Special Liquor License Allows for Wine Festival

Nonprofit Received Permit for the Event

The Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in Prince George's County, a new addition to the Gaylord Hotels chain in D.C., boasts an 18-story glass atrium, multi-level indoor gardens, and a rooftop lounge.
By Ovetta Wiggins and Rosalind S. Helderman
Washington Post Staff Writers
Saturday, April 19, 2008

National Harbor failed in its effort to obtain liquor licenses from the state legislature this year, but its debut event next month -- a wine and food festival -- will not be dry, organizers of the event at the massive Prince George's County development said yesterday.

The Food & Wine Festival partnered with a local nonprofit group, the Erikka A. Hayes Foundation, which sought and received a temporary license from the county liquor board, as nonprofit and certain other groups are permitted to do.

The foundation, which was formed three months ago, will receive part of the proceeds. The leader of the nonprofit, Norman "Doc" Hayes, and a festival official, Lynn Schwartz, declined to say what that part would be.

Hayes, a restaurateur and an acquaintance of Sen. C. Anthony Muse (D-Prince George's), said that he was approached by festival organizers and that he did not know how they selected his foundation. "They came to me and talked to us about participating," he said.

The foundation, which will train workers for jobs in the hospitality industry, has a five-year contract with festival organizers to participate in all food and wine festivals and yacht shows at National Harbor, Hayes said. He said his restaurant, Martini's Restaurant & Lounge in Fort Washington, catered Muse's 50th birthday bash Thursday night, which was held at the Upper Marlboro church where Muse is pastor.

Hayes described Muse as "my guy."

Muse said he played no role in Hayes getting the contract with the festival organizers. "I did not recommend [Hayes] or anybody else to this day," he said.

Muse said he knows Hayes, just as "everybody knows Doc Hayes."

Liquor Board Commissioner Armando Camacho said the granting of the temporary license was "quite normal." He said organizers approached the board "unofficially" in February, trying to figure out how they could move forward with the festival. The license was granted last month.

For two consecutive years, National Harbor's efforts to obtain liquor licenses through the state legislature have failed. In 2007, one such bill died in part because it was sponsored by a delegate from another part of the county, which was seen as legislative discourtesy to Muse.

This year, Muse sponsored legislation that would have allowed for 40 liquor licenses at National Harbor as well as outdoor festivals that included liquor. On the last day of the session, National Harbor developers asked that the bill be pulled after Muse sought to dramatically reduce the number of licenses.

In a closed-door meeting, Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) told Muse he was concerned that his conduct might be perceived as a "shakedown." Muse defended his actions, saying he was concerned about the low number of minority businesses from the county that had received contracts at the development.

Yesterday, Muse said he met with organizers of the festival several months ago. He said he was told then that proceeds would be given to two charities that had been selected.

Schwartz said she could "not recall exactly" who recommended the foundation but said she did not believe it was Muse. "We had talked to so many local people," she said.

Schwartz said the festival first chose "Share Our Strength" as a national partner. She said she was familiar with that charity from her work in Manhattan and felt they would be a "perfect fit" for the show.

"But they were a national organization," she said. "We felt it was important to also have some kind of local charity."

Of the Hayes foundation, she said: "They train individuals who are economically and socially disadvantaged in the hospitality and food industry. We thought it was an incredible fit for us."

At a news conference yesterday, Schwartz said the festival will kick off May 16 with a gala event at Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center.

© 2008 The Washington Post Company