After ten months of discussions, two proposals, hundreds of hours of negotiations, two liquor board hearings totaling more than eight hours, and three attempts to challenge the validity of the liquor license, the plan for Crossbar der Biergarten has been approved by the Board of Liquor License Commissioners for Baltimore City (BLLC).
The first proposal for Crossbar, which included an expansion of the former Turner’s/Billabong liquor license from 12-14 E. Cross St. to 12-18 E. Cross St., went before the BLLC on June 27th and was denied. Liquor Board Chairman Steve Fogleman cited, ”unprecedented cohesion of five neighborhood groups, including Federal Hill Neighborhood Association, Federal Hill South Neighborhood Association, Sharp-Leadenhall Improvement Committee, South Baltimore Neighborhood Association and Otterbein, protesting the expansion, as well as opposition by the Downtown Baltimore Family Alliance and Councilman William Cole,” as the reason for the decision.
The Ryleigh’s restaurant group, the team behind Crossbar, presented a new proposal this fall that included a smaller capacity from the 293 originally planned and restrictions on the liquor license for a food requirement. Crossbar and the South Baltimore Neighborhood Association (SBNA), which shares the proposed location with Federal Hill Neighborhood Association (FHNA), were able to reach a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on a 155-person restaurant with a 50/50 food requirement, as well as concessions on the wall height and operating hours of the patio.
This plan also received a letter of support from the Federal Hill South Neighborhood Association (FHSNA) and an email of support from Ottterbein and Sharp-Leadenhall.
FHNA did not come to an agreement with Crossbar and voted to challenge the validity of the liquor license, which was later determined valid by the BLLC at this week’s hearing. Concern was still expressed by Judy O’Brien, founder of the Downtown Baltimore Family Alliance and a Federal Hill resident. Local politicians did not weigh in on the new proposal during the hearing.
A key point of contention of those who testified against the plan was concern that a capacity of 155 would be unenforceable at a restaurant that still has the same 295-person footprint. When giving the decision to approve the plan, Fogleman said, “I don’t know how our city would fail to enforce capacity. I have faith that our city agencies can count heads.”
“We have an MOU [with SBNA], one of the most restrictive we have seen in Federal Hill. If that MOU is violated, we expect to hear about it,” said Fogleman.
When making the decision to approve the plan, Fogelman also said, “This is clearly a different animal that came before us last June.” He applauded everyone in the community for all of their hard work and praised Crossbar for working out many of their differences with the community.
Crossbar has an upcoming hearing with the Baltimore City Board of Municipal Zoning Appeals (BMZA) for a 30-foot setback variance on the property. FHNA is opposing the plan.
Crossbar hopes to begin construction immediately after an approval.