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Liquor board waives Walt's Inn fine for offering karaoke without a license

Walt's Inn in Canton is fighting to keep the karaoke that keeps its customers coming back.
Walt's Inn in Canton is fighting to keep the karaoke that keeps its customers coming back. (Sam Sessa / Baltimore Sun)

The fate of Canton's slurred karaoke remains in the balance.

On Thursday, the dive bar Walt's Inn pleaded guilty to a liquor license violation from November for offering karaoke without a live entertainment license.

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The liquor board ruled to waive the fine, citing multiple factors — including the fact that this was the bar's first violation in 25 years and that owner Wilhelmina Watnoski promptly addressed the issue.

Watnoski and her attorney, Stephan Fogleman (the liquor board's previous chairman), will return to the board next Thursday for a hearing on Walt's' application to obtain the required live entertainment license. Fogleman said he requested both the violation and application to be heard today, but the request was denied.

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Watnoski claimed the violation occurred due to ignorance. Walt's Inn does not have a stage or a DJ, so Watnoski assumed karaoke did not fall under "live entertainment." The bar has offered karaoke for the past 23 years, Fogleman said, and also advertises it on its website and exterior.

"I didn't have any idea," Watnoski said to the board. "I'm thinking ['entertainment' means] bands and things like that."

The hearing concluded with some light-hearted banter between the board and Watnoski. After proposing to waive the fine, commissioner Dana Moore joked, "We should fine everyone for the bad karaoke."

Another board member jokingly said he didn't realize Walt's Inn was known for off-key karaoke.

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"They better bring their earplugs," said Watnoski, standing next to Fogleman. "They're really bad."

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