TD Lounge fined $3,100 over inspector's ouster

January 30, 2009|By Brent Jones | Brent Jones,brent.jones@baltsun.com

The city liquor board fined the owner of TD Lounge - formerly Timothy Dean Bistro - $3,100 yesterday after one of the board's inspectors was manhandled by restaurant security during an investigation last year.

Owner Timothy Dean acknowledged during the hearing that his security guards should not have physically kept the inspector from entering his business, in the 1700 block of Eastern Ave., during an early-morning private party Nov. 15. But a member of Dean's staff testified that the inspector did not immediately identify himself and appeared to be trying to avoid paying a $20 cover fee.

The inspector testified that he was escorted out of the front of the restaurant by three security guards, and he was not allowed to begin his investigation until Dean intervened.

"I think the fine is stiff for a first-time offender," Dean said.

Stephan Fogleman, the liquor board chairman, said accusations of threats or abuse against inspectors are taken seriously, and that "noncooperation cases are particularly troubling."

Liquor board commissioners also found the restaurant guilty of operating as a de facto dance club, which violates its zoning designation.

Dean turned the restaurant into a lounge in June, saying at the time that he was losing money as a high-end bistro because of the economy. The lounge was planned to be a jazz club that would stay open late, but a dispute with a neighborhood group occurred, and Dean was not granted the proper entertainment licensing on appeal.

The lounge serves moderately priced food until 1 a.m., and Dean charges a late-night cover on the weekends.

After liquor board investigators first visited Nov. 9 and warned Dean that a live disc jockey and dancing were in violation of his license, Dean said he reconfigured the second floor to make sure there was no room for his patrons to dance. Investigators returned the next weekend for a follow-up inspection when the incident occurred.

Dean said after the hearing that he is being unfairly targeted by city agencies and elected officials, in part, because he is a minority owner in a mostly white district.

City Councilman James B. Kraft said Dean is overstepping the limits of his license, and asked the restaurant owner to cancel an advertised event scheduled tomorrow night at the lounge. Kraft said he considers the event entertainment and would like Dean to show a "good-faith effort" to work with the community by canceling. Dean said he is going through with his plans.

Kraft said he has heard from many neighbors who have criticized the late-night noise and clublike lines outside the restaurant Fridays and Saturdays. He added that more would complain, but they fear Dean, who has a pending defamation lawsuit against a neighbor.

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