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Liquor Issues

by Fern Shen7:10 pmAug 27, 20150

Solution for disagreement: Let’s just skip it!

Pressed by liquor lawyers, rules rewrite committee drops a key provision

Above: Critics are lobbying city senators to oppose the confirmation of Baltimore Liquor Board commissioners Doug Trotter, Benjamin Neil and Elizabeth Hafey.

It was the mantra of previous Liquor Board chairman Thomas Ward: a liquor license is a privilege, not a right.

It’s also spelled out in state law, this idea that a liquor license isn’t a piece of property to be possessed, but a license which can be suspended or revoked.

But as a committee considered a proposal to codify this principle – part of an overhaul of long out-of-date Baltimore Liquor Board rules – two liquor industry lawyers raised an objection.

John A. Pica, Jr. and Melvin J. Kodenski said they think a license is a property right.

And even though Minda F. Goldberg, of the city solicitor’s office, pointed out that state law says the opposite, and Thomas R. Akras, the board’s deputy secretary, read the law aloud, the objectors essentially prevailed.

“It was agreed that this section would not be in the Rules because there was too much disagreement on it,” writes Christina Schoppert, of the Community Law Center, in the Booze News blog, in her recap of the August 19 meeting.

Third Commissioner Named

The rules revision process is one feature of the liquor board appointed by Republican Gov. Larry Hogan.

Another is the new member. On August 12, the third commissioner was sworn in – Elizabeth A. Hafey of Miles & Stockbridge.

In her law firm bio, Hafey is described as representing “manufacturers and other businesses in a variety of commercial, product liability and premises liability matters.” She also defends doctors and hospitals in medical malpractice cases, it said.

From 2009-2010, Hafey served as a judicial law clerk to Baltimore City Circuit Court Judge W. Michel Pierson. Her JD is from the University of Richmond.

Hafey joins Chairman Benjamin A. Neil and Commissioner Douglas H. Trotter. Harvey E. Jones (the only holdover from the previous board) becomes an alternate commissioner.

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