Idle liquor licenses may get deadline in Balto. Co. Angelos among owners retaining permits for years

March 25, 1996|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,SUN STAFF

The General Assembly is considering changing a Baltimore County law under which some unused liquor licenses have been preserved for years, while others are declared void after six months.

Several licenses for long-vacant York Road sites -- two of them controlled by Orioles owner Peter G. Angelos -- have been preserved for up to nine years.

The licenses are owned by partnerships controlled by Mr. Angelos -- one for an empty lot at York and West roads just south of the Beltway, the other attached to the former Shane's restaurant in the 1900 block of York Road, Timonium.

Mr. Angelos wants to build commercial developments, including restaurants, at both sites. Work on the Shane's site is expected to start by June, and Mr. Angelos said he plans to use the other license by moving it to a location east of Towson.

While the Angelos partnerships have been able to keep the licenses valid, a national restaurant chain was required to abandon plans to locate in Towson when the county liquor board ruled the license it wanted to buy void after 180 days of disuse.

"Nobody really understands how [the law] is applied," said Edward Gilliss, an attorney who heads the private Towson Partnership committee on county liquor laws.

Underlying the proposed tightening of the law is the concern of license holders about competition from national chains trying to move into their areas. Local governments control the number of licenses on the market -- limits that drive up their value.

The proposed changes won't slake the demand for liquor licenses in Towson and Timonium, but they could end some of the legal wrangling among the various interests.

"Hopefully, that will all be history," said liquor board Chairman Philip R. Leyhe Jr. "This is something I've wanted to do for over a year."

The board and the local licensed beverage association are pushing the bill introduced by Del. Diane DeCarlo, an Essex Democrat who is a bar owner and association member. It would put a 360-day limit on the time a license could remain valid after a business closes, regardless of circumstances, and better define when the clock starts running.

Over the years, the liquor board has been keeping Mr. Angelos' licenses alive while his lawyers were sending a stream of letters describing plans for developments that have not panned out.

Reluctant to hurt plans for such large, tax-producing developments, the board has continued to renew the licenses.

The new law would start the clock when a bar or restaurant was closed or ceased active operations. The license would expire after 180 days of disuse unless a hardship was claimed.

If the board found a hardship exists, one 180-day extension could be granted.

Pub Date: 3/25/96

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