The owner of the Main Street Oyster House in downtown Bel Air, who was fined $250 for not appearing before the Harford County Liquor Control Board last month, sat in front of board members Wednesday and apologized for not being able to attend the previous meeting.
Owner Chris Reda explained that a miscommunication was behind him not showing at a Nov. 20 board meeting.
"It was a communications thing, more than disrespecting the board or anything else," he said.
He had been asked to appear before the board to discuss the hours of the restaurant, which opened in October in the Main Street building previously occupied by the Dark Horse Saloon, and the resignation of former resident licensee Pam Talley.
Reda, who is a licensee as well, also owned the Dark Horse. Talley no longer works at Main Street Oyster House.
He told board members Wednesday that he had received a letter requesting his presence before the liquor board on Monday, Nov. 18 and called board staff the next day, Tuesday, to see about rescheduling.
Reda was allowed to reschedule to Wednesday, but board members voted 3-0 on Nov. 20 to fine the business owner.
Board members told Reda Wednesday that their letter had been hand-delivered to the restaurant Thursday, Nov. 14, and been signed for upon receipt.
Reda noted his general manager had signed for the letter.
He said news coverage of the fine "made it seem like we're carefree about the whole thing," which he stressed was "farthest from the truth; we're focused very hard on service right now."
Reda noted all employees must attend ServSafe classes on the preparation and service of food and alcohol, "or they don't have any more shifts."
He stressed that the Main Street Oyster House represents a shift toward a greater emphasis on restaurant service rather than bar service, and managers and owners are working to get a different clientele in the doors.
"We're focused on our food and our service, our wines, things of that nature," he said.
The bars that have been in the location before have been known for attracting younger, rowdier crowds.
"We're trying to be the next level up and still be affordable and good for everyone, so we've really focused all our attention on that," Reda continued.
Reda also explained that the emphasis on the restaurant side means the same level of security that was present for a bar is not needed going forward.
"We're not having the same crowd, so we're more of a restaurant, so we don't need to have seven our eight bouncers," he said.
Reda also made a request for Jennifer Daly, the bar manager who has worked in the building since 2007 when The Greene Turtle occupied it, to become a resident licensee, which must be approved by the board.
"She's well aware of the clientele, the history, what our concepts are going forward," he said of Daly.
Reda told board members the Main Street Oyster House is open from 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. Monday and Tuesday, 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Wednesday through Saturday and from 10 a.m. to 2 a.m. Sunday.
Staff stop serving full meals at 11 p.m. Monday through Thursday, midnight Friday and Saturday and 10 p.m. Sunday.
Light fare will still be available after those times.
Commissioner Thomas Fidler Jr. congratulated Reda and told him "you did what you said you were going to do" with the oyster house.
Fidler said he visited recently and noted patrons has arrived an hour before the 10 p.m. start of "Dueling Pianos," a regular Saturday-night live music staple.
"We apologize that we have policies and procedures that have to be followed, but my compliments to you, as a commissioner, that you've done it, and congrats," Fidler said.