But now, owner Chang Yim — whose business was closed Aug. 16 under Baltimore’s “padlock law” — is joining other Korean merchants fighting back against the statute they argue unfairly blames Korean business owners for criminal behavior beyond their control.
“I’ve put $500,000 into this business in a difficult neighborhood in the city,” said Yim at a protest outside Baltimore City Hall Wednesday morning.
“We are not criminals, and we shouldn’t be treated like criminals.”
Touting placards reading “Punish the Criminals, Not Us,” at least a dozen members of the city’s Korean business community took to sidewalks in front of City Hall Wednesday.
The statue, which was recently updated by the City Council to give city officials broader powers to close liquor stores, allows Police Commissioner Frederick Bealefeld to shut down any establishment deemed a “public nuisance”
During an August hearing, city officials cited 17 drug-related incidents in and around the North Avenue establishment from June to August — including a murder in July.
“Linden Liquors is a catalyst for violence,” Police Commissioner Fred Bealefeld said in a statement after he closed the store. “We can keep sending police cars there every night, but to really make the neighborhood safer, we need to close these places down.”
But members of the Korean business community said they feared the decision was just the beginning of a broader effort to shut down small Korean-owned businesses, many of which are victimized by crime.
“How are we supposed to be responsible for what happens in this city with all the crime?” argued Cho Sung, 54, a Yim supporter.
“Some of the stores have been robbed two or three times in the past year,” said Hye Yang, who owns a convenience store in West Baltimore.
But City Councilman Bill Cole, who spearheaded efforts to close Linden Liquors, said Yim did not do enough to control crime.
“Records indicate he did not call 911 despite the fact that crime was occurring inside the establishment,” Cole said.
“I could easily get 100 people to stand outside of their establishment on either side of North Avenue and say how much safer it is now that the store is closed. It’s like night and day.”
But Yim, who owned the store for five years, said he is now on the hook for $3,500 monthly rent payments.
“It’s not fair,” he said. “We just want to be able to feed out families.”
Another protest is scheduled for noon Friday outside City Hall.