City liquor licenses opposed

Homeowners group challenging permits of four Canton bars

April 10, 2001|By Allison Klein | Allison Klein,SUN STAFF

The liquor licenses of 18 Baltimore bars and package stores are in danger of being revoked this month, including four of Canton's hottest nightspots.

Neighbors are challenging the licenses, saying the bars play music too loudly and attract a rowdy crowd that trashes their yards, parks in their spaces and urinates on their lawns.

The Canton taverns - Good Love, Gin Mill, Spot and Purple Pepper - are in the 2200 and 2300 blocks of Boston St. in Southeast Baltimore, a commercial and residential strip that draws thousands of patrons in their 20s and 30s each weekend. The other 14 establishments are throughout the city.

This is the first time the licenses of Good Love, Gin Mill and Purple Pepper have been challenged. Spot's license was challenged unsuccessfully five years ago by members of the same neighborhood group, Anchorage Homeowners Association.

The city's 1,606 liquor licenses all expire April 30 and must be renewed each year. Depending on the type of license, the annual fee is between $55 and $10,000. Neighborhoods opposing a renewal must submit a petition with at least 10 signatures to the liquor board, which holds a hearing. Petitions against the Boston Street bars each carry 12 signatures.

Owners of the bars being challenged must attend the hearing - scheduled for April 12, 19 or 26 - before their requests for renewal are decided.

Bar owners in Canton say it's ridiculous that their neighbors are trying to shut them down. They say they're good neighbors who helped jumpstart the community's revival in recent years, and continue to give locals and visitors places to party.

"We were there when Boston Street was nothing but vacant houses and railroad tracks," said Spot owner Paul Chrzanowski, 40, whose family has operated the bar under various names for 65 years. "I don't think it's fair for someone to move into a home across the street and ask me to leave."

Not all residents who live in the 40 upscale townhouses on the other side of Boston Street oppose the bars. But some who live in the Anchorage, which was built about 18 years ago, say the situation has become unbearable.

"I can't tell you the amount of people whose windows vibrate because of the noise," said Margaret Carvella, 48, president of the homeowners association.

Several bar owners, including Kevin "Luke" Reeder, 32, who owns Gin Mill with his brother Lester Reeder, 37, were surprised to learn their liquor licenses are being challenged. Luke Reeder says they hire security to control their weekend crowds.

"We're just here trying to make a living and give people a fun place to hang out," Reeder said.

Good Love owner Jason Sanchez, 31, said he plans to circulate a petition for supporters of all four bars to sign, which they will present to the Board of Liquor License Commissioners at their hearings April 26.

The three-member board will decide the taverns' fates the day of the hearing, based on the strength of the testimonies, said Jane M. Schroeder, the liquor board's deputy executive secretary.

"If you're going to take away somebody's license, you take away somebody's livelihood," Schroeder said. "They take it very seriously."

If the liquor board revokes a license, the bar must close by May 1, unless owners file an appeal in Circuit Court.

Homeowners and bar owners said they will pack the hearing with supporters, if necessary.

"We're good to our neighbors, and we haven't done anything to deserve this," Sanchez said. "I'm pretty upset the Anchorage hasn't come to talk to us about this."

Records at the liquor board show residents have called the city's late-night complaint line numerous times over the years to report the Canton taverns for playing loud music.

City police Major Zeinab Rablod of the Southeastern District said she receives few calls about noise or trash from the Boston Street bars. Rabold said she hears more from residents complaining about Fells Point taverns.

Anchorage residents say they clean their yards and fill trash bags with beer bottles each weekend morning, and have tried methods such as planting a row of trees between the street and their homes to keep bar patrons out.

The liquor board last denied a license renewal because of a neighborhood petition in 1998, when the board refused Ellamont Food Market on Ellamont Street and Youngs Deli & Grocery on Bayard Street.

Schroeder said fewer than 10 have been revoked since 1981.

In Canton, Carvella said she also wanted to challenge the liquor license of Mara Maru, a nightspot in the 2300 block of Boston St., but made a mistake filing the paperwork.

Mara Maru faces the liquor board April 26 on charges of disturbing the community. The petition was signed by Anchorage residents.

Schroeder said she finds it odd that the petitions challenging the other four Boston Street bars all read the same.

"It seems unusual for all four places to have exactly the same problems," she said.

Carvella said she can't distinguish among them.

"I can't tell you which Coors Light bottle comes from which bar," Carvella said. "I have to assume it's all of them."

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