Opposing Sweet Moon Grille BAR in Crystal Plaza

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Update Feb 26:
Laurel Gazette article, "Owners withdraw liquor license application after community uproar", (Feb 26. 2009)

Update Feb 20 pm:
Laurel Leader article, "Liquor license opposed" (Feb 19, 2009).

Update Feb 20 am:

Sweet Moon Grille owners have withdrawn their liquor license application (this time for real), according to this letter from their lawyer to the Liquor Board, a copy of which was also sent to Councilman Dernoga's office and me. I checked with the Liquor Board and was told that the Feb 24 hearing is canceled, so all efforts to solicit community responses (petitions, emails, etc.) can be suspended. No more is known at this time -- and obvious questions arise -- any available updates will be posted here and in community email. Thanks to all who worked so hard and quickly on this, and also those who wanted to do more, but could not, due to personal circumstances and the rapid development of this situation. Our community can be proud for speaking out when it really mattered.

Update Feb 14:
In answer to a question, it is our current understanding that the original signed paper "petitions" need to be mailed(USPS)or hand-delivered (best) to the Liquor Board -- signed "petitions" should not be emailed. We're not sure yet whether the Liquor Board will accept copies of signed "petitions" by FAX or email, etc, and we would not be able to seek clarification until Tuesday, Feb 17 at the earliest.

So, for now, please use postal mail or hand-carry the original signed "petitions" to the Liquor Board, as described below

Whether or not you sign the petition , you can of course send a letter expressing your personal opinion about the Sweet Moon Grille license application -- which is not a "petition" -- to the Liquor Board by email, FAX or postal mail, as described below. But clearly and unambiguously mark your letter with your position, such as "Opposing Sweet Moon Grille Liquor License", whatever.


Please watch this article for timely updates.

See below for Petition and how to write to the Liquor Board.

After two years of peace and quiet at Crystal Plaza (Muirkirk Rd & Rt. 197) after the violent J's Sports Cafe was shut-down by our community protest to the Liquor Board after 3 alcohol-fueled shooting murders, a new company now wants to open a similar "Sports Bar" at that same location, called Sweet Moon Grille. (J's Cafe history)

That owner, Choi & Kim Enterprises, LLC, managing member Ms. Jong Hi Choi, had a liquor license application denied in Virginia for too much violence and homicides at their Hi Cue Billiards place in Arlington. Please see in particular pages 9-10 of this Virginia Alcohol Beverage Control Board ruling.

Although Choi & Kim Enterprises, LLC signed their lease for Sweet Moon Grille in Crystal Plaza in September 2008, they only first contacted community representatives just two weeks before their Liquor License application hearing scheduled for late January, 2009. They agreed to meet on January 19 with community representatives: South Laurel Community Association Leaders (SLCAL), Police District VI Citizens Advisory Council (D6CAC), Coalition for Laurel Area Safety and Prosperity (CLASP) and elected representatives. But Sweet Moon Grille canceled their attendance only 4 hours before that meeting, misrepresenting that they had decided to withdraw their liquor license application. On January 21 we learned that they were not withdrawing their application and planned to go ahead with their scheduled January 27 Liquor Board hearing, even if that meant not consulting with the community.

After urgently written letters from District 1 County Councilman Tom Dernoga, and the Police District VI Citizens Advisory Council, then Sweet Moon Grille asked to reschedule the hearing to February.

On February 4, Sweet Moon Grille finally met for the first time with community representatives from the SLCAL , D6CAC, CLASP, District 1 Board of of Education Representative, Rosalind Johnson, and staff from District 1 County Councilman Dernoga's office -- others, including pastors and state elected officials, sent their regrets for being unable to attend as they had wanted.

At the end of that meeting, Sweet Moon Grille expressed its determination to open and operate as a Sports Bar, against all our expressed concerns, which various community representatives expressed as follows (not yet a collective position):
  • If the owners wanted Sweet Moon Grille to be some kind of food establishment, it should be at least a family-friendly full-service restaurant, such as (at least) Sullivans (Rt. 198 at R. 197) or Sapphire (Town Center) which are family-friendly, full-service restaurants -- not a Sports Bar.
    • with a real-menu
    • serving only beer and wine [not hard liquor at a bar]
    • selling more food than alcohol
    • no live entertainment [no live music]
      • also No Djs, no Karaoke, no Master of Ceremonies (M/Cs), no Comedians, etc.
        • Sweet Moon Grille insisted on DJs and Karaoke, Pool and other unspecified "amusements"
    • no huge bar dominating the room
    • no pool tables
    • no card games
    • open and close at restaurant hours, not late-night bar/club hours.
  • We didn't want people coming from Baltimore, DC, etc to a Sports Bar in our neighborhood, which is what happened at Js Cafe, resulting in 3 alcohol-fueled shooting murders there.
  • Their finger-food menu (13 appetizers, only 5 entrĂ©s, not a full service menu) confirmed their stated intention to operate as a Sports Bar, and conflicts with their assertion to be family-friendly.
  • Nearby residents still fear coming to Crystal Plaza after dark because of the 3 alcohol-fueled shooting murders at J's Cafe two years ago
  • This storefront (12617, the old J's Cafe) is too big – it attracts only Club-type businesses – it should be divided into two separate storefronts and leased separately.
  • We expressed doubts about Ms. Choi's ability to operate a safe business, based on the 2004 Virginia Alcohol Beverage Control Commission ruling denying Ms. Choi a liquor license for operating a disorderly [meaning violent] business (see the ABC Board ruling above).
  • Sweet Moon Grille said it would operate like any recognizable franchise restaurant .
    • We said Sweet Moon Grille is not a franchise. Franchises have contractual obligations to a national corporation that keeps them in line, and can remove the franchise, closing down businesses that misbehave.
  • At the end of the meeting, Sweet Moon Grille said they heard us saying “No Sports Bar”
    • We, [pretty much all of us] said, No Sports Bar, in particular not one like what Sweet Moon Grille is proposing.
    • We said that the community would need specific, structural, accountable, and enforceable measures for Sweet Moon Grille to protect the peace and public safety of our community, and even that does not assure us that violence won't happen there -- again.
The Sweet Moon Grille liquor license application hearing will be at 10 am, Tuesday, February 24, a time that is hard for most people to attend. But if you can, please come, if only to stand silently and be counted when the Liquor Board Chairman asks, Who is here to Oppose (or support) this license application -- just standing up for that count will greatly support testimonies by others, especially community representatives and public officials who will testify.

AND here are other ways you can also consider getting your own views into the hearing record:

You can send your personal letter to the Liquor Board by post, FAX or email:

County Service Building
Liquor Board, Room 204
Opposing Sweet Moon Grille Liquor License
5012 Rhode Island Avenue
Hyattsville, Maryland 20781
Phone: (301) 699-2770

FAX: (301) 985-3548
TO: Liquor Board
Subject: Opposing Sweet Moon Grille Liquor License

Email: DMBryant@co.pg.md.us
( Click to Email Now )
TO: Ms. Diane Bryant

Subject: Opposing Sweet Moon Grille Liquor License

You can ALSO sign this Petition, and either send it in to the Liquor Board yourself (and maybe also get it signed by a few of your neighbors and friends who are registered voters of Prince George's County -- for signature validation only, no other use of the names & addresses) or sign the Petition if you are home when neighborhood volunteers bring the petition by your house.

In any case, please deliver all communications to the Liquor Board no later than noon, Monday Feb 23 (best by Friday, Feb 20) so there is time for Liquor Board members to read them before the hearing.)

Please watch this article for timely updates.

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