State Delegation Announces New Liquor License Proposal and Merchant Capital for Cross Street Market

| March 23, 2017 | 0 Comments

A previous liquor license proposal from the Maryland General Assembly District 46 Representatives was a key reason Caves Valley Partners (CVP) announced it was walking away from the redevelopment of the Cross Street Market last month. Today, the District 46 team issued new proposal which CVP supports.

On March 7th, Arsh Mirmiran of CVP told SouthBMore.com that he and his team would be moving forward with a new redevelopment plan which Mirmiran believes will address many of the concerns in the community. But, in order to move forward, Mirmiran said CVP needed a liquor license proposal that it feels is in line with Mount Vernon Marketplace and Belvedere Square Market.

The previous proposal from the District 46 team required a $50,000 per year fee for the liquor license unless CVP could obtain and extinguish an existing liquor license in Federal Hill. This fee was reduced to $20,000 per year if CVP obtained and extinguished one Federal Hill liquor license and $10,000 if CVP obtained and extinguished two Federal Hill liquor licenses. Mirmiran told SouthBMore.com last month that these “fees speak for themselves” and that this is “the deal the representatives felt the community wanted.”

The previous proposal also stated no liquor sales for the first two years, which CVP wasn’t willing to agree to.

The District 46 team heard from “from nearly 1,000 members of the immediate area” and had conversations with CVP since it announced it was walking away from the project. The District 46 team discussed this in a portion of its letter to the community today about the Cross Street Market:

We have engaged in hundreds of conversations over the last several months and we will continue to have conversations over the last three weeks of the legislative session on this important issue. There is consensus that the Market should be renovated, but differences of opinion over the specifics.

Last month the Delegation proposed draft legislation creating a new public market liquor license at Cross Street Market.  That draft legislation attempted to incorporate the overwhelming feedback received from the community at that time as well as the needs of the operator.  We told all stakeholders that we were open to amendments but the operator, Caves Valley Partners (CVP), decided – at that time – to withdraw. As we said then, and as we continue to believe, CVP was proposing a bold vision that could have enhanced the surrounding communities and benefited the current merchants, but that vision was not universally shared. From the outset, we hoped that the operator, community members, and current merchants could reach a place of compromise that would ease community concerns and provide a pathway toward a renovated and revitalized Cross Street Market.

After it announced its withdrawal, CVP reached out to the Delegation.  We had a candid conversation with CVP related to the legitimate concerns of merchants and families from whom we had heard, as well as our concern about the apparent lack of public support for the project, and the tone they had taken with some of our constituents.

Although prior to CVP’s withdrawal we had heard from very few supporters of the project, immediately following CVP’s withdrawal we began to hear from hundreds of residents who support the renovation. They expressed their concerns that renovations would be further postponed, and the opportunities for commercial revitalization limited.

From our conversations with CVP, we understand that the last thing they want is to create a Market with a party atmosphere.

CVP has a new plan and we have heard from nearly 1,000 members of the immediate area that support the concept. We have developed a two-pronged approach to support the merchants and to ensure a liquor license with appropriate guardrails is passed.

The liquor license proposal:

  1. Amendments – We have drafted a new amendment to the 46th District Alcoholic Beverages Act of 2017 (HB 1348/SB 1035) that creates a market license for Cross Street Market. The amendment adding a Market license to SB 1035 can be viewed here.  Taking feedback from both CVP and hundreds of community members, here are the key terms of the amendment that we have drafted that attempt to balance the many stakeholder interests related to this project:
  • Nick’s Seafood has been carved out of the proposed liquor license.  They will retain their license under the proposed legislation.  The sales at Nick’s will not count towards the larger food percentage described below.
  • Sixty-five percent (65%) of the sales from the remainder of the market must be from items other than alcoholic beverages.  We added language to our previous proposal that explicitly excludes food served outside the market from the food percentage to address concerns about off-site catering.
  • The amendment clarifies the language banning pub crawls to explicitly state that individual vendors inside the Market could not participate in pub crawls involving other license holders either inside or outside of the market.  This language will prevent pub crawls inside the Market.
  • The amendment limits the floor space of the portion of the market where alcohol may be served to 20% of the leasable tenant area.  Again, the “leasable area” includes the area in the market minus the area covered by Nick’s and does not include common areas and walkways.
  • The amendment limits the size of any stall that serves alcohol to a maximum of 1,000 square feet.
  • The amendment allows for the serving of alcoholic beverages other than beer and wine, so long as that liquor is served in mixed drinks and sold for no less than $5 per drink.
  • The hours when alcohol could be served at the Market would be from 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday to Thursday; from 11:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. on Friday, from 9 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. on Saturdays, and from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Sundays.
  • Similar to the recently-approved market license for Mount Vernon Marketplace, the annual fee on the Market will be $6,500. If CVP is willing to spend the money necessary to purchase another entity’s liquor license in the same precinct and then extinguishes it, the fee will go down to $2,500 a year.
  • Finally, we incorporated a new provision that requires the Baltimore City Liquor Board to develop tailored regulations specific to the operations of this unique public market license. Issues related to the following activities will be governed by regulation, which allows for greater accountability at the local level: (1) conduct of vendors, (2) conduct of license holders within the facility, (3) the operation of private events closed to the public, and (4) the maintenance of a common seating area.

“We are hopeful that the reasonable market license proposed by the Delegation after considerable thought will be supported by the surrounding neighborhoods,” Mirmiran told SouthBMore.com today. “We look forward to finally bringing South Baltimore and the merchants the market they deserve.”

A hearing on this amendment will be held in front of the Baltimore City Delegation at 9am on Friday, March 31st. Mirmiran told SouthBMore.com the liquor license situation must be resolved this year in order for CVP to move forward. The Maryland General Assembly 2017 Session ends on April 10th.

Just receiving this information, several area neighborhood associations are planning special meetings to vote on whether to support this legislation.

The District 46 team has also allocated $200,000 in funding to support the existing merchants. From the letter:

  1. Bond Bill to Support Merchants – We introduced a bond bill (SB 1186) to ask the State to provide $250,000 in capital funds to help support the merchants throughout the renovation. Given the limited amount of capital dollars available, we did not expect to receive the entire amount requested. This week, we learned that we were able to secure $200,000 in local project capital facility funding for the Baltimore Public Markets Corporation to help existing tenants improve their retail spaces. This money is currently allocated in the Senate’s version of the state capital budget, and we will fight to ensure that this tenant improvement funding is included in the final budget we pass this year.

Read SouthBMore.com’s articles detailing the different aspects of the Cross Street Market redevelopment here.

Rendering courtesy of Caves Valley Partners and Brown Craig Turner 

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About the Author:

Founder and Publisher of SouthBmore.com, longtime resident of South Baltimore, and a graduate of Towson University. Diehard Ravens and O's fan, beach volleyball enthusiast, dog lover, and "bar food" foodie. Email me at [email protected] and follow me on Twitter at @SoBoKevin.
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