City liquor board renews Milan’s license despite objections

The city Liquor Board voted in favor of renewing the restaurant Milan's liquor license Thursday night, despite some objections from Little Italy residents.

A few voiced concerns over loud noise, parking problems and garbage, but the major issue that would have led the board to revoke the restaurant's license was whether it had been using outside promoters. The restaurant explicitly agreed not to use outside promoters when the liquor board approved its license in July, board records show.

Critics say the companies Jet Set Mafia and GoodLife Productions promote Milan as a place to party, drawing crowds that stay later, drink harder and make more noise than traditional Little Italy diners.

"The board does not believe that the evidence shows that Jet Set Mafia or GoodLife is an outside party promoter. I don't know" what would, Liquor Board Chairman Stephan Fogleman said, announcing the renewal of the license.

"We want them to be a successful restaurant," said Giovanna Blatterman, but "we don't like what's going on between 10 and 2," which she said the promotions are encouraging.

Blatterman was one of two residents who protested the license renewal before the Liquor Board. She organized the petition against Milan.

"We live in Little Italy, not Fells Point," said one resident, Tom Leahy, who said he did not like the fact that the restaurant is seen as an "attraction."

While using promoters isn't illegal, the board has yanked liquor licenses from clubs that broke promises not to use them.

When Fogleman asked about flyers for "Industry Night," "Illusions" on Saturdays and "Karma" on Fridays, license holder Gavaskar Sharp said Karma nights were promoting the new restaurant called "Karma."

He told the board that "we do not use promoters," rather "in-house marketing." He said Milan has never been rented to promoters.

Sharp said Milan did host some social events but that those events were organized and promoted by the restaurant's staff.

He said restaurant guests are encouraged to reserve tables because of limited space and that velvet ropes outside help mark Milan's entrance and provide crowd control as diners wait for their cars from the valet service.

Rob Kowalski of Jet Set Mafia and GoodLife Promotions testified that he does marketing for the restaurant but not promotions for Milan. Kowalski said the difference between the two was that an outside promoter "conceptualizes an event" but that he had only advertised Milan events, using social-networking sites such as Facebook.

Blatterman presented a Belvedere Vodka promotional flier, which she said another resident found outside on his car.

Sharp said the flier was placed inside the menus but that the vodka company never hosted an event at Milan.

Sharp's lawyer, Mel Kodenski, said that marketing online is how restaurants are approaching the business now, adding that the restaurant has worked with the community to increase garbage pickup from two to three times a week and purchased noise meters to address some of resident concerns.

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