If your favorite corner pub got shut down by the liquor board recently with an intimidating notice taped to the door, you might not need to panic. Since May 1, approximately 100 establishments in the city have been barred from selling alcohol, according to the Board of Liquor License Commissioners for Baltimore City.
The reason isn’t a renewed temperance movement, but something more prosaic: paperwork.
The shuttered businesses failed to procure a valid license for 2023 as required by Maryland law. Nicholas Blendy, deputy executive secretary of the board, said it’s “as routine as you forgot to renew your driver’s license.”
Most of the places submitted license renewal applications, which were due by March 31, but either had failed to pay fees, were delinquent on taxes or simply forgot to pick their documents up at the board’s headquarters.
Many of the establishments have since reopened. Shipyard Pub in Canton, Kooper’s Tavern in Fells Point and Suspended Brewing Company in Pigtown all had suspensions but are now in good standing with the liquor board. A cease and desist for liquor sales at Bar One in Harbor East is still in effect, but was just posted to the business’ door on Thursday. Requests from The Baltimore Banner to Bar One for comment were not returned.
Shipyard Pub’s license issue was “resolved almost immediately,” according to manager Kenae Johnson. “From my understanding, it was just a mix up of timelines between the general manager and the board.”
A manager at Kooper’s named Colin who declined to provide his last name also said the tavern’s liquor suspension “was resolved less than 12 hours later.”
The wave of shutdowns is “typical” for late spring, said Blendy, but added that “this year might be heavier than most” because it is the first since the start of the pandemic that the liquor board has required restaurant owners to come to their downtown offices to pick up their licenses. During the pandemic, inspectors hand-delivered licenses to the city’s approximately 1,100 license holders for social distancing reasons.
Blendy said it’s taken time for city inspectors to post notices on all the establishments that didn’t get their new licenses. “It’s a math problem. Our inspectors have lots of responsibilities to do every day.” But Blendy said as of this week, all offending establishments have been provided with notice that they need to end alcohol sales until they renew.