Another liquor license that dates back to post-Prohibition days – 2101 North Potomac Street – changed hands at the Liquor Board recently, approved by the commissioners amid community opposition as well as some support.
Among the opponents was Julius Henson, president of the Berea Neighborhood Association, according to the Community Law Center’s Booze News blog post on the November 14 meeting.
(Henson’s name was in the news in 2012 when the political operative was convicted of conspiracy to violate election laws in connection with the Election Night “robo-call” incident. These days he’s reportedly seeking a Senate seat in Annapolis.)
The application in question was for a transfer of the “Jack’s Place” license from the current licensee, Doyle Farnsworth, to Anderson Davis, who proposes a 7 a.m. to midnight operation that he hopes will be “a cornerstone of the community,” wrote the Center’s lawyer/blogger, Becky Lundberg Witt.
Davis submitted a petition of support with 200 signatures. Henson contended – and Liquor Board Chairman Stephan W. Fogleman agreed – that many of the signatures appeared to have been in the same handwriting. “It does appear to me that many of these signatures look like they’re in similar handwriting,” Fogleman said. “Though I’m not an expert.”
Henson, meanwhile, presented a petition with 108 signatures in opposition, as well as a letter from Councilman Warren Branch.
“Surrounded in Bars”
Several area residents testified against the transfer, saying they are already suffering from the effects of multiple liquor establishments in the area and don’t want more of them.
Community members complained about trash and debris and said they worry about increased car and foot traffic from the proposed establishment. A witness who said she has lived in her Berea home since 1956 said there are parking issues and problems with people leaving liquor bottles at the front of people’s homes.
“We want to shut down every bar in the city and send them to the strip malls!” she said.
“The pastor of a local church testified that the community ‘is surrounded in bars,’” Witt wrote. “Where there’s drinking, there’s drunkenness. Folks act crazy.”
One supporter of the application who testified said she couldn’t think of another convenient place serving food in the neighborhood. Several opponents in the audience contradicted her and Fogleman, Witt noted, warned them not to call out from their seats: “This isn’t ‘The Price is Right!’”
Several protestants said they thought the supporters of the transfer did not actually live in the area.
In the end, the transfer was approved 2 to 1. (Chairman Fogleman and Commissioner Elizabeth C. Smith voted for it, Commissioner Harvey E. Jones voted against.)
Speaking for himself and Commissioner Smith, Fogleman noted that the community was divided. He said the board heard a lot of “general argument against alcohol and chicken boxes” but that protestants didn’t connect all that trash to this particular address, Witt wrote.
“These are common problems in dense residential neighborhoods with rowhouses,” Fogleman said, adding that while he was concerned about the situation he “would rather have a responsible licensee in the property than for the property to be empty.”
Jones said both sides “put on a pretty good case,” but that “people who have lived in a neighborhood a long time have proven their devotion to the community.”
“We’re talking about breasts!”
Among the other hearings held that day was that of Club Ikapi at 219 W. Pratt Street, where unlicensed “adult entertainment” was allegedly spotted.
Agent Donald Fitzgerald (“formerly of the Liquor Board,” Witt wrote) testified as to the scene Baltimore Police Vice Squad undercover officers encountered on August 5:
“There were strippers inside the establishment, although the business did not have a valid adult entertainment license,” Fitzgerald testified, according to Witt’s account. (She said Fitzgerald provided some photographs to the board.)
“There were dollar bills on the floor and, unfortunately, there was a bag of of condoms upstairs,” Fitzgerald told the commissioners.
The board unanimously found the licensee guilty of providing live entertainment without a license. Fogleman chided applicant Nkiambi Lema, saying he had “charges piling up” and warned that if he comes before the board again with similar violations, “You might not have a liquor license.”
When Lema started to argue with the police officers about the alleged bag of condoms, Fogleman interrupted him to exclaim, “We’re talking about breasts, exposed breasts!”