Banditos charged with endangering public welfare after triple stabbing, faces liquor board hearing

The city liquor board has charged Banditos Bar and Kitchen with multiple safety violations in connection with a triple stabbing there in May, raising the possibility that the Federal Hill bar could lose its liquor license.

The Board of Liquor License Commissioners alleges the bar failed to "promote the general welfare of the community," prevent illegal activity on its premises and cooperate with law enforcement after the stabbing occurred.

An online docket outlining the charges claims a night manager at the bar "destroyed blood evidence and thus hindered the investigation" into the stabbing by attempting to clean up the crime scene before police arrived.

A hearing has been scheduled for June 29, where the board will hear evidence and the bar's owners will have a chance to defend themselves. The board will then determine whether the charges should be sustained, and what the punishment will be if they are, said Thomas Akras, the board's deputy executive secretary.

If any of the violations is sustained, the board could fine the bar, suspend its license or revoke its license, Akras said. He declined to elaborate, citing the pending hearing.

Andrew Dunlap, the bar's managing partner, declined to comment on the charges, citing the pending hearing and other potential litigation related to the incident.

Dunlap and his partners previously issued a statement saying they were "shocked and appalled by this senseless violence, which is in no way typical of the environment at Banditos or within the wonderful community of Federal Hill."

Ivo Jamrosz, co-chair of the Federal Hill Neighborhood Association's liquor advisory committee, said his organization has asked that the bar be temporarily closed and that its plans to expand be halted.

"As neighbors we want to be a little bit more protective of what's going on in the neighborhood, especially considering that the police are so undermanned," he said.

Officers were first called to the bar, near the intersection of S. Charles and Cross streets in Federal Hill, for a fight about 1:30 a.m. May 13. The stabbing occurred on the bar's dance floor, after a female from one group started dancing with a male from another and tensions built as the two groups "began to stare at each other," according to charging documents in the separate criminal case against 17-year-old Shawn Guzman.

The documents allege Guzman, a member of the group with the female, "produced a knife and was brandishing it" in the direction of the other group before the stabbing occurred. Three men were wounded; none was identified.

Guzman was later found at a local hospital with a self-inflicted cutting injury, which police believe was accidental. He was arrested and charged as an adult with attempted first- and second-degree murder, first- and second-degree assault, reckless endangerment and two weapons charges. He is being held in detention without bail.

Guzman, who was set to be arraigned Friday morning and has a trial scheduled Sept. 28, could not be reached for comment. Neither his attorney in the office of the public defender, Bob Linthicum, nor his family could be reached for comment.

The liquor board launched its own investigation, parallel to the police investigation, to determine what rules and regulations, if any, the bar had violated, Akras said. He said board inspectors were at the bar less than an hour after the stabbing occurred.

"We did a pretty exhaustive investigation on this," he said.

It was during a "follow-up investigation" the day after the stabbing when officials discovered that the bar's manager had "started to clean the bar area of the blood evidence prior to the police and crime lab techs arrival, which in turn destroyed blood evidence and thus hindered the investigation," according to the board docket.

The board said officials "recalled the strong odor of bleach within the primary crime scene inside the bar when they responded" after the stabbing, and "informed the staff of the establishment that any potential crime scene inside the bar must be preserved until police units advise the management that a cleaning process can be conducted."

Neither police nor the office of Baltimore State's Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby responded Friday to requests for comment on the board's claims.

krector@baltsun.com

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