The Baltimore City Liquor License Board fined Maxie’s Pizza Bar & Grill $800 and revoked their Beer, Wine & Liquor License for six weeks after two incidents of serving alcohol to underage patrons.
“The terms of [Maxie’s] suspension are decided upon by the three board members of the liquor board,” Shelton Jones, chief liquor inspector, said.
The punishment was decided in a Jan. 8 hearing on two incidents this fall. On Oct. 24, Sgt. Rob Morales, a member of the Baltimore City Police Department (BPD), identified an 18-year-old man who informed the police that he had purchased a bottle of Corona Extra at Maxie’s. Employees at Maxie’s had checked the man’s real ID before selling alcohol to him.
Subsequently one of Maxie’s employees was caught instructing several customers to hide in the restrooms in order to avoid detection by the police. Additionally, on Nov. 24 an underage police cadet bought a bottle of Coors Light at Maxie’s without being asked to show her ID.
The dispute regarding the status of Maxie's liquor license pitted Baltimore City councilman Robert Curran against councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke, who represented her constituents from the 14th district, where Maxie’s is located.
“I had various complaints from my constituents, and local police officers had made it a point to talk to me about the problems at Maxie’s with the underage drinking and the overcrowding in what was really a dangerous situation, they thought,” Clarke said.
Curran is a co-licensee for Maxie’s and occasionally volunteers at the bar.
“Usually councilmen don’t put their names on a liquor license,” Jones said. “Because he’s listed as one of the licensees... that’s why he was actually involved in [the hearing].”
Clarke agreed that it is rather unusual for a council member to serve as a co-licensee on a liquor license.
According to The Baltimore Sun, Curran said that he is a family friend of Joyce Yun Chong, the owner of Maxie’s, and that he signed the license because the Chongs, who are from Pikesville, Md. needed the signature of a Baltimore City resident on their store’s license.
Prior to the hearing, Curran had asserted that Maxie’s was not to blame for the presence of intoxicated minors on its premises.
“These fraternities have parties and when they let out people are over-inebriated,” Curran told The Baltimore Brew. “And then they come into Maxie’s and Maxie’s gets a black eye when it’s not their fault.”
Curran could not be reached for comment.
The suspension of Maxie’s evoked negative reactions from customers.
Shawn Scott, a Baltimore resident, ate at Maxie’s on Jan. 21. She explained that she and her husband came into the restaurant through the side entrance on 33rd Street, so they did not see the sign on the front door, which states that Maxie’s’ liquor license was suspended.
“We wouldn’t have come in [had we seen the sign],” Scott said.
She predicted that the suspension of Maxie’s license will cause a drop in the store’s revenue.
Sophomore Justin Decker expressed his disapproval of Maxie’s practices.
“I think that the punishments are appropriate for what they are doing,” Decker said. “One can’t serve alcohol to minors and get away with it. Six weeks isn’t that long though. It’s not really [so] long that they’re going to lose much business.”
Maxie’s, located at the corner of N. Charles Street and E. 31st Street, was found guilty of similar violations in the past. On Feb. 9, 2012, Maxie’s was fined $500 for serving alcohol to a minor. On Oct. 6 of the same year, Maxie’s faced a $3,000 fine and a hearing because its bar was overcrowded and multiple minors had purchased liquor there.
According to Jones, the suspension of a local restaurant’s liquor license is not unusual. Similarly, Clarke said that she represents her constituents in hearings with liquor boards around six times each year.
“It’s not an everyday occurrence, but [it happens] maybe once every couple of months, because the police department sends cadets in places, and they do undercover things,” Jones said. “Last week, Favorite’s, a popular spot up on York Road, was shut down because of a lot of underage drinking... so it happens quite frequently.”
Favorite’s Pub, which is located near Loyola University of Maryland, had its license suspended for 104 days following a Jan. 22 hearing. On Oct. 25, 2014, BPD officers and the Loyola Police found approximately 100 minors in the bar, and undercover police caught the bar serving minors on Dec. 12, 2014.
Maxie’s will be able to reopen its bar on Feb. 19 and will be monitored by officials from the Liquor Board, BPD and Campus Security.
“They’ll be able to serve alcohol again, but they’ll be constantly monitored by the Liquor Board inspectors... [Maxie’s] will be strictly watched to make sure that what occurred doesn’t again,” Jones said.
Jones said that despite Maxie’s current suspension, it will not be monitored more strictly than other bars in the area. However, he added that Maxie’s will face a harsher punishment if it is caught facilitating underage drinking in the future.
At the hearing, Clarke wanted Maxie’s to negotiate a memorandum of understanding with the Charles Village Civic Association regarding its hours, the maintenance of the building and its adherence to safety measures. According to Clarke, the Charles Village Civic Association’s president is now working on developing this memorandum with an individual who is likely to purchase the license from the Chongs this spring. She believes that this individual would like to conclude the memorandum before Maxie’s current suspension period ends.
Clarke explained that the liquor license jointly held by the Chongs and Curran will have to be renewed this spring. The license will not be renewed if local residents object.
“I believe that the licensee at Maxie’s would like to get a transfer [of ownership] accomplished before the time for renewal in May, because we would protest the renewal if we don’t have a memorandum of understanding and an agreement for safer practices there,” Clarke said. “In the spring of the year, I’m very confident that the license will be transferred if the board approves the transfer. I think if [Maxie’s gets] a new owner, I think if they get a solid understanding of policies with the neighborhood, it will be a good operation. There’s no reason it shouldn’t be. The pizza’s good, so we should have the rest of the operation live up to that, and I think it will... I think it’s all working out.”
The Chongs refused to comment.
Correction: This article previously listed the incorrect address for Maxie's Pizza Bar & Grill.