The Baltimore liquor board on Thursday suspended Banditos Bar & Kitchen’s liquor license for two weeks and imposed $6,000 in fines on the Federal Hill bar following a triple stabbing there in May.
The bar and restaurant at 1118 S. Charles St. was charged with endangering general welfare, failing to prevent illegal activity on its premises and failing to cooperate with police. The charges came after a triple stabbing occurred at Banditos around 1:30 a.m. May 13.
Shawn Guzman, a 17-year-old, was charged with attempted first- and second-degree murder, first- and second-degree assault, reckless endangerment and two weapons charges in a separate criminal case.
After a hearing that lasted more than an hour Thursday, the three-member Board of Liquor License Commissioners unanimously found the bar guilty of public welfare and illegal conduct violations. By a 2-1 vote, the bar was found not guilty of failing to cooperate with police.
Banditos was charged with a cooperation violation after police discovered an employee cleaning up blood inside the bar before crime lab technicians arrived, and officers testified that they smelled a strong odor of bleach when they arrived at the scene. The $3,000 fines per violation are the maximum the liquor board could impose.
James Dipino, the general manager of Banditos who was on duty that night, said the bar was preparing to close when the stabbing occurred, and he was in his office after taking several cash registers to the back of the building. When he returned he saw a pool of blood with a 3- to 4-foot radius, he said, and observed several staff members coughing from what he thought was pepper spray.
He did not immediately see any of the three stabbing victims, but ordered an employee to begin mopping up the blood.
“I had about four females who were working and, as a man, I didn’t want them to have to see that,” Dipino said.
Liquor board commissioner Dana P. Moore was the only board member who found Banditos guilty of failing to cooperate with police.
“It just doesn’t make sense to me,” she said. “I’m just trying to understand why your first thought would be to destroy evidence”
“Everything happened so fast,” Dipino said. “My head was spinning.”
Banditos is working to open a craft deli in a space next door to the bar that previously housed Forever Yogurt. An expansion of Banditos’ liquor license to include that space was approved in January.
Members of the Federal Hill Neighborhood Association protested the expansion, and appeared again at Thursday’s hearing to push for harsh punishments against Banditos, including suspending or revoking its license. Others, in letters to the board, suggested reversing the approval for its expanded license.
While liquor board Chariman Albert Matricciani Jr. recognized there were many Federal Hill residents upset with the concentration of bars in their neighborhood, he said the board was unable to address the license expansion because it was a separate issue from the violations stemming from the stabbing.
“I can’t cure whatever problems you have with Federal Hill in this hearing today,” Matricciani said.
As part of the new project next door, Banditos was updating its security system and its cameras were down for about a week in May, including the night when the stabbing occurred. Dipino and owner Andrew Dunlap said they do not know how or when Guzman was allowed inside. They said it was possible the teen came for dinner while the kitchen was open — before the bar starts carding patrons outside the doors — and was able to stay into the early morning hours.
Dunlap was not at the bar that night, but after speaking with investigators, decided to replace the security company that mans the doors and keeps and eye on the crowd inside at night. The owners brought on a new security company about a week after the stabbing.
“Through the process of speaking with the inspectors and production of some of the evidence coming forth, we felt that it was time to question who we had working for our security company and see if there was something better out there,” Dunlap said.
About 20 people attended the hearing to support Banditos, with nearly as many in attendance to oppose it.
“I’m concerned that y’all still today don’t understand what happened and why it happened,” Moore said.
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July 20, 5 p.m.: This article was updated with additional details.