Troubled city liquor store closes

August 19, 2008|By Justin Fenton | Justin Fenton,Sun Reporter

A half-hour before police were scheduled to close his North Avenue liquor store, Chang K. Yim reluctantly slid down a metal security curtain yesterday and padlocked it himself.

"This is the only way I make a living," he shrugged. "For the time being, I'm jobless."

Yim's Linden Bar and Liquors became the first business shuttered under the city's public nuisance law, which has been on the books for 15 years but was revised this year, in part because loopholes had made it difficult to enforce. Police said the store had become a hub for crime and cited it as the source of most drug calls in the Central District.

"The commissioner used the tools at his disposal to make the neighborhood safe," said Sterling Clifford, a police spokesman.

The store was ordered closed last week, two days after an administrative hearing in which police listed nine incidents of violence and drug activity that had occurred there, including the July 19 killing of Omar Phillips, who was shot in the head while waiting in line. Months earlier, the city liquor board had refused to renew the store's liquor license, but the decision was stayed by a Circuit Court judge, allowing the business to remain open.

Hye Yang, the sister of Linden's co-owner, Young Yim, said the family had been trying to do the right thing. Some who passed by the owners on the sidewalk offered words of encouragement and chided police, though hundreds of neighborhood residents have petitioned to have the store shut down.

"We're trying to make an honest living in a rough area. It's not the owner who is responsible for these crimes," Yang said.

Neighboring business owners said they feared their stores could be closed in a similar fashion, though Clifford cautioned that Chang Yim had been given several opportunities to improve safety but did not follow through.

Clifford said the store would remain closed for at least six months, at which point Chang Yim could begin an appeal process. Yim's attorney, Peter A. Prevas, could not be reached for comment yesterday afternoon.

Another store, Jimmy's Carryout, in the 2500 block of E. Hoffman St., could also be closed down as soon as next month. A hearing has been scheduled for Sept. 9.

justin.fenton@baltsun.com

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