For sale: convict's liquor license Fells Point residents concerned over deal involving jailed felon

June 20, 1996|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,SUN STAFF

A convicted felon serving a 25-year prison sentence for selling cocaine is trying to sell her liquor license to a woman who wants to open a Fells Point restaurant, raising concerns among neighbors.

Liquor board members who are being asked to approve the sale will have to sort through a tangled tale involving drugs, strip clubs on Baltimore's Block and questions about how a jailed felon, Helen Dupreez, can possess a valid liquor license.

Karen Ann Patten, 34, has been fighting for three years to open a restaurant in the 1600 block of Thames St. Her battle has wound its way up to the Court of Special Appeals, which sent the thick file back to the Board of Liquor License Commissioners for a hearing.

Patten's lawyer, Konstantine "Gus" Prevas, said yesterday his client wants to open a "first-class restaurant" that can seat 75 patrons.

"The Fells Point association objects to any liquor license within whatever distance that they've staked out as their turf," Prevas said. "I think their opposition is unfounded."

A hearing scheduled for today was postponed to an unspecified date so Patten and her lawyer can meet with the Fells Point Homeowners Association, which opposed the proposal in 1993 and still has reservations.

Jennifer Etheridge, president of the homeowners group, said she is reserving judgment until after the meeting. But she expressed concern that the liquor license remains valid while the holder is incarcerated. "There doesn't seem to be a mechanism by which these licenses can die," she said. "We thought it had died four years ago."

Etheridge said that if the proposal is for "a legitimate restaurant, we will discuss it with them. It's not that we don't want someone to make a living in Fells Point, but the concern is that if the restaurant fails, then we have a rather large bar."

Patten is asking for a seven-day beer, wine and liquor license. Aaron L. Stansbury, the executive secretary of the liquor board, said the only way Patten can obtain the license is through a transfer, which has to be approved by the board.

Patten is trying to buy the liquor license owned by Dupreez, 50, who in 1993 was sentenced to 25 years in the Maryland Correctional Institution for Women in Jessup after federal authorities raided Helen's Hollywood Show Bar at 714 S. Broadway.

Police said that Dupreez sold drugs out of the Broadway bar and another tavern, the Red Room Go Go Bar in Highlandtown.

Police raids at the bars and at a stash house in the 1800 block of Fleet St. uncovered eight pounds of cocaine, $25,000 in cash and $60,000 in jewelry. Federal agents seized and padlocked both bars. The show bar has been converted into a book store cafe.

U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration sources told The Sun in 1993 that "Helen's Bar was used to facilitate the sale of cocaine. An informer said Helen would keep the bar open just for her cocaine customers. The bar was open sometimes for up to six hours without a drink being sold."

But Stansbury said that no connection between the drug sales and the Hollywood Show Bar was made during trial, and therefore Dupreez was allowed to keep her liquor license.

She is forbidden from operating a liquor establishment because she is a felon, but the license is valuable because no new ones are being issued.

Twenty-six days after Dupreez was sentenced, Patten offered Dupreez $6,000 for the license, which would be transferred from the shuttered Hollywood Show Bar to the nearby Thames Street location, Patten's lawyer said.

Prevas said that Patten has no personal ties to Dupreez. "They are not friends," he said. "This is strictly business."

Patten, a former bar waitress from Cleveland, held a liquor license for a bar called the Scuttlebutt, at 721 S. Broadway, and was an office secretary at Marko's Lounge, a strip bar on The Block that is now called the 408 Club.

Patten petitioned the liquor board on Oct. 28, 1993, to transfer the license. The board denied her request in January 1994, citing the objections of more than 51 percent of property owners within 200 feet of the proposed restaurant.

A Circuit judge affirmed the liquor board's decision in December 1994 but was reversed by the Court of Special Appeals in November 1995. The court ruled that five property owners who objected had no legal standing to vote.

That left only 24 objections out of a possible 50, meaning the liquor board must hear the case. Stansbury said Patten must prove there is a "public need and necessity."

Pub Date: 6/20/96

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