Harford Liquor Board issues $4,750 in fines for serving a minor

February 2, 2015 - Nearly $5,000 in fines were assessed Wednesday against Harford businesses that sold alcoholic beverages to an underage police cadet during a compliance test a few days before Christmas.

Members of the Harford County Liquor Control Board found during a meeting Wednesday that four businesses - Birroteca in Bel Air, The Mallet in Fallston, Pelican Cove in Abingdon and Aberdeen VFW Post 1028 - violated Harford liquor laws when they served the cadet, Nick Rhodes, from the Bel Air Police Department, an alcoholic beverage Dec. 20. Aberdeen VFW violated a second liquor law by serving someone who is not a member.

Liquor board members expressed the most frustration at the violation by Birroteca, which has had its license since Oct. 17.

"You didn't make it very far," board member Michael Thomson said to the licensees during a show-cause hearing during Wednesday's meeting. "Tell me something you're going to do to make it farther, maybe six months this time."

Michael Moran and Tanya Camper-Haas said they have had subsequent training with their staff and have implemented a policy in which they won't serve anyone with a vertical ID. They've also bought a calendar with a "born by" date.

"We're going to do our best to prevent any violations in the future," Moran said.

Birroteca was fined $1,000 for the violation.

Pelican Cove and The Mallet, which have previous violations in the past five years, were each fined $1,500. Their licensees also appeared for show-cause hearings before the board.

Both said their bartenders who served the drinks to the cadet were fired.

Paul Aiken, a lawyer from Rockville, said the licensees, Parvis Vedadi and Jose Fernandez, took the violations very seriously.

The licensees at The Mallet, Thomas and Colleen Graden and Brendan Muldoon, were chastised by the board because none of them were on the premises when the violation occurred, just after 6:30 on a Saturday evening.

They explained, however, that Graden had just left and Muldoon, who is usually there until after closing time at 2 a.m., was on his way in - he usually gets there around 7 p.m., he said.

They also said they card all customers, and have had some leave because they didn't appreciate it.

Aberdeen VFW was fined $500 for serving the underage cadet and $250 for serving a non-member.

Elizabeth Brown, president of the ladies auxiliary who's a boss, told the board she couldn't believe she was the one who did it.

Not an excuse, she said, in explaining the circumstances, but the club wasn't open when the cadet and Harford County Sheriff's deputy came in. She thought she recognized the cadet and deputy as two people she had served at a function at the VFW the night before and that they were bringing back boxes from another dinner.

"I am wrong for what I did, but don't come down too hard on the post because we do a lot of good things," Brown said, adding the post has come a long way from where it was several years ago.

Board chairwoman Sandi Tunney voted against the $500 fine. In suggesting the lower amount, Thomson said he was taking into account a non-profit is different than a for-profit enterprise.

"I think they have the same responsibility as everyone else," Tunney said.

North Harford Liquors

Rick McGarry, licensee for North Harford Liquors, appeared before the board Wednesday seeking advice and help.

He lives in Towson, and the other licensee of the business, George Bell, who is the resident licensee, wants to leave the business, leaving McGarry without a Harford resident on the license. He doesn't want to give up the business, it's his livelihood, he said, but he's not sure how to proceed.

The board is willing to work with McGarry, its members said, and gave him two options - move to Harford County or find someone who lives in Harford County to become a licensee, which means assuming a financial interest in the business. He has until May 1 to decide which, because that's when the clock will start ticking so he will be able to meet the law's residency requirement for a liquor license by May 1, 2016.

Before a license can be issued for a liquor store, the licensee must have one year of residency in Harford County. McGarry has been a licensee since 2008, and the board doesn't want to pull his license because his partner is pulling out of the business.

So the board is willing to work with McGarry and allow the business to operate without a resident licensee for one year, provided McGarry is either working to become a Harford resident or he is finding someone new to add to the license, or both.

"I don't want to lose the store. It's my livelihood," McGarry told the board members.

Other board business

Five other businesses that sold to a cadet paid $1,000 fines in lieu of show-cause hearings with the board - Sakura, Fuji sushi and Pairings in Bel Air and Silks Restaurant at Bulle Rock and Vineyard Wine Bar in Havre de Grace.

The board approved one-day beer and wine licenses for Harford County Chamber of Commerce Feb. 5, Havre de Grace Maritime Museum Feb. 12 and St. Mark Catholic Church Feb. 27 and March 13.

Board members approved a change in hours at Texas Roadhouse, which will be opening an hour earlier on Fridays, at 3 p.m., and Sundays, at 11:30 a.m.

New licensees were added at Bush River Yacht Club (Henry Bahr and Christopher Sanford) and Maryland Golf and Country Clubs (Paul Haviland).