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Residents petition renewal of Fells Point restaurant's liquor license

Posted at 5:05 PM, Jan 28, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-28 17:10:40-05

BALTIMORE — Neighbors claimed that repeated noise violations by The Choptank restaurant and was grounds for loss of its liquor license. During Thursday's Liquor Board hearing they made their case.

From its opening in late September of 2019 to the pandemic closures resident Glenn Moomau said the restaurant has subjected people to loud live or recorded music seven nights a week.

"We have the right to enjoy our space at night without being pummeled with The Choptanks' outdoor system," Mammou said to commissioners during the hearing. "They promised not to be nuisance."

The fight came down to music, whether live or not, and how it impacted people in the surrounding area. Residents also raised issue with the restaurants 15 outdoor speakers.

During the hearing owner Alex Smith said he's been a good neighbor, adding other restaurants and bars also have live music. He said he felt like The Choptank was being singled out.

"I want to be treated fair and equitably and I want to be treated like everybody else in the neighborhood," said Smith. "If everybody in the neighborhood that owns a bar, which there are 50 of them as Mr. Mammou said, agrees not to have outdoor speakers, not to have outdoor live music and to make sure also that their business is sealed and they're playing indoor music so it can't be heard outside, Choptank will 100 percent sign and join that."

During the hearing evidence was discussed, including 28 calls to 311 about Choptank from May 2019 to December 31, 2020. The Liquor Board noted The Choptank has had no violations.

When it came time for the ruling, the liquor license was renewed.

Chairman Albert J. Matricciani said, "There's no specific evidence that shows that Choptank is the primary source of the noise that is causing the complaint. On the other hand, the sheer number of speakers, even if they are small, 15 seems to be incredibly more than I see at other establishments."

Both parties were advised to mediate the issue outside of a hearing setting in hopes of not having to discuss the matter next year during the renewal process.

"It does appear to be a lot of room for discussion," said Commissioner Robert Guye. "Here is a problem I believe. It was not identified properly but there is a problem. You guys need to get together and come to some sort of resolution."

In a statement to WMAR-2 News, The Atlas Restaurant Group which Alexander Smith is co-owner of said:

"Today, the Board of Liquor License Commissioners for Baltimore City voted to renew our liquor license. The Board unanimously rejected the challenge that was supported by relatives of competitors of The Choptank. The Board noted that even after 28 complaints, Liquor Board inspectors have never found a single violation when they investigated. Commissioners concluded that the challengers did not present any credible evidence of noise violations by The Choptank.

In response to the challengers' attempt to strip The Choptank of its liquor license, a large number of residents and business owners in Fells Point sent letters to the Liquor Board supporting The Choptaink and recognizing that The Choptank is a valuable asset to the community."