Baltimore’s liquor board approved a new liquor license in Keswick on Thursday despite the impassioned objections of some residents and a city councilwoman.
Several locals opposed the license for the former Evergreen Cafe on West Cold Spring Lane on the grounds that after a year of negotiations, owner Binod “Milo” Uprety had not signed a memorandum of understanding with local groups, whereby businesses agree to certain restrictions.
The earlier cafe, known primarily as a coffee shop and lunch destination, shut down last year after almost two decades in business. Uprety told the Board of Liquor License Commissioners for Baltimore City at a hearing Thursday that he intends to use the space in the Roland Park area to open a restaurant specializing in vegan and vegetarian South Indian food with an upscale atmosphere. The new concept does not yet have an opening date, he said in an interview with The Baltimore Banner.
Uprety’s attorney Stephan Fogleman told the liquor board the community has been “a little unreasonable” given Uprety’s unblemished track record as a restaurateur in the area. Uprety owns longtime bar Alonso’s and Indian restaurant Namaste on the next block over from Evergreen, as well as Harbor Tandoor in Harbor Point and Tandoor Spice in Ellicott City.
John Coulson, who is listed as a co-applicant on the liquor license application, praised Uprety’s tenure as a businessman, while Elaine Stevens, the manager at Alonso’s and former owner of The Dizz, also testified on Uprety’s behalf. “Binod’s been a great boss, I think he runs his business pretty well,” Stevens said.
In opposition to the move were residents from Keswick and neighboring Roland Park and Evergreen.
Matthew Mulcahy of the Keswick Improvement Association told the board that Uprety’s businesses stay open later than many other restaurants in the area. Given the number of eateries already close by, including those owned by Uprety, Mulcahy said, “We don’t need another [liquor] license in this area. … Once a license is in place, it changes the character of the neighborhood, and we’re concerned about that.”
During a tense back-and-forth, an interruption from Finn Lepski of the Evergreen Community Association earned a swift rebuke from irritated board chairman Albert Matricciani Jr. “I don’t know who you think is running this operation,” the chairman told Lepski, “but I am.”
Baltimore City Councilwoman Odette Ramos also spoke in opposition to the license, telling the board that restaurateurs should participate in good-faith negotiations with the community, and “it’s very clear that that hasn’t happened.”
In voting to approve, Matricciani pointed to the absence of liquor violations at Uprety’s other businesses. He also told both residents and the restaurateur to meet with the liquor board’s community liaison and form a memorandum of understanding. The terms of the MOU will then become a part of the establishment’s liquor license, and breaking them can result in a violation or even the loss of the right to sell alcohol.