Those Talmudic scholars over at the Baltimore city Liquor Board recently settled one thorny question – the distance between a bar and a church – and turned to another: what makes a church a church?
It was Round Two in the case of a South Baltimore address (3638 S. Hanover St.) where applicants hoped to transfer a liquor license, but the community objected because the establishment would be within 300 feet of a church.
Inspectors at the Oct. 17 meeting had been unable to determine the distance between the proposed bar and Strong Tower Christian Center at 100 E. Patapsco St.
At the subsequent Oct. 31 meeting, city liquor inspectors testified that they returned to the establishment and determined that the church IS within 300 feet of the proposed tavern.
(All this is according to Becky Lundberg Witt, writing on the Community Law Center’s Booze News watchdog blog.)
With that, the Board of Liquor License Commissioners denied the application of Kamal Toor, Amarjit Singh and Amanulla Niazi. By law, a bar in Baltimore cannot be within 300 feet of a church or school.
Quacks Like a Duck, or Does it?
The applicants’ attorney, however, didn’t go down without a fight. Melvin Kodenski questioned whether the establishment really is a church, noting that it has city Zoning approval as a flower and gift shop and that the address is listed by the State Department of Assessments and Taxation as a retail establishment.
“If it doesn’t walk like a duck and quack like a duck and if it doesn’t have a permit for a duck, it’s not a duck,” Kodenski said memorably. Liquor Inspector Joann Martin testified that she had spoken with the pastor and showed photos of the church sign and building interior.
The community’s attorney, Susan Hughes, of the Community Law Center, argued that the 300-foot ordinance provides no definition of a church or school and leaves the determination to the Liquor Board.
Given wide discretion, Chairman Stephan W. Fogleman and his fellow commissioners had no trouble making the call – they sided with Hughes and denied the application.