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The Dripby Fern Shen1:29 pmJun 25, 20130

Federal Hill debates Crossbar: boon or blight for neighborhood?

Above: How much trouble can a little garden gnome get into? From the Crossbar Facebook page.

A battle brewing for months over a proposed German-style beer garden is set to foam up at the Liquor Board Thursday at 2 p.m., with some opponents framing it as a last stand to keep Federal Hill from turning into a permanent frat party.

The developers of Crossbar de Biergarten propose to take the liquor license from a smaller, closed bar (Turner’s) on East Cross Street, and expand it from one and-a-half storefronts to four storefronts.

They describe a beer-and-brats menu and promise a large open area, lawn gnomes and possibly live entertainment at some point.

The people behind the project, mainly Brian McComas of Ryleigh’s Oyster, have been girding for community opposition – and whetting beer-lovers’ appetite for a pretzel-slinging Baltimore beer hall – since the spring via their Twitter and Facebook page.

“So excited! Chef Morrow is making Baltimore Style Sour Beef and Dumplings this weekend! #testkitchen #sauerbraten,” Crossbar tweeted earlier this month. They also rallied community support. “Thank you to everyone supporting Baltimore’s first German Biergarten! There is still time to stop in @RyleighsOyster to sign our petition!” And supporters tweeted back.

“I don ‘t get it – vacants or sick new bar?” Tweeted Edgar Allan Bro.

(We’ve invited McComas to respond to the op-ed we published today by Federal Hill resident Diana K. Sugg.)

Meanwhile five neighborhood associations have teamed up to oppose Crossbar, saying the area is already oversaturated with big bars that have sent one too many surly, sloppy drunk 20-something into the surrounding residential area.

The neighborhood’s District 46 representatives in the state legislature have also joined the residents, saying in a June 17 letter that the Liquor Board should reject such a proposal unless it has support from the neighborhood association.

In addition, opponents have been getting legal advice from the Community Law Center.

Opponents Cry Foul Over Hearing Date Change

Yet despite all these allies, the opponents are concerned about what will happen Thursday at the Liquor Board, in part because of what has already happened recently with the hearing schedule.

Eric Costello, president of the Federal Hill Neighborhood Association, said he was told the hearing was scheduled for July 18, anticipating enough time to collect the signatures needed to invoke the 51% rule.

(Under this provision, if a majority of the homeowners within 200 feet of a site show up to voice opposition to a liquor license, the license would have to be denied.)

But the hearing date was changed to June 27, leaving organizers scrambling to get enough signatures. Asked about the decision to push the hearing date forward, Liquor Board chairman Steve Fogleman said he wasn’t sure of all the details, but attributed the move to the staff.

He said the staff was approached by “the applicant,” who “complained about having to wait and said every day that goes by is costing him money.”

The hearing will be held at the Liquor Board’s regular Thursday meeting at 2 p.m. in City Hall, Room 215.

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