York Road businesses may be getting unused Baltimore County liquor licenses Scarcity of permits has slowed development

September 30, 1997|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,SUN STAFF

In a move that will boost new businesses trying to penetrate the York Road corridor, owners of several coveted -- but long unused -- Baltimore County liquor licenses are selling out under pressure from a new state law.

The scarcity of the tightly controlled licenses has slowed development in some parts of the county, including Towson.

Two of the licenses would be shifted there, one to an existing restaurant and another to a new commercial complex in the former Hutzler's building. Another license would be shifted to a new chain restaurant in Timonium; 11 others are scheduled for sale and transfer to new locations around the county.

"We're trying to work with the county to put the licenses where they need them," said Joe Sliwka, president of the Baltimore County Licensed Beverage Association, which pushed for the state law.

The actions were prompted by a law approved by the General Assembly in 1996 that declares a license automatically dead if left unused for 180 days after a business closes. It allows one additional 180-day hardship extension if the board approves, but no other exceptions.

Four of 19 licenses due to expire actually did. The Baltimore County liquor board voided the four licenses, yesterday, including one for the Backsides, a former controversial Rosedale strip club on Pulaski Highway.

All of the rest are proposed for recycling to new locations, if the county liquor board approves. They include two licenses on York Road in Towson and Timonium controlled by Orioles owner Peter G. Angelos and another that belonged to the former Martin's Eudowood catering hall at Towson Marketplace.

The county has long endured tension over distribution of liquor licenses, stemming from the competing interests of local family operators vs. those of large national restaurant chains.

Over the years, the politically active owners of the small businesses that dominate the beverage association have worked through their state legislators to limit new licenses and thus limit competition from chains they fear could drive them out of business.

The county's maze of liquor license laws has trapped many licenses in the east end, where population has declined, and made them scarce in areas that are growing, such as Towson and Owings Mills.

As a result, the price of a license in Towson has risen to $130,000 in recent years, while the price for one in Dundalk or Essex may dip under $20,000, if any buyer can be found.

The county government has been caught in the middle, eager to attract national chains and the jobs and revenue they bring but unable to get major liquor law reforms because of the beverage association's political influence.

The two Angelos licenses have been in a legal gray zone for a decade, unused but available for long-planned, though delayed, commercial developments.

The license sites are a vacant lot at York and West roads south of Interstate 695 and one farther north, where Shane's restaurant once stood in the 1900 block of York Road in Timonium.

Angelos attorney Jules W. Lichter said Angelos' plans to build a big hotel-office complex on the York Road-West Road site are still viable but couldn't be completed in time to use the license that has existed there since 1987.

And plans for a restaurant in the Foxtail shopping center that Angelos is building in the 1900 block of York Road fell through, Lichter said, leading to the sale of that license, which has been preserved by the board since 1988, when Shane's closed.

If the liquor board approves the ownership transfers, the Towson license will move to Strapazza's restaurant, at 10 W. Allegheny Ave. The former Shane's license will go to a new Applebee's chain restaurant planned for a new shopping center on Padonia Road and Broad Street in Timonium.

Another license freed for transfer was used at the now-closed Bravo restaurant in Golden Ring Mall. Last week, an application was submitted to transfer that license to a proposed restaurant park in Owings Mills being developed by the Rouse Co.

The General Assembly approved a law specifically to allow four licenses to move to the restaurant park from the eastern county, where there are too many. State law usually prohibits licenses from moving out of an election district.

The licenses declared dead by the board yesterday, in addition to Backsides', are those of:

Spanky's, formerly at 2401 North Point Road.

Brenbrook Restaurant and Lounge, 3526 Brenbrook Drive.

Central Asia Chinese Restaurant, 1238 Putty Hill Ave.

Still uncertain because of federal bankruptcy proceedings is the status of a license at a former restaurant-bar in the 400 block of York Road that was called Mykonos, Flutie Garcia's and Kelly's at various times before it closed in March. A hearing on that case is set for Oct. 27.

Pub Date: 9/30/97

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