For more than two decades, Community Law Center has provided legal representation to community groups to challenge new liquor licenses and license renewals in cases where the establishment has, or would have, a negative impact on the surrounding neighborhood. Significant problems cited by neighbors include excessive noise, public urination, underage sales, drug dealing and other nuisance and criminal activity occurring in or around liquor establishments. These incidents, alone and in combination, destabilize neighborhoods by driving long-time residents away and deterring new investment.
With multi-year grant funding from the Abell Foundation, the Community Law Center pursued a strategy to raise public awareness and attention to the proceedings and rulings of the Baltimore City Liquor Board, as well as continuing to represent community associations in licensing hearings. The goals of the project are to improve the health and safety of affected neighborhoods, to reduce the number of liquor licenses granted or renewed with inadequate documentation and lack of responsiveness to community concerns, and to improve the overall effectiveness of operations and management of the Liquor Board through public accountability.
Community Law Center attorneys attend weekly Liquor Board meetings and track how closely the Liquor Board is following state law and responding to community concerns. The proceedings and decisions of the Liquor Board are summarized in a blog entitled “Booze News: Distilled in Room 215,” the latter a reference to Room 215 of City Hall where the hearings are held. The watchdog pieces have subsequently been reported in stories through the online news outlet, the Baltimore Brew. Booze News won the “Best of Baltimore” awards from both the City Paper and Baltimore Magazine in 2013.