www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/baltimore-county/towson/ph-tt-recher-appeal-0522-20130515,0,2280624.story

baltimoresun.com

Appeals filed for Recher liquor license renewal

Towson attorney says protest dismissal was 'arbitrary'

By Jon Meoli, jmeoli@tribune.com

3:00 PM EDT, May 15, 2013

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Towson attorney Charles Brooks is continuing his fight against the liquor license renewal for the former Recher Theatre space, which is being transformed into a dance club.

Brooks, who last month had his challenge of the license renewal dismissed by the Baltimore County Liquor Board before it was heard, filed a set of appeals last week on the grounds that the appeal should have come before the board. The appeal was dismissed because only nine of the 13 protesters were present at the April 22 hearing.

"'It shall be heard' is what the law says," Brooks said Wednesday. "Their not having a hearing ... was totally in error."

Brooks is representing 13 property owners in the ninth election district — which includes Towson — who oppose the business' change from a rock-and-roll venue to Torrent Lounge, which will feature electronic music in a dance club setting.

One of the two motions filed as already been denied, Brooks said.

On Tuesday, the court denied a request for a stay of judgment which said the protest dismissal "was illegal, arbitrary, and capricious and denied protestants of their right to present evidence by the Board."

"I filed a motion to stay to afford them the opportunity to correct their mistake and have a hearing rather than go to the Circuit Court," Brooks said.

Because the request for a stay was denied, Brooks' next option is a petition for judicial review. Brooks filed the review petition on May 8, and said that once the liquor board files its records, both sides have 30 days to respond. A decision must be made within 90 days, Brooks said.

Much of the liquor license renewal opponents' grounds center on the language in the state Annotated Code and the county's liquor laws.

According to the court filings, the law says licenses may not be approved without a hearing if a protest is filed, and that protest "shall be heard." Additionally, county code says all protesters "should" be at the hearing in person. The word "should" leaves room for interpretation, and since there were nine of 12 protesters at the hearing it should not have been dismissed, Brooks said.

People from pockets of the community expressed concern when the Recher brothers, Scott and Brian, owners of Recher Theatre, announced their intentions earlier this year to close the rock venue and open a nightclub.

Despite the legal battle, Brian Recher said they've continued with work on the transformation into Torrent Lounge, as well as begun adding seats to Towson Tavern, their restaurant next door.