After receiving much opposition last week from local liquor store owners, the Harford County Liquor Control Board Wednesday voted 3-2 Wednesday to grant a license to PAS Corporation to sell beer, wine and liquor at the former Decker's Wine and Spirits on Baltimore Pike in Bel Air.
The decision didn't come without discussion between liquor board members about the need for another liquor store in the area and the board's place in ultimately saying a company can open a business.
PAS Corporation, trading as Discount Liquor, will take over the site left by Decker's, which closed last year after its financial backers pleaded guilty to federal conspiracy charges of extortion. The store will operate as Discount Liquor.
Liquor board member Thomas Fidler called the decision "a little bit of a challenge" and noted his appreciation for Discount Liquor dropping the Decker's name, which, he said, "undeservingly" received "bad press" because of the previous applicant. The Decker family, which started the business, has not been associated with it for a number of years.
Fidler said he had concerns with the financial application and how the business was being financed, but he said that is not the board's issue to take up.
"I can't think of another liquor store that offers a better accommodation [in the] county," board member Michael Thomson said, referring to the location, the ease of getting to the store and the amount of business it brings in.
Given the applicant's "limited financial resources," he continued, Thomson said, however, that he believes there may be a connection with the previous licensee and noted the board should pay close attention to the operation.
Board member Sandi Tunney voted against granting the license, saying "the area has sufficient numbers" of liquor stores in accommodation to the public.
Tunney noted that there are two liquor stores on the same side of the street within walking distance of the Baltimore Pike location.
Though board Vernon Gauss shared the same concerns as the others, he voted in favor of the applicant, joining Fidler and Thomson to provide the three votes necessary.
"We need to scrutinize and watch this," Gauss said, explaining that while it's not the board's duty to watch the applicant's finances, it's also not their position to take away someone's right to open a business.
"I have mixed emotions about this whole thing," he said.
Chairman Donald Hess also voted against granting the license.
When Tollgate Liquors wanted to open its store in Bel Air, Hess said, he voted against giving out the license twice.
He commented that he remembers Decker's being at those same meetings and protesting the license the same way stores protested the Discount Liquor license.
Change of officers
Four businesses were approved a change of officers on their licenses during Wednesday's liquor board meeting in Bel Air.
Nicholas J. Williams was added to the license for Silks Restaurant in Havre de Grace; Heather McWilliams was added to the license for Bertucci's in Bel Air; Christopher Sheffert was added to the license for the former Ruby Tuesday — now Marlin and Ray's — in Bel Air; and Fred Buckel was added to the license for Winter's Run Golf Club in Bel Air.
One day licenses
One day beer and wine licenses were approved for the following events: a fundraiser for Kevin Vickery at the Havre de Grace Community Center on Saturday; a bull roast at the St. Ignatius Roman Catholic Church parish center on Oct. 20; the Bel Air Downtown Alliance's Music Fest at Rockfield Manor on Oct. 21; a dinner put on by Faith Communities and Civic Agencies United at St. Mary Magdalene Mission Center Nov. 2; a dinner and dance at the St. Matthew Lutheran Church multi-purpose building Nov. 2; and a party by the Chesapeake Cancer Alliance at the Bel Air Armory Nov. 23.
A one day beer, wine and liquor license was also granted to the Harford County Public Library Foundation for a fundraiser at the Abingdon library branch on Nov. 3
In addition, an outside event application was granted to Half Pints, who will cater a fundraiser at Cedar Lane on Oct. 20.