A Joppa restaurant will lose its liquor license for 90 days beginning June 28 because the licensee's 14-year-old son held a large party where there was underage drinking at their Bel Air home in January.
During Wednesday's meeting, members of the Harford County Liquor Control Board found Jose Hernandez, of Santini's restaurant in Joppa, had violated laws regarding the manufacturing or sale of liquor, which include the "fitness of the licensee" and "demonstrating questionable moral character." Hernandez has 30 days to appeal the suspension.
Hernandez was found guilty in March in Harford County District Court of furnishing alcohol to minors in the Jan. 6 incident, according to online state court records. He was fined $500. The liquor board, however, said the issue had been adjudicated in Circuit Court.
Bel Air Police Officer Matthew Gullion told the liquor board Wednesday police had been called several times to the 300 block of George Street, a duplex near Plumtree Park, where Hernandez lives according to court records.
In the January incident, Gullion said police received several calls about a loud party and a lot of juveniles in the neighborhood.
When they arrived, they found an estimated 100 teenagers "all over the place," jumping out the back of the property and generally coming and going.
At about 10 p.m., police got another call that was "more concerning," and the Harford County Sheriff's Office assisted with the response.
Two people were arrested near Hernandez' home on charges of smoking marijuana, and Gullion told the board he believes they had been at the party.
Most teenagers at the party were from the Bel Air High School area and the school was notified that apparently "a large portion of 10th to 12th graders were at that party," Gullion said.
"It appears once alcohol got involved, it just got out of control," Gullion continued, noting that Hernandez "was very cooperative with the police" and later said he needed an interpreter although he was able to communicate with officers on the scene.
He said Hernandez was diligent in calling police on his sons' friends two other times, noting police once made "a sizable drug arrest" based on one call.
Hernandez, who seemed to have difficulty speaking in English, told the liquor board he did not need an interpreter but asked liquor inspector Charlie Robbins to read a statement on his behalf.
In the note, Hernandez wrote that his son had a party "just for fun" and he had been told there would be no drugs or alcohol.
He believed the only drinks at the party were soda, but said someone brought a book bag concealing alcohol.
If Hernandez had known there would be alcohol, "I never would have agreed to do something such as that," he wrote.
He said he will never allow a party with a large group of people again.
Nevertheless, Hernandez admitted to the liquor board, as he had before Judge Victor Butanis, that there were bottles of alcohol in the residence.
Liquor board members said they were concerned about the situation as parents.
"We can't tell you how to raise your ... son, but as a licensee, you have a responsibility to uphold the laws of Harford County Liquor Control Board even in your own home," board chairwoman Sandi Tunney told Hernandez.
Hernandez replied it is "complicated" when his son does something and agreed with the board that his son's behavior reflects poorly on him.
"That kind of age, you know, they are very smart. They know exactly what they want to do," Hernandez said.
Liquor board member Thomas Fidler urged Hernandez to tell his son about the consequences of the police charges.
"Your son needs to learn what he just cost you," Fidler said.