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Baltimore liquor board cites five more businesses for alleged coronavirus-related violations

Five more Baltimore restaurants have been called to appear before the city’s Liquor License Board to answer to allegations they violated Gov. Larry Hogan’s coronavirus-related executive orders limiting restaurant and bar operations.

Restaurante El Salvador, Special P’s Bar & Lounge, Shipyard Pub, Angie’s Seafood and Lust are scheduled for an Aug. 18 hearing, when they could face fines or penalties impacting their liquor licenses.

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The first round of businesses facing similar violations are set to go before the liquor board Thursday. The city’s health department shuttered one establishment earlier this week — Euphoria night club near Canton — after video posted on social media showed large crowds of people gathered outside, many without masks.

Liquor board documents say Baltimore Police detectives visited Restaurante El Salvador in Fells Point on March 17 at about 9 p.m. and reported seeing two customers seated at a table with silverware. They also observed a waitress carrying “two plates of food to be served to the customers who were sitting at the table,” the documents show.

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But Heber Portillo, the restaurant’s owner, said the two customers were simply waiting for their carry-out orders.

“They told the customers to stand up, that they could not be seated,” Portillo said. “That was the only issue, but they had no food and they had no drinks on the table.”

Zack Ahmed, the owner of Angie’s Seafood, also in Fells Point, described a similar situation.

Inspectors arrived at Angie’s Seafood at about 10 p.m. on May 1, and reported that about 14 people were inside the restaurant, some of whom were “observed consuming what appeared to be alcoholic mixed drinks out of clear plastic cups with lids and straws at bar area,” liquor board documents show.

Ahmed said the individuals in the restaurant were waiting for carry-out orders, and some had been served carry-out alcoholic beverages.

“It’s not like we were seating people, giving them drink and food, or anything like that,” Ahmed said. “But this was wrong. We understand. After that, we made it very clear that if you come in and get your food, we can give you the drink when you’re leaving.”

After the incident, Ahmed said he hired a security guard to ensure that his customers wore masks and followed the city’s restrictions.

“We follow what we’re supposed to,” Ahmed said. “Can you control every single individual? You cannot.”

At Shipyard Pub in Canton, the individuals that liquor board inspectors said they saw on the premises drinking alcohol May 1 were actually off-duty employees, who were leaving the restaurant, said Tassia Lacerda, the restaurant’s creative director, who is also a part owner.

That night, inspectors observed four “patrons” inside the restaurant “consuming what appeared to be alcoholic beverages out of 32-ounce clear containers,” liquor board documents state.

“It was about time for us to close, and they were lingering around a little longer than they were supposed to be inside the building, which at that point we did not know that someone could not be inside the building with the to-go beverage with a straw,” Lacerda said. “So it was kind of a learning lesson for us and learning experience and we’re definitely trying to adhere to all of the protocols and procedures for COVID-19.”

Representatives of the other two businesses, Special P’s on Baker Street in West Baltimore and Lust, an adult club on The Block in downtown, could not be reached for comment.

A Baltimore Police detective visited Special P’s May 6 after “receiving a letter from a community representative who stated illegal activity was occurring at the location,” liquor board documents said. The letter indicated that the restaurant was letting customers drink and socialize on its second floor, in violation of Hogan’s executive order.

When the detective arrived, he observed three individuals sitting at a table and on a couch along with “various open alcoholic beverage containers.” None of the individuals were relatives of the owners or employees of the establishment, liquor board documents stated. And, the restaurant’s second floor was not authorized to be used. Special P had received a previous violation for unauthorized use of the second floor, liquor board documents said.

At Lust, a Baltimore City Police detective responded June 25 to a complaint about overcrowding. At about 1 a.m., the detective observed about 50 people on Lust’s second floor, which was greater than the 50% capacity required by law.

On July 12 at about 1 a.m., the detective observed about 80 people on Lust’s second floor. The business owner told the detective that about 40 dancers were working that night, too. Around 1:30 a.m., the detective advised the owner to close for the night, and he complied.

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