Faced with a roomful of neighborhood opponents and hostile witnesses, the owners of a controversial Charles Street bar voluntarily turned in their liquor license yesterday rather than face near-certain revocation.
The license for Rootie Kazootie's at 2701 N. Charles St. was turned in just as a hearing was set to begin before the city liquor board on charges that underage drinkers had been served at the pub on several occasions early this year.
"We voluntarily surrender our license," said Paul Schwartz, the attorney representing the owners, Vincent A. Arosemena and his son.
Schwartz made the statement just after liquor board Secretary Nathan C. Irby Jr. read off a list of dates on which undercover police officers and liquor board investigators say they witnessed underage drinkers being served at the bar.
The voluntary action also came as an attorney representing a student from Loyola College accused the bar's owners of trespassing and attempting to intimidate a witness.
William Balaban, the lawyer representing Christopher Balaban, his nephew, said that representatives of the bar went on the Loyola campus and into a dormitory to confront his nephew and urge him not to testify. He said the visit followed two calls from the elder Arosemena.
Balaban said he had given the board a sworn affidavit from the student, detailing the incident.
He said the bar sent representatives to the campus "to intimidate a witness."
"It was witness tampering at its worst," said William Balaban.
Calling the decision to surrender the license "probably a smart move," liquor board Chairman Leonard R. Skolnik assured neighborhood residents and city police that the pub will no longer be able to serve liquor.
"The license is gone," said Skolnik, although he added that there was nothing to prevent the owners from applying for a new license at a later date. Liquor board officials also said that the pub did not have the necessary permits to allow diners to bring their own alcoholic beverages.
Art Buist, an attorney representing neighbors of the pub, located near the Johns Hopkins University's Homewood campus, said the action marked a rare victory for opponents who have complained about underage drinking, public urination and other problems for years.
"These things don't come quickly," said Buist. "We are very, very pleased.