April 15, 2015 at 3:41 pm EDT | by Steve Charing
Baltimore Eagle loses liquor license
Baltimore Eagle, gay news, Washington Blade

The Baltimore Eagle has been closed since 2012. (Photo by A. Currell; courtesy CreativeCommons)

The three-member Baltimore City Liquor Board on April 9 unanimously denied the Baltimore Eagle’s ownership group a requested liquor license transfer claiming that the work on renovations was not completed within the requisite 180 days, deeming the license dead.

The bar, located at 2022 N. Charles St., closed in December 2012 following its sale, leaving many in the community uncertain as to the bar’s fate. Charles Parrish and Ian Parrish purchased the property for $300,000 and vowed to re-open it as the Baltimore Eagle after renovations are completed.

However, unanticipated problems with the structure, an excessive amount of trash, delays in an electrical line installation and other impediments prevented the renovations from being completed on time. Melvin Kodenski, an attorney for the group, argued at a March 12 hearing that there was precedent to waive the rule under certain circumstances and that he would present legal documents to the board.

The ownership group presented its evidence, but the board, led by former judge Tom Ward, dismissed it citing a seething 2013 audit of the liquor board that revealed corruption and other irregularities. The new board was given the charge to crack down on “zombie” licenses as well as other improprieties.

According to BaltimoreBrew.com, Ward said at the April 9 hearing, “It is very clear to us…that the 180-day rule in this case has been violated. You’re out of time. The license is gone.”

Ian Parrish and his supporters consider the decision to be an injustice.

“We’ve done everything we were advised to do by the Liquor Board itself,” Parrish, a Baltimore-area developer, told the Blade. “We met the board regularly to keep them informed of our progress, and they were happy with our work; we were told that our license was secure as long as we continued our pace, and we held up our end of the that agreement; we paid our fees, and they took our money. And now these three new commissioners show up out of nowhere, disrespect the city officials who were moving the project forward, and kill our project with their arbitrary decision. From all the way up on their bench it must be hard for them to see that their decision has real consequences here in our neighborhood.”

Parrish added, “I don’t know what their agenda is, but we know that a building in Baltimore is sitting vacant right now because of the Baltimore City Liquor Board, and a business that has been in operation for 20 years has been told to go away. My men are out of work and our patrons are out of a bar.”

He had hoped that the rebirth of the Baltimore Eagle as a gay bar was not the reason for opposition from nearby community groups but suspicions have arisen.

“The most upsetting thing is that the handful of people in opposition who were running around saying that ‘a gay bar could bring gay prostitution’ was allowed to get away with it,” Parrish said. “That’s what we were told when we attended the meeting of the Charles Village Land Use Committee—the organization where Commissioner [Dana] Moore used to serve as president.  And most of these people don’t even live in the neighborhood. I am disgusted.”

Though the liquor board declared the license dead, Parrish and his supporters believe the project is not and will explore all legal channels available to make it happen.

“For better than 20 years, the Eagle has been a judgment-free environment, a place where people could go and just be themselves,” said Parrish. “The patrons and staff have always been good neighbors to me; and I may be just one guy, but as long as friends of the Eagle will stand with me, I will fight to re-open this landmark tavern.”

He urges friends of the Eagle to send letters of support to info@thebaltimoreeagle.com. All letters will be forwarded to the Baltimore City Liquor Board, Council member Carl Stokes, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and Gov. Larry Hogan.

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