More than a dozen Harford County businesses were willing to serve alcohol to an underage customer, with all but three of those who failed not even bothering to ask for proof of age, during a compliance test last month, the county's liquor control board reported at a meeting last Wednesday.
Inspector Charles Robbins said 40 percent of businesses tested Jan. 23 failed to properly check IDs and turn away a minor during the surreptitious inspection, which used an underage police cadet.
Robbins said most of the businesses went through the motions of looking at the ID, but did not identify its underage holder.
"I am not going to make a secret of it, but I think compliance tests are going to happen a lot more frequently," Robbins said. "I want people to know that the board takes this seriously."
Board member Thomas Fidler said he was flabbergasted that, with the current economy and all the news about underage drinking, a business would still take the risk of letting an employee fail an inspection.
"It just boggles the mind," he said.
"This should come as no surprise that you are going to be tested," he said. "This is the time when we need our licensees to be the most upstanding... This is shocking. It's so simple to simply look at it, verify it and say no."
Robbins tested 23 businesses. Those who failed were: Amin 7-Eleven in Aberdeen, Chili's Grill & Bar, Festival Spirits & Wine, Good Time Liquors, Grumpys Bar and Grille, Ice House Liquors, Island Liquors, Northside Liquors, Riverside Pizzeria, Sapore di Mare, Steel Horse Pit Beef, Winters Run Inn and Woodbridge Liquors.
Robbins noted the employee at Island Liquors checked the 18-year-old cadet's license and still sold to him, which the others did not even ask for ID.
The businesses that passed were: Abingdon Liquors, Applebee's in Bel Air, Beards Hill Plaza Liquors, Bonefish Grill, Bruce Bitner's Cafe, Carsins Run Store, El Rodeo Bar & Grill, Half Pints Sports Pub & Grill, Italian Sensation of Bel Air, Joe's Crab Shack, La Tolteca of Churchville, Lee's Hunan Restaurant, Lemon 'N Ginger Asian Grille, Pat's Pizzeria, Red Robin Burgers, Silver Spring Mining Company, TGI Fridays, Tollgate Liquors, Venetian Palace and Zen 16 Sushi Cafe.
Gino's license suspended
The board voted to suspend the liquor license for Gino's Burgers & Chicken, in Aberdeen, after the restaurant licensee stepped down and a new licensee failed to come forward.
The board had not received a response from the owner despite multiple attempts to get one.
Powell said Monday a Gino's employee had picked up paperwork for a new licensee, but had yet to turn it in.
The previous licensee stepped down at the end of 2013.
A manager at Gino's declined to comment Monday on the situation.
Board member Michael Thomson noted: "This is going to be the first rescinded license I have ever even involved in."
Bill Bateman's, El Rodeo
Scott Lukas said Bill Bateman's Bistro, on Route 1 in Bel Air, is temporarily closed as owners look for "a different concept."
The owner said the changes could involve the name, the food and "some cosmetic work."