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Letter from 46th Legislative District to Douglas Paige, executive secretary, Baltimore Board of LIquor License Commissioners (4/30/14)

Dear Mr. Paige:

Over this past weekend, our Delegation was contacted by a number of concerned residents regarding two separate decisions of the Baltimore City Board of Liquor License Commissioners, cases heard on Thursday, April 24, 2014 involving 4919 Belair, Inc. and Steel Drum Café, LLC. In both cases, the Board cited reference to a 200 foot rule requirement for valid signatures of residents who sign a petition to protest the annual renewal of a liquor license. It is our belief that this newly created standard runs contrary to public policy.

As described in the appendix in greater detail, the 200 foot rule is clearly applicable in the Maryland Annotated Code in Article 2B, section 10-202(e) for proceedings involving the Board’s required denial of a license renewal. The rule is extremely stringent and narrow due to the nature of a 10-202(e) proceeding.

However, the annual renewal of a license is a yearly occurrence that is much more general in nature. In section 10-403 of Article 2B, ten residents may trigger a hearing before the Board outside of the renewal period when ten residents of the same voting precinct as the establishment sign a petition, a significantly larger geographic area than the
arbitrary 200 foot boundary. The yearly renewal proceeding’s purpose is to ensure that liquor licensees are meeting the expectations inherent in the granting of a privilege to do business in a geographic area by means of a valid liquor license. This more general renewal proceeding surely should not require residents to live within 200 feet of an establishment to provide a valid signature to protest a licensee’s renewal. In fact, over the last decade, never has the Board required such a close proximity between a licensed establishment and the residence to deem a petition signature as valid for a yearly renewal protest.

We would greatly appreciate if you could provide us with greater insight into the decision to make this rather drastic change in policy without prior notice provided for public comment.

Thank you for your consideration of this inquiry, and we look forward to assistance in this matter.

Delegates Luke Clippinger, Peter A. Hammen, Brian K. McHale and Senator Bill Ferguson