Liquor board fails to renew license at North Avenue store

The Baltimore Sun

The city liquor board will not renew the license for the owner of Linden Bar and Liquors, a long-time corner establishment in the 900 block of W. North Ave. that police say is the scene of nightly drug activity and violence.

Residents of nearby Reservoir Hill flooded the hearing at City Hall yesterday and were relieved at the board's decision.

But the attorney for Chang K. Yim, who has owned the liquor store since 2003, argued that his client could be a victim of gentrification, and that Kim has tried to appease neighborhood fears by installing lights outside the store and fixing video cameras inside the building.

Richard Bittner, the lawyer, said he will appeal the board's decision, which he said leaves his client without a way to make a living. Yim also has six employees at the store and testified to serving about 1,000 customers a day.

Linden Bar and Liquors has been open at the location since 1977. Yim's liquor license will run out at the end of this month.

Liquor board officials said their decision was based on the amount of police activity outside of the store. Maj. John Bailey, the Central District commander, testified at the hearing that there have been two shootings, a stabbing, a robbery and two assaults on the block since May.

Bailey testified that police have had to make 45 stops at Linden in the past year, and that he has recently had to dedicate a sergeant and six officers to make routine patrols outside the place nightly.

"It's one of the most drains of manpower I have now," Bailey testified. "This is the worst liquor store-type establishment I have in the district."

City Councilman William H. Cole IV, whose district includes the store, testified that he has received more calls about Linden than any other establishment.

Stephan Fogleman, chairman of the liquor board, the state agency that regulates bars and adult entertainment venues in the city, called the decision to not renew the license difficult.

Before yesterday, Yim had neither been before the liquor board for any violation, nor had his license been challenged.

"There is clearly overwhelming opposition to continuing at this location," Fogleman told the panel. "We have an outrageous amount of police resources required to combat problems that are occurring inside and outside of the bar."

Bittner said that closing the store will not solve the systemic problems facing the block and the area. He said his client had twice met with police and neighborhood residents earlier this year, and that he had implemented some of their suggestions.

Yim testified that he spent about $1,200 to improve the lighting on the outside of the building. He said he has posted "No Loitering" signs and that he has kept a log on how many times he has called police. Yim said he now closes at 1:15 a.m., 45 minutes earlier than he used to, in order to deter loitering.

But neighborhood residents and police wanted Yim to hire a security guard, which he did not do. Police also suggested he stop selling candy and other items that tend to draw children from an elementary school about 100 yards away.

Remington Stone, president of the Reservoir Hill Improvement Council, called the board's decision "the right step."

"We were considerate the entire time of his need to make a living," he said,"but, by far, the situation outside that liquor store at all hours meant this was required."

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