March 15, 2007

Letter in the Times

I would like to thank Steve Whalen for writing this letter to the Catonsville Times

Developer's frustration proof county liquor laws are poor

Craig Witzke deserves credit for putting his hard-earned money where Baltimore County has long encouraged redevelopment activity ("Plan to tap property's potential hits snag," Catonsville Times, March 7).
Unfortunately, he's also discovered one dirty, little secret hindering effective commercial revitalization throughout Baltimore County.
Its liquor laws are archaic, anticompetitive vestiges of post-Prohibition, making it difficult to attract quality restaurant operations.
In an era when more meals are eaten away from home than ever, where restaurant activity can act as a major anchor to catalyze revitalization efforts, existing county legislation can most kindly be described as counterproductive.
Perhaps one can justify limitations on liquor stores, package goods facilities and bars near schools and churches.
But restricting legitimate restaurant operations (Class B licenses), located on the main commercial thoroughfare for 600 feet of valuable frontage in each one of at least three Frederick Road business district locations, simply defies common sense.
The Frederick Road commercial corridor isn't that long to begin with, and we're going to exclude 1,800 feet on both sides of the street?
Let's get real here, folks. Can we at least catch up with late 20th century practices, if not the 21st?
To their credit, both County Executive Jim Smith and David Iannucci, the county's director of economic development, have been pushing hard to correct inequities in the current system. Jack Milani, head of the Baltimore County Licensed Beverage Owners' Association, has been reasonably supportive of those efforts.
The problem lies with some of his members who hide behind these regulations to exclude competition.
As an office developer, I'd love to have the county tell my competitors they can't build near Whalen Properties' projects. That would be great for me. But it would be lousy public policy.
When Tom Booth or David Brown constructs a building nearby, it provides incentive to keep my projects in good repair, maintain competitive rents, and, most importantly, offer my tenants value for their rental dollar.
Competition works, and it will work in the restaurant business if we'll let it.
I wish Craig Witzke success with his undertaking. And I love Mexican food! I hope my family can toast his Frederick Road venture with a Dos Equis, a Corona, a couple chimichangas and a burrito there some day very soon.
Steve Whalen
Whalen Properties


Anonymous said...

I appreciate the site and the updates, I can understand your
frustrations. I have a few ideas for you. I'm sure you know other
business people have politicians in thier pockets and fear whatever you might bring in. At least that is what I've heard. So why not start a soup kitchen and have bums hanging around all the the time. I'm sure that would help out these other business owners. At night you should open it up to a under 21 dance/music hall. That should sure up any permits you need to proceed.

But in the mean time would you be interested in using your place as a teen center? We need one bad here, and the kids want a place to do open mic nights and show their stuff. We live in music city for crying out loud shouldn't we have a place to hear music?

Anonymous said...

Good luck in your search for business tenants that will fit your vision of Catonsville. Its an innovative and noble approach and I really hope it works out for you and your family. Personnally, I am hoping you get some interest from the music industry to fit the theme that seems to be succeding on Frederick Rd. A recording studio and maybe a small concert venue could be worked into the site? I like independant restaurants but without national marketing and/or liquorlicese availability, thier sustainabilty is questionable
Joe Chilcoat

Anonymous said...

I love the fact that I have learned of this blog from many sources. Certainly the interest in the transformation of Frederick Road runs high.

A few ideas to throw out there are to investigate a "made in Catonsville" store which could be a cooperatively owned and run venture which sells hand crafted items from jewelry, to paintings, to photographs,to currios. There are many talented artists among us who would benefit from such a venue. And those of us with little creative talent would benefit even more! An additional idea is to have something like the Mill Garden Center and Farm Market on Sisson Street in Baltimore. They sell garden items as well as produce, artisian breads, dairy products, small batch salsas and specialty food items -- all locally produced. They are only open Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday - but offer lunch each day and BYOB dinners on Friday nights.

I would hope that those of you already doing business on Frederick Road know how much we residents appreciate your commitment and believe we all would benefit by bringing more activity to the center of town.

Thanks for creating this blog and being so hopeful about the future of the village.

Robyn Cavanagh

Steve Whisler said...

I hope the Baltimore County Delegation to our state legislature realizes that archaic liquor license laws thwart positive changes and economic opportunity for the Catonsville buisness district.

I can understand the premise behind liquor license laws. I don't want to see a large number of pubs and bars in our area. However, the state should offer additional liquor licenses to restaurants.

Additional licenses would help create more local jobs in Catonsville!

Anonymous said...

Please talk to the owner of Ship's Cafe. It is public knowledge in Catonsville that he is the true force that is blocking Craig from his ideas and desires. He is one of those guys that is "sitting in the back" and not allowing this to happen.

We need GREAT restaurants to eat and enjoy our time, not just places to go because they are the only ones available to us (see Ship's Cafe). It is like they are operating as a Monopoly.

The laws can be fought, but when someone like that sits on the board, it will be tough. The community must get involved to revitalize a depressing Catonsville.

On the Lighter Side!