Harford liquor board cites two businesses after licensees fail to show for hearing

Liquor board member says board is “not pleased” at licensee's absence from hearing Weds.

Extra fines were assessed against two businesses Wednesday after the resident licensees did not show up for hearings before the Harford County Liquor Control Board to answer charges of liquor law violations.

Miguel Vicente, executive director of the Baltimore-based Education Based Latino Outreach, or EBLO, was fined $250 for not attending Wednesday's show cause hearing, in addition to a $500 fine for failing to cooperate with the liquor board and another $500 for failing to submit alcohol purchase and sales receipts in a timely manner.

The board granted Vicente a one-day license on May 6 to sell alcoholic beverages during the May 8 to 10 Dreamscape Festival held at Camp Ramblewood in Darlington. Vicente partnered with the London Court Beverage Co., of Anne Arundel County, to provide catering of food and alcoholic beverages.

Vicente, as the licensee, was required to be available throughout the festival to supervise the alcohol sales. Earlier, the board denied his request to have Allan Taylor, of London Court, be the on-site supervisor.

Vicente was scheduled to submit the sales records by May 20, but liquor board Chief Inspector Charlie Robbins said he had multiple exchanges with Vicente and Taylor well past May 20 before he received purchase and sales records that he considered "acceptable."

"The failure to cooperate with the board, it was a very long, drawn-out process, emails back and forth," Robbins told board members.

The only testimony during Wednesday's hearing came from Robbins, as Vicente did not attend.

Pilar Gracia, attorney for the liquor board, said she received a call earlier in the afternoon from Taylor, who told her that neither he nor Vicente would be able to attend the hearing.

Gracia said Taylor did not give her a reason, but she told the board that she had received a letter June 16 that EBLO is getting prepared for an event scheduled for this weekend.

"That does indicate that there was some type of a scheduling conflict today," Gracia said.

Board members voted 4-0 to assess the combined $1,250 in fines against Vicente. Vernon Gauss, the board's vice chairman, was absent Wednesday.

The board also fined Bonefish Grill licensee Derek Bergman $250 after he did not attend his show cause hearing regarding a charge of not having any employees on the premises trained in alcohol awareness.

Inspector Danielle Markette testified that she conducted a premise inspection at Bonefish Grill's restaurant at Harford Mall in Bel Air on May 20.

She spoke with manager Victor Washington, who said Bergman was not there. Markette also said Washington told her that he was not certified for alcohol awareness and the only Bonefish Grill employee who was certified does not work there anymore.

"Kindly put them on notice that this board is not pleased," board member Tom Fidler told Markette regarding Bergman's absence from the hearing.

Markette told the board that, "at this time, I still don't have any further information that anybody's been certified."

The board voted 4-0 to fine Bergman $250 for not showing for the hearing and $100 for not having anyone certified in alcohol awareness.

"We do not care to have a licensed establishment in our community serving alcohol with no one under proper training," Fidler said.

All three licensees for Red Robin Gourmet Burgers & Brews – Jason Cox, Mary Carey and Kristin Siegel – attended their hearing.

Red Robin, at Harford Mall, was charged with failing to cooperate with the liquor board and not having a resident licensee on the premises a "substantial amount of time on a daily basis."

Cox, accompanied by Towson attorney Leanne Schrecengost, testified on Red Robin's behalf.

"We acknowledge the issue," Schrecengost said. "We have an explanation for the board."

Markette testified that she did an inspection of the restaurant May 20. She spoke with an employee and a manager who said Cox was not there. The employee told her Cox had been working at the Towson Red Robin, and the manager said Cox still worked at the Bel Air restaurant, but he had been off while getting ready for his wedding.

Markette said she investigated further by getting in touch with Cox at the Towson restaurant and with Red Robin's regional operations director, Robert Plumbley. Both confirmed that Cox was working in Towson temporarily because a manager's position was vacant there, and that he had also been taking some time off to plan his wedding.

"It was never set up as a permanent move," Cox explained to the board.

Plumbley also attended the hearing. He told the board that Cox had been moved from Bel Air to Towson because of "an HR issue that resulted in a termination," but that he would make other arrangements and move Cox back to Bel Air if needed.

Plumbley also said he was not aware of the Harford County requirement that a resident licensee must be at an establishment for a significant amount of time, a minium of 30 hours a week.

Fidler moved to suspend the first charge, failing to cooperate with the board. He made a second motion that Cox was in violation of the second charge of not being on the premises.

The board approved both motions unanimously, and likewise voted unanimously to fine Red Robin $250 fine for the second charge.

"We're being pretty flexible," Fidler said. "We don't look forward to seeing you again, Mr. Cox."

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