," said Steven Dellis, a spokesman for his family’s restaurant.
Citing issues involving occupancy limits and parking, neighborhood groups in Federal Hill were opposing a liquor license transfer that would have allowed the Dellis family to operate an establishment at the corner of South Charles and West Cross streets. The groups were encouraging their membership to show up in force at last Thursday’s meeting of the Board of Liquor License Commissioners for Baltimore City to speak in opposition to the transfer application.
On Wednesday, the liquor board agreed to the applicants’ request for a postponement.
Dellis said in a statement: "After several meetings with local community associations who want us to change our request for a 300 person occupancy level to a 150 person occupancy level; change our ratio of liquor to food sales (not allowing us to offer as many mixed drink options); and increase parking spaces from the seven we proposed to 50 in a lot where only seven can physically fit, we have decided that we can not alter the brand and image of Michael's Cafe."
Amy Mutch, president of the South Baltimore Neighborhood Association, which led the coalition of neighborhood groups in opposition to the transfer application, said that area residents are not opposed to new business. "Everybody’s hoping to see a nice business [there] that the neighborhood would support," Mutch said. “It’s a nice property that needs to be developed. The initial reaction when we heard a restaurant was going there was positive.”
In June, a coalition of neighborhood associations successfully opposed a license request for a proposed beer garden in Federal Hill.
"The South Baltimore Neighborhood Association staked out a number they believe was reasonable," said City Councilman William H. Cole IV, whose district includes the area around Charles and Cross streets. "It seemed to be a reasonable request. Federal Hill has taken on an incredible number in terms of total [bar] occupancy. When you talk to people, their biggest concern is the ability for one neighborhood to handle the volume safely and effectively."
Cole said he is looking to form a collaborative group composed of business, hospitality and resident organizations that will work on issues that affect the neighborhoods around Cross Street Market.
"Everybody should have an opportunity to be heard,” Cole said. "Perhaps it will feel a little less like a "gotcha" every time someone applies for a liquor license."
Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun