Deal to sell county liquor license might help debt-ridden couple


A last-minute buyer could change the fortunes of a retired, debt-ridden Baltimore County businessman whose liquor license was in danger of being declared worthless.

Joseph and Mary Powers of Towson, owners of the former Cedonia Mall Spirit Shop, have a deal to sell their license for $15,000 to Abbas and Fortunee Oziel, who operate a pizza restaurant in the 8600 block of Philadelphia Road, near Golden Ring Mall.

The county liquor board has scheduled a hearing March 7.

Although the proceeds, minus commissions and taxes, won't cover the $35,000 in debts left from when the business closed in November 1992, Mr. Powers said he hopes to have enough to negotiate partial payments with his creditors.

Last month the liquor board ruled that if Mr. Powers didn't find a buyer by Feb. 1, his license would become worthless. State law says liquor licenses in Baltimore County remain valid for 180 days after a business is abandoned or closed.

The board has preserved liquor licenses for three other vacant or burned-out restaurant sites along York Road for as long as six years, apparently because large developments are planned for those sites.

A site on West Road in Towson and another at the vacant Shane's restaurant in Timonium are owned by partnerships controlled by Peter G. Angelos, owner of the Orioles. The third site, located where the Pizza Palace burned down in 1986, is north of Towson State University.

The Powerses' store, in the old Cedonia Mall in the 6000 block of Radecke Avenue, struggled through years of poor sales as the neighborhood went through hard economic times. Numerous break-ins and robberies occurred at the Powers store. A son, Michael, was shot and permanently disabled during a 1988 robbery.

Mr. Powers closed the store after a Baltimore church bought the shopping center. Though he found a buyer, the liquor board said his license was attached legally to the shopping center and could not be moved. The ruling made the license worthless, Mr. Powers said. The ruling was reversed in Circuit Court. By then, Mr. Powers had lost his buyer.

Now, at age 69, with his grown son at home and his wife's health poor, Mr. Powers has said he merely wants to sell the license and pay his business debts.

And he doesn't mind having to sell at a low price.

"It's a big relief," he said. "I'll be glad to get it over with."

Mr. Powers said he is due in District Court later this month to answer claims filed by several creditors.

He hopes they will accept partial payments on the theory that half a loaf is better than none.

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