Appeal from the Baltimore City Court; Moser, J.
Delaplaine, Collins, Henderson and Hammond, JJ. Delaplaine, J., delivered the opinion of the Court.
This proceeding arose from an application filed with the Board of Liquor License Commissioners for Baltimore City by H. Gloria Carter, operator of Carter's Tavern at 1000 Payson Street in Baltimore, for a renewal of her Class D beer, wine and liquor license with special amusement license for the year beginning May 1, 1953.
Under the State Alcoholic Beverages Act, Code 1951, Art. 2B, sec. 65, the holder of an expiring license is required to file an application for the renewal of such license with the official authorized to approve the same not less than 30 days nor more than 60 days before the first day of May in each year. Upon the filing of the application and the payment of the annual fee, the holder is entitled to a new license for another year; provided, however, that if a protest signed by not less than ten residents or real estate owners of the precinct or voting district in which the licensed place of business is located is filed against the granting of such new license at least 30 days before the expiration of the license, no license by way of renewal shall be approved without a hearing before such official.
The Board of Liquor License Commissioners for Baltimore City received a protest against the granting of a renewal of Mrs. Carter's license, and the Board set the protest for a public hearing on April 13, 1953.
Six protestants appeared at the hearing. The applicant did not appear, but her husband appeared in her behalf. No complaint was made against the manner in which the tavern had been operated. The protestants based their protest upon Section 57(d) of the Alcoholic Beverages Act, which provided, prior to June 1, 1953, as follows:
"In Baltimore City if it shall appear that more than fifty per centum in numbers of the owners of real or leasehold property situated within two hundred feet of the place of business
for which application is made are opposed to the granting of the license, then the application shall not be approved, and the license applied for shall be refused."
The attorney for the applicant questioned the validity of some of the affidavits of the protestants. He recalled that there had been a protest against the renewal of Mrs. Carter's license in 1952, and it was discovered that some of the affidavits were not proper, because the protestants did not appear before a notary public, and the Board thereupon found that less than 50 per cent of the property holders had duly protested.
The attorney for the protestants, while admitting that some mistakes had been made in 1952, told the Board: "We have combed these petitions and affidavits very thoroughly and have weeded out all of those who do not have full title. * * * The errors last year were not intentional, and we have tried to comply with the letter and the spirit of the law."
The protestants, after showing by the records of the Bureau of Plans and Surveys of the Department of Public Works of Baltimore that there were 61 property owners within a radius of 200 feet of Carter's Tavern, presented the affidavits of 38 of them who were opposed to the renewal of the license. Since it appeared that over 62 per cent of the owners of real or leasehold property situated within 200 feet of the tavern were opposed to the renewal of the license, the Board disapproved the application and refused to grant the license.
After the hearing an attorney for the applicant contended that the Board had not been properly construing the words "owners of real or leasehold property" in Section 57(d) in determining the number of property owners opposed to the granting of a license. He argued that such owners should include not only the leaseholders under 99-year leases, but also the holders of the ground rents ...