The Baltimore Liquor Board has renewed the license of the controversial Stadium Lounge after the owner agreed to a set of restrictions sought by the community, including shorter hours of operation.
The three commissioners voted unanimously to renew the license at a hearing Thursday after attorney Becky Lundberg Witt, representing the Waverly Improvement Association, read from a memorandum of understanding that will be a condition of the license.
Many of the restrictions focused on the appearance of the tavern at 3351-53 Greenmount Avenue, for years a watering hole for baseball fans when nearby Memorial Stadium was the home of the Baltimore Orioles.
Among the provisions of the agreement: fixing housing code violations, cleaning up litter daily, meeting within 60 days with Waverly Main Street about seeking a facade improvement grant, and uncovering and re-installing within six months windows that had been boarded up.
Other elements of the MOU are focused on concerns by neighbors that patrons loitering outside the establishment and walking in the neighborhood harm the health and safety of residents, particularly children who have to pass that spot on their way to a nearby elementary school.
“The one major condition is that he’s going to open now at 9 a.m. instead of 6 a.m., so he’ll be open 9 a.m. to 2 a.m. daily,” Witt said of the seven-day-a-week BD 7 tavern.
“Or shorter hours if he wants,” she added with a chuckle.
Licensee Domingo Kim also agreed, as part of the MOU he signed on Thursday, not to sell alcohol or products of any kind to minors, not to serve people who are inebriated or visibly intoxicated, to station an employee outside the store from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. and to actively discourage illegal activity and report it to the police.
(In May 2014, the Liquor Board, under then-chairman Thomas Ward, found the tavern in violation of the state liquor laws for making illegal payouts on video slot machines. The establishment was fined $9,000 and ordered shut for six months, a suspension that the board, under incoming chairman Benjamin Neil, cut short after two months.)
“Down this Road Before”
Appearing before the commissioners last week with two of his attorneys, Kim said little. Other speakers wanted to know what happens if he violates the conditions of the agreement.
“We’ve been down this road before,” said Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke (14th District).
“What if, at the time of renewal next year, these conditions have not been honored,” she asked the board. “Is there a quid pro quo that that will be valid terms to accept our protest of renewal then?”
Chairman Albert J. Matricciani, Jr. replied this way:
“If there are violations and they are proven to the board, we would of course – and they’re material – we would have to take them into consideration, and they might very well result in us not renewing the license.”
Representing the Guilford Association, attorney Timothy Chriss said he would withdraw his client’s protest of Kim’s license, but cast a flinty eye toward the future.
“We will take breaches of this agreement very seriously and we will be back before the board in order to make those breaches heard,” he said.
May Citizens Speak?
Matricciani at first was reluctant to let others come up to testify.
“Did they file a protest?’ he asked fellow commissioner Dana Petersen Moore, sotto voce.
Witt said what triggers a protest is 10 people signing a protest letter, requiring a hearing at which anyone who wants to speak could be heard “notwithstanding an agreement with a community association.”
Kodenski began to object and Matricciani joined him.
“I don’t know why we’re proceeding. Ms. Witt, you’ll have to explain,” the chairman said. “Are they members of your association?”
Trying to explain, Witt said she did not represent the people wishing to speak.
“I’m confused,” Matricciani said to her, while allowing the speakers to come up. “As long as you’re not concerned about jeopardizing your case.”
“We can’t not hear them,” Moore said to Matricciani. “We can’t silence people.”
Welcomed by Witt, a staff attorney at the Community Law Center, three people stepped up to the microphone. An 85-year-old Waverly resident, Herman Heyn, complained about the trash.
“The neighborhood is littered with these black plastic bags from the neighborhood bars including the Stadium Lounge,” Heyn said.
Also testifying was longtime Waverly resident, Kun Sun Sweeley, who said he hoped the tavern, guided by the agreement, could become “a great business in Baltimore.”
But he had some sharp observations about the Stadium Lounge’s impact on the Waverly neighborhood historically – something he said he appreciated when it was shut down by the Liquor Board for several months this summer.
“I don’t really like walking past the Stadium Lounge because I’ve observed drunk people always hanging out outside of the building,” Sweeley said. “When the license was temporarily revoked, it felt more safe. I felt comfortable walking down there.”