Despite objections from its lawyer, the Harford County Liquor Control Board has decided Bonefish Grill in Bel Air can keep serving alcoholic drinks to its customers, having complied with requirements the board set two weeks ago.
The board set three requirements, which members determined Wednesday Bonefish has met, at least in a good faith effort. They agreed not to pull the license, but not before Pilar Gracia, the liquor board's lawyer, recommended they do just that.
Bonefish has been operating without an active liquor licensee since September. At its Feb. 18 meeting, the board gave Bonefish an ultimatum: Get its paperwork in order or the license would be pulled.
Bonefish submitted an application to have kitchen manager Derek Bergman as the only licensee for the restaurant, but the board objected because he did not have a financial interest in the limited liability corporation that operates the eatery at Harford Mall. Bonefish complied by giving Bergman 10 percent interest in the LLC for $100.
The board also had wanted Bonefish to add a second person to the license, Joseph Kadow, who is a member of the corporation, but the restaurant's lawyer, Joseph Snee, said that was not possible because Kadow already is on a liquor license in another county. As a result, Bonefish didn't offer anyone else to be put on its Bel Air license.
"While the board made the determination that one person on the license is probably not prudent, and they [Bonefish] could very well be back here shortly, they have in fact met the requirements under the law," board member Michael Thomson said.
Gracia, however, said she interprets Article 2B, where liquor licenses fall in the Annotated Code of Maryland, to require more than one licensee for Bonefish and that they appeared to be unwilling to add another one.
Despite Gracia's concerns, the liquor board staff will begin processing Bonefish's application with Bergman as the only licensee.
The decision to allow the license application to move forward ends months of back and forth between the liquor board and Snee, over who can be on the restaurant's license. It's a problem, however, that's likely going to keep coming up, the board and Gracia said.
"If the board decides it is satisfied with the information offered to date, that's for them to decide," Gracia said. "The reason this is before the board is that we consistently find one heartbeat on the license. If that heartbeat quits, there is no active licensee."
If that's the case, she said, the restaurant should not be serving alcoholic beverages.
"It's not unconscionable, it's consistent with the reality of the situation," she told Snee, who had told the board it would be "unconscionable" to pull Bonefish's liquor license.