The Baltimore City Board of Liquor License Commissioners revoked the contested liquor license for the Drinkery and postponed a ruling on the status of the Stadium Lounge during a series of four protest hearings Thursday.
The Stadium Lounge, a Waverly bar at 3151-3153 Greenmount Ave., went before the liquor board as nearby residents protested the annual renewal of its license. After the validity of its ownership was called into question, liquor board commissioners chose to postpone the ruling on its license until June 9.
Before that decision, the board pulled the license for The Drinkery, a Mount Vernon bar at 203-209 Read St.. The 2-1 decision came after an extensive hearing in which nearby residents raised concerns about crime, noise disturbances and excess trash originating from the bar.
Thursday marked the second time the new liquor board has convened. Chairman Albert Matricciani Jr. and commissioners Aaron Greenfield and Dana P. Moore were appointed to serve on the board by the city last month. Their nominations came after the last board was not confirmed by state lawmakers.
Protesters and supporters packed the hearing room for each of the four cases throughout the day Thursday. A handful of community members testified against Stadium Lounge, including Baltimore City Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke, past and present presidents of the Waverly Improvement Association, nearby residents and police. Stadium Lounge owner Domingo Kim, two of his employees and customers spoke up in support of the bar.
Becky Witt represented the community members protesting the license, and Stadium Lounge was represented by Melvin Kodenski.
Clarke said Stadium was impeding the development of the area north of East 33rd Street. And local residents shared stories of Stadium Lounge patrons urinating, defecating, masturbating and loitering outside the store.
Kim argued he's worked to address problems raised by the community since Stadium Lounge was penalized last year for illegal gambling. Stadium Lounge was dealt a strict penalty for that violation: $9,000 in fines and a 180-day license suspension, a punishment dealt by former board chairman Thomas Ward.
The bar was closed for 71 days before the most recent previous liquor board, chaired by Benjamin Neil, allowed it to reopen. The move came after Kim signed a consent judgment that required him to meet with community groups to reach an agreement about the bar's operations.
Kim and community leaders testified Thursday that they had several meetings, but negotiations fell through and they never signed a memorandum of understanding.
"The MOU just sort of fell into dead water," said Patricia Taylor, former president of the Waverly Improvement Association.
At the beginning of Thursday's hearing, Witt raised the issue that Kim should not be allowed to hold a license because he is not a resident of Baltimore. State law requires at least one license holder to be a city resident and taxpayer; Kim lives in Howard County and is the sole licensee.
"The board historically has not read this accurately and used property ownership as a proxy for residence," Witt said.
Matricciani asked for briefs from both Witt and Kodenski regarding the ownership dispute, and the board plans to issue a decision June 9 regarding Kim's entitlement to the license. If they deem he is allowed to own the bar, then the board will consider the other concerns raised in the protest hearing.
"This is the third board we've been before about this place, and today we're just not getting anywhere," Clarke said.
Before the Stadium Lounge hearing, which lasted more than two hours, protests against Half Mile Track (4108 Frederick Ave.) and Four G's Liquor & Lounge (4701 Liberty Heights Ave.) were denied, meaning the businesses will keep their licenses. The Four G's case was dismissed on a procedural technicality because community members did not submit their petition to protest the establishment before March 31.