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Liquor board denies license for Del Plaza, says 'no need' for store

The Harford County Liquor Control Board denied a new liquor license Wednesday because there is "no need" for the business in the area, even though the space where the new store sought to open was once a liquor store.

A hearing was held at last week's meeting for Del Plaza Wine and Spirits, which was applying for a liquor license at 804 Conowingo Road in Bel Air. Before it became a hair studio, which has since closed, the site in the shopping center was a liquor store.

Liquor board members postponed their decision until this Wednesday's meeting, when they voted 4-1 to deny the liquor license; Vernon L. Gauss voted against the motion to deny the license.

Sandi L. Tunney made the motion to deny the liquor license, arguing there is no need for a liquor store in that area. Chairman Donald St. C. Hess agreed, adding they cannot have a liquor store on every corner to accommodate a few people.

As the only vote against the motion to deny, Gauss said it was not the liquor board's job to protect businesses, even if there is no need for added stores and that he was "somewhat opposed" to the motion.

He continued that even though there didn't seem to be a need for a liquor store, that wasn't sufficient grounds to deny a license.

Possible citations for bartenders

There were six show cause hearings scheduled before the board, including one where an employee acknowledged she wasn't supposed to accept a vertical ID, but did anyway.

Commissioners fined Magoo's Smokehouse in Fallston $500 for the sale of alcohol to a minor. During Chief Inspector Charles Robbins Jr.'s report, Robbins said when the minor entered Magoo's and asked for a beer, the bartender said that "Donnie" said not to accept vertical IDs, but would "let it slide."

Licensee Donald Marino said he was "quite shocked" at what had occurred and fired the bartender immediately.

He added that he thought the liquor board should look into consequences for bartenders and employees who willfully ignore the rules, prompting a discussion among board members about ramifications for bartenders.

Commissioner Thomas L. Fidler Jr. pointed out that Maryland as a state holds the licensee responsible in those situations. Hess added that handling employees is out of their range.

Robbins said they could discuss with local police agencies having deputies cite employees on-site when employees serve alcohol to minors.

Five businesses fined

One of the other five show cause hearings was rescheduled after none of the business' licensees appeared for the hearing and did not request excused absences.

None of the three licensees for Scotto's Cafe in Bel Air, Bruno Scotto-DiCarlo, Marizio Illiano or Diego Colomonaco, attended their hearing, which was for allegedly violating the board rule against selling or furnishing an alcoholic beverage to a minor.

The board rescheduled that hearing to the Sept. 5 meeting, but not without levying a $250 fine on each licensee for missing the meeting without being excused.

Hearings for Joppa Amoco, Santini's in Joppa and P & G Mini Mart in Aberdeen were all held as a result of a June compliance test. All three businesses were found guilty of selling or furnishing alcohol to a minor.

The Joppa Amoco was fined $250 for the violation, with all commissioners except Hess agreeing with the motion. The smaller fine was because of the store's commitment to getting false IDs, according to Fidler, who proposed it.

During his statement, Robbins told commissioners the Joppa Amoco has confiscated more than 20 false identification documents since 2011.

Licensees at the P & G Mini Mart were fined $500 for their violation and Santini's was fined $500 and required to take Robbins' alcohol awareness class within 30 days.

Commissioners had just issued a liquor license to Jose Hernandez, licensee of Santini's, on May 1. Hess questioned Hernandez about improving the business in light of the business committing a violation in its first six weeks of operations.

Robbins said the employee did not question the minor's age before placing a bottle of beer on the table.

When levying the fine, commissioners discussed what appeared to be a language barrier between Hernandez and the board and then decided that Hernandez be required to attend Robbins' training.

Commissioners fined Basta Pasta $100 after their show cause hearing, which was for failing to have a licensee or employee certified in alcohol awareness physically on the premises.

Inspector Danielle Markette visited the business at 2:15 p.m. and the new manager was not alcohol awareness certified.

Licensee Kaliope Sakellis apologized for the oversight and said her husband was out with a sprained ankle and the certified manager was coming in at 3 p.m. that day.

"We're not actively looking to violate, it just happened," she said.

Since the violation, Sakellis said the manager and two employees have been certified.

Other business

Commissioners approved a change of officers for VFW Post 6054 in Aberdeen after club elections. Junior Vice Commander Vivian Jackson and Senior Vice Commander Denise Perry join licensee Commander Frederick T. Jenkins.

Sandip Shah was added to the license at Post Road Liquors.

Outside event applications were approved for the September First Friday event for Laurrapin Grille, Rodgers House Tavern, MacGregor's and American Legion Post 47, all in Havre de Grace.

One day beer and wine licenses were also approved for the Albert P. Close Foundation, the Harford Artists Association Inc. and the Bel Air Rotary Club.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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