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March 30, 2009

Little Havana and the MIZOD

little havana baltimoreSounds like it should be a children's book, doesn't it?

I was all set to write about Little Havana's (1325 Key Highway) fight against the Maritime Industrial Zoning Overlay District. I spoke with one of Little Havana's owners and took a bunch of notes, but never got around to blogging it.

Then I saw Midnight Sun commenter Evan's post about it on his blog, and thought, ah, to heck with it -- I'll just link to him. He lays out the whole situation pretty well.

Dig it.

(Sun archive photo)

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Posted by Sam Sessa at 9:22 AM | | Comments (16)
Categories: Bars & Clubs



I am still a little confused. I hope that everything works out for Havanas, I remember when you couldn't drink on their patio.

When is their lease up at their current location?

Who do we contact concerning what's going on?

Are they fighting for their current location or for their new location?

Is their a place to go to tonight where people can show up to help Havanas?


I think I can field a couple of these questions, Jason.

Their lease is year-to-year and expires December 31, 2009. They're not sure if their landlord will want to renew it for another year or not.

They are fighting for their new location, which was added to the MIZOD without their knowing several years ago.

I just read this on Facebook from Jordan Maloof

Little Havana has been a South Baltimore landmark since March of 1997. As our business has grown over the years, we have witnessed the revitalization and development of the Key Highway corridor and are proud to be a part of this thriving community. With this development along Key Highway and potential change to the zoning in our current location at 1325 Key Highway; it became apparent some years ago that Little Havana would soon be without a home. The obvious step was to find a new location for the restaurant. One of the main criteria was that the new building be in the same great area. We found what we believed to be the perfect spot in the Egan Marine property just a few blocks east at 1000 East Key Highway. Not long after the deal for the property was finalized the City of Baltimore enacted the Maritime Industrial Zoning Overlay District (“MIZOD”). The MIZOD limits the uses for any property within its scope. Any maritime related uses are allowed and other uses, such as restaurants, are prohibited.
Caught up in the net of this protection was Egan Marine. At the inception of the MIZOD it had been all but abandoned. It was in this state when we took over. The Egan Marine property has slightly more than 60 feet of usable waterfront space. The water at the bulkhead is never more than 6 feet deep. The property is useless for any true Maritime Industry.
This act was an effort to protect the irreplaceable maritime industry which has kept Baltimore so strong for so long. The local maritime industry is still very vital on a global scale. However, fluctuations in the markets may weaken holdings so that it appears temporarily that different uses for the land would be more beneficial for both land holder and for the tax base of the city. Historically a balance of residential and industrial makes a city more diversified and less exposed to dips in the world economy which we have seen so vividly in recent days.
There is a new proposal before the city council to extend the MIZOD an additional 10 years until 2014. This extension would effectively end our presence in South Baltimore. This is why we want to be allowed out of the MIZOD.
We don’t want to eliminate the MIZOD. We understand its importance to the industry and the city. We just want out of it so we can use our land the way we need to. We are willing to work with the surrounding businesses in order to show them that there is no desire to cause them problems.
Little Havana is the perfect example of the type of a “buffer” property between heavy industry property and residential properties. It will help blend the industry with an ever-expanding community.
Your support with letters, emails, and phone calls can show your representatives in the city council that you believe that Little Havana/ Egan Marine should be removed from the MIZOD.

Didn't Little Havana also buy a place on Fort Ave near Fort McHenry? I thought that was initially where they planned to relocate.

So, Jason, you think the city should be able to tell property owners what they can and can not do with their property, but not Little Havana?

Perhaps you should instead support the property rights of everyone, and support the elimination of MIZOD.

Come to me, Little Havana! I defy you! Come and kneel before Zod! Zod!

Paul, I support Little Havanas, I just didn't know the whole story. I have fought the zoning board for two years just to get outdoor seating. I can only imagine what their legal fees are. I do support the property rights of everyone. I think that Havanas was proactive and did the right thing and bought another location and it is unfortunate what is going on with them. One of the reason's I got a second place was because for a while I had problems with my landlord wanting market value when I helped increase the market value.

I am still learning about MIZOD, so I don't know the whole story. However I do fully support Havanas staying in Baltimore at either location, they led the way for a lot of people to build business in Baltimore.

So Paul, please reread what I have written before you put words in my mouth.


This is -way- off topic.


Try not to be too alarmed on April Fool's day. :)

I actually emailed Bill Henry about this despite the fact that the 10th is Reisinger's territory, but Bill tends to give pretty straight answers so I asked him instead. I'll be posting his comments on me blogosite in a few.

Jason - sam covered most of that but as far as who to contact, email or call Ed Reisinger:

410-545-7353 (fax)
Room 511, City Hall

I don't know off the top of my head who else is on the committee slash subcommittee dealing with the MIZOD, but those would be good people to contact as well. (my email to Bill Henry was only question oriented, not protest)

Spoke to one of the owners on Friday and he had indicated that there is a meeting scheduled between Havana management, and City Council members to come up with a "solution that is good for everyone". I went about three weeks ago to a hearing during which Domino Sugars bussed over all of their staff that was getting off work, maybe 100 or so workers to protest Little Havana's getting this waiver. Hopefully Havana's can pull it off.

Kulesz, what specifically was their (Domino) for protest? I think I can guess but I'd like to hear for myself.

Oh and Paul, thanks for the comment, my response:

Well my reasoning is only slightly more complicated than that:

Obviously the city shouldn’t be able to tell property owners explicitly what to do with what’s theirs, we’ve been through this in the past with eminent domain (the highway to nowhere, etc.) and other strongarm tactics, and it more often than not fails catastrophically. With MIZOD, in my mind, it’s effectively like setting up an “industrial preserve” in which property is set aside - voluntarily by the owners themselves - in order to account for the expanding and contracting of industrial cycles. As industry contracts, the property is protected for a period of time so that if and when business begins to expand again, there is space available to be retaken. That’s essentially why I support it.

The particular portion of the Baltimore harbor in question is unique in that the space available for industry to breath is practically nonexistent, thus the heated debate over such a tiny space. But the truth of the matter, unfortunately, is that aside from Domino Sugar there is very little going industrially between The Museum of Industry and Tide Point. Essentially nothing. In my mind, the industrial uses of that tiny section of Key Higway have come and gone, they’re dead, so it shouldn’t really be a part of the MIZOD.

Getting back to the original point, it’s much harder to get rid of residential units (condos etc.) than it would be to relocate a restaurant, which is part of the reason I think that in the event (by some miracle) that industry is revitalized in the area the property could be bid on, sold, and used for whatever industrial purpose seen fit in a far smoother fashion than if say a highrise condo building were erected. Plus the argument boils down primarily to waterway usage, which in the case of a restaurant is completely moot, I see no reason why any industrial venture couldn’t have a gentleman’s agreement between owners and come up with a fair and decent way to utilize the “deep water” surrounding Egan Marine (it’s not very deep at all). Which again, more than likely could not be pulled off if there are exceedingly wealthy residents of condos balking at the site of rusty boats being serviced right outside of their window.

I guess that’s all for now

Well we couldnt ask the workers, they just went where they were told. It seems as though (and this is only an educated guess) that Domino wants nothing but Maritime and shippingin that space. It seemed that they were against anything that modified the MIZOD.

After emailing today in support for LH...I got this back from Bill Cole:
"Subject: RE: Let Little Havana/Egin Marine out of the MIZOD

I fully support Tim and the rest of the group at Little Havana, but the Egan property will remain in the MIZOD. Councilman Reisinger and I are working with Little Havana to come up with a better plan for their waterfront relocation.

Bill Cole

William H. Cole
Baltimore City Council, 11th District
(410) 396-4816

I wish it would work out that they could just stay where they are now. How holds the lease to that place anyway? I do hope a good resolution will work out for the LH guys, but I have feeling I shouldn't hold my breathe on this one!

Interesting to see that the decisions have basically been made.

flowerbabe, the warehouse where Little havana resides is owned by Obrecht Corp. out of Connecticut. They frequently feud with Harborview developers and are considered "controversial" by some.

I posted the comments that I received from Bill Henry, the councilperson I emailed. He sort of elaborated in a far more narrative way about the topic than Bill Cole, but essentially re verified what Mr. Cole said.

Best of luck Tim.

"Didn't Little Havana also buy a place on Fort Ave near Fort McHenry? I thought that was initially where they planned to relocate."

They bought 'City Limits' and it is being operated by them now. I don't think it was purchased as a new location, it was a good deal at the time and can always be redone into a restaurant or another bar. They also bought Capt. Larry's around the same time and operated that for a while until they sold it. I wish those guys all of the luck in the world - they're going to need it when dealing with the backwards city politicos.

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About Erik Maza
Erik Maza is a features reporter at the Baltimore Sun. He writes for several sections of the Sun paper and contributes weekly columns on music and nightlife. He also writes and edits the Midnight Sun blog. He often covers entertainment, business, and the business of entertainment. Occasionally, he writes about Four Loko, The Block, the liquor board, and those who practice "simulated sex with a potted palm tree." Before The Sun, he was a reporter at the Miami New Times. He's also written for Miami magazine, the Orlando Sentinel, the Sarasota Herald Tribune and the Gainesville Sun. Got tips? Gripes? Pitches? He's reachable at Click here to keep up with the dumb music he's listening to.

Midnight Sun covers Baltimore music, live entertainment, and nightlife news. On the blog, you'll find, among other things, concert announcements, breaking news, bars closings and openings, up-to-date coverage of crime in nightlife, new music, round-the-clock coverage of Virgin Mobile FreeFest, handy guides on bars staying open past 2 a.m. on New Year's Eve and those that carry Natty Boh on draft. Recurring features include seven-day nightlife guides, Concert News, guest reviews of bars and concerts, Wednesday Corkboard, and photo galleries, as well as reader-submitted photos. Thanks for reading.

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