Walt’s Inn hit the scene as a karaoke bar in Canton more than 25 years ago, but now the local establishment is getting grief from the city for not having the proper permissions.
Walt's Inn, located at 3201 O'Donnell Street in Canton, was recently hit with a liquor license violation because the business doesn't have a live entertainment license, something the owners didn't expect because the singers are amateurs.
“Four inspectors were in here late one night and over the course of 45 minutes observed karaoke being performed, so [the owner] received a violation for that,” said Stephan Fogleman, the attorney for Walt's Inn.
The business was cited for illegal conduct by the Baltimore City Board of Liquor License Commissioners. According to the violation, at approximately 1:30 a.m. on November 8, 2015, inspectors observed an advertisement for karaoke then saw patrons participating in the act.
“I was very surprised by that. I got a letter in the mail stating I broke the law by having karaoke,” said Walt’s Inn owner Wilhelmina Watnoski. “It said I needed a live entertainment license; I had no idea I needed a live entertainment license for my patrons to sing.”
She added that for as long as they’ve had karaoke it was never brought to her attention by officials that her bar needed a special license.
“There were no red flags ever raised, they were never on the radar of the liquor board and that was to their credit, but that's also to their detriment because now they're finding out some important details after the fact,” said Fogleman.
Watnoski and her attorney are now working to go through the proper legal channels to get the correct zoning designation after their status was changed from commercial to residential several years ago. From there, they will make an appeal for the live entertainment license. The license costs several hundred dollars a year, but with the attorney’s fees, Watnokski said the one violation has jeopardized her bar from staying in business.
“We're going to make our best shot at changing the designation so Walt’s can continue to operate as a responsible business neighbor here in Canton for years to come as Baltimore’s best karaoke,” said Fogleman.
“If I lose karaoke this business will go down the tubes,” said Watnoski. “I run on karaoke, it's the only thing I offer here.”
The owner also wants to stress they she has no plans to close down and will appear in front of the zoning board on February 9th and the liquor board on February 11th to appeal the violation, request a new zoning designation, and apply for the live entertainment license.