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Judge to rule on new eatery next to Tiki Barge

A Baltimore judge will decide the fate of the Raw Barge Seafood Co., a proposed floating restaurant next to the popular but controversial Tiki Barge in the Harborview community.

Parkway Swirnow Inc., which holds the liquor license for the neighboring Tiki Barge, Tabrizi’s and Sorso Café, wants to expand the license to include Raw Barge. The city’s Board of Liquor License Commissioners has twice rejected the request, most recently in January — a victory for residents who have lodged complaints about the behavior of Tiki Barge patrons, including rowdiness and public nudity and urination.

The liquor board first denied the license expansion in March 2012, finding the Raw Barge would have a “deleterious impact on the welfare of the community” because there is only one way on and off the pier and no public parking.

Parkway Swirnow appealed, arguing the decision went outside the facts before the liquor board, and in November 2012, Baltimore City Circuit Judge Evelyn Omega Cannon sent the matter back to the board to explain its opinion and make specific findings of fact.

Liquor board chairman Stephan W. Fogleman referenced residents’ complaints against the Tiki Barge several times in the board’s January decision, according to a transcript of the hearing. He also noted that the board suspended the Tiki Barge’s liquor license for 30 days in 2011 because of a lack of security on the premises. (The bar’s owners paid a fine and agreed to add more security in exchange for the suspension being lifted.)

Parkway Swirnow’s liquor license was expanded to add the Tiki Barge in May 2010.

“This expansion is already teetering on causing undue disturbances in the community,” Fogleman said. “We believe that any further activity on that pier, commercial activity, with a liquor-licensed establishment is going to cause a great disturbance in the community.”

Kevin J. Pascale, a lawyer for Parkway Swirnow, said Wednesday that each of the four establishments should be treated separately under the liquor license. The past problems related to the Tiki Barge were not part of the hearing on expanding the liquor license, he added.

“If it were important to address these issues in this petition, they should have come into the record at the Feb. 2 [2012] hearing,” sad Pascale, a partner at Rosenberg Martin Greenberg LLP in Baltimore.

Alice G. Pinderhughes, a lawyer for the liquor board, countered the agency always looks at the larger record of a license holder when making a decision. She compared it to a judge considering a punishment in a criminal matter.

“You are hearing my case, but you can also make your decision based on my record,” said Pinderhughes, a Baltimore solo practitioner.

Judge Yolanda A. Tanner said she would try to rule on Parkway Swirnow’s appeal by Friday.

The proposed Raw Barge would be a two-story restaurant and bar featuring fresh seafood and sushi. Parkway Swirnow initially applied to expand its liquor license to include the restaurant two years ago.

Jeffrey Stern and David Wallace, Harborview residents opposed to the liquor license expansion, said before Wednesday’s hearing that it was a “slow” summer at the Tiki Barge, but there was no additional security as promised.

“Nobody is minding the store,” Stern said.

Residents were hoping Tanner would have the last word on the liquor license expansion, Wallace added.

“Neighbors are getting tired of the constant legal maneuvers,” he said.