Does Fell’s Point need more liquor licenses?
That was the question that dominated discussion at two recent Fell’s Point community group meetings.
Doug Atwell, a mixologist and managing partner of Rye, the artisanal cocktail bar at 807 S. Broadway in Fell’s Point, is seeking to transfer a BD-7 liquor license—a seven-day tavern license—from elsewhere in the 46th district to open Ellington’s, a market specializing in high-end food, alcohol and cocktail implements, next door to Rye at 805 S. Broadway.
Plans for a Rye-related concept at 805 S. Broadway had been in the works since late 2011, according to community groups.
Atwell presented plans to the Fell’s Point Resident’s Association late that year and received no opposition.
But work on the project did not proceed.
Fast forward to 2013. Atwell presented to the the Fell’s Point Community Organization in June, describing the 805 S. Broadway project as a “retail arm of Rye,” and was asked by Daniel Atzmon—a board member of FPRA as well as a member of FPCO—to return to FPRA at a later date and clarify his concept.
“Since the plans sound different than those presented to us in 2011, I’d like you to come back to FPRA and re-explain,” Atzmon said.
FPCO ultimately voted to oppose the transfer of the license because they believe that Fell’s Point has too many liquor licenses already, says Joanne Masopust, the group’s president. She said the Fell’s Point area has about 60 existing liquor licenses.
“We believe that Fell’s Point is getting out of balance with liquor and retail,” Masopust said. “Several members of my group think we’ve reached a tipping point already. We don’t want to be like Cross Street,” she added. “We had all those problems [in Fell’s Point] years ago.”
At the July 10 FPRA meeting, Atwell and Ryan Perlberg, who co-owns Rye and is also an owner of Stuggy’s and Willow, at 809 and 811 S. Broadway, respectively, spoke before the membership and presented a revised concept for Ellington’s Market.
Per a written description, Ellington’s would be a retail space specializing in artisanal local food products, cocktail-making implements, cocktail-related books, and premium spirits.
According to that description, Ellington’s will serve salads and gourmet sandwiches during the day and conduct tastings of wine and liquor in the evening, as well as offer classes on spirits and classic cocktail-related topics.
“We will be bringing business and visitors to our neighborhood, with the goal of educating them on how to drink better and entertain in their homes,” the description read.
As at FPCO, there was some discussion at the FPRA meeting as to whether Fell’s Point needed another liquor license, but ultimately, according to an email from Atzmon, the membership decided to not oppose the license transfer to 805 S. Broadway—that is, if Atwell and the co-owners of Ellington’s sign a Memorandum of Understanding with the FPRA.
FPRA did not share details regarding the MOU’s contents with the Guide in time for publication, other than to say, in an email from Atzmon, that it “included some pretty strict provisions that the members suggested.”
Even though FPRA was not opposing the transfer, they acknowledged that the number of liquor licenses in Fell’s Point may have reached a maximum.
They even contemplated the future of new licenses being transferred into Fell’s Point from outside of the neighborhood.
“Are we going to have a policy to oppose opening a new bar in Fell’s Point with a license from outside of Fell’s?” Arthur Perschetz, president of FPRA, asked the membership.
Legally, an individual can seek to transfer a liquor license from anywhere within the legislative district—in this case, the 46th—but community organizations can oppose the transfer on the grounds that the neighborhood has enough licenses already.
“We tabled the outside liquor license issue until September,” wrote Atzmon in an email. “As it’s a complicated issue, we thought it best to present a clear proposal in writing, which would make it easier for an informed vote.”
Masopust said FPCO might consider discussing a similar policy.
“With 60 licenses in the general area, you could get a drink or buy alcohol at a different place every day for two months,” she said. “When is enough enough?”
Ellington’s would open in the fall of 2013. Their license transfer application is not on the Liquor Board docket at his time, but will likely go before the body within the next month or two.
by Danielle Sweeney