An Abingdon restaurant that has been open just eight months was fined $6,000 and its liquor license suspended for 15 days because its residents licensee was not on-site the required amount of time.
One liquor board member went so far as to suggest Sharon Grist was used as the resident licensee just to get a license approved and was not involved with the business. The other licensee is Parviz Vedadi.
Members of the Harford County Liquor Control Board, excluding Sandi Tunney, who was absent, issued the Pelican Cove penalty as well as one for Post Road Liquors in Havre de Grace – for improper record-keeping – at their meeting Wednesday afternoon in Bel Air.
The liquor board said Pelican Cove, at 418 Constant Friendship Boulevard in Abingdon, was guilty of three separate violations after a show cause hearing at their meeting Wednesday afternoon.
Chief Liquor Inspector Charles Robbins Jr. told board members during a show-cause hearing on the violations that Grist, the resident licensee, was not on the premises at 418 Constant Friendship Boulevard in Abingdon at least 30 hours a week.
For that violation, members fined the business $2,000.
For the second violation, making a false statement to the board or a representative of the board, Pelican Cove was fined $2,000 and its license suspended for five days.
There was some disagreement over the last violation's penalty, as member Thomas Fidler Jr. felt that as a lesser violation – failing to cooperate with a representative of the board when on official business – it should be a lesser penalty.
Fidler recommended a $1,000 fine but the motion did not pass. Randall Worthington Sr. proposed a $2,000 fine and 10-day suspension, which all but Fidler approved. His reasoning, Worthington said, was not that the violation was a lesser one, rather that it was the third violation.
During the hearing, Worthington suggested that Grist was used as the residence licensee just to get a license approved and was not involved with the business.
Board inspectors went to the location several times after Pelican Cove opened in May when Grist was scheduled to work, as well as when she wasn't, and she was only there three times, Robbins said.
In one instance, she faxed a letter to the board that she would be in Florida with her sick mother for a few weeks at the end of December, but, according to Robbins, inspectors checked her house and other job, Long and Foster, and saw that she was still in the area during that time period.
Pelican Cove's attorney, Colleen Hemlinger, said Grist had intended on going to Florida but found other family members to go instead. Hemlinger also said Grist has a flexible schedule at Pelican Cove because of her other job and that makes it difficult to keep time records.
To that, Chairman Donald Hess said it was no surprise the board would check her residence and work schedule.
"I think the inability of the licensee to really help correct this is intolerable," he said.
In answer to Worthington's questions, members were told Grist was paid $2,000 a month for her position at the restaurant. Worthington suggested that there was a problem with the facts and Grist was never intended to be the manager of the business, but was paid for her resident status.
Hemlinger said they planned to add the restaurant's current manager as the new resident licensee and keep Grist as a back-up; the new manager has been in Harford County for more than a year and therefore is eligible to be the resident licensee.
Licensees for a Harford County license must live in the county when they apply for their license; however, a bill is before the Maryland General Assembly to require licensees to live in the county for at least a year before they can apply for a license (please see related story, this page).
When Worthington proposed the $2,000 fine and the 10-day suspension for the third violation, it was because of all the charges together.
"I think they have misled us from the get-go," he said.
The board also voted to fine Post Road Liquors $2,000 and suspend its license for three days. The store had three cases of vodka without the proper labeling and invoicing in the incident. Although the board did not find the store guilty of purchasing liquor from other than a licensed wholesaler, licensee Kalpna Shah was found to be responsible for failure to keep accurate records.
Four supplemental applications were approved at the meeting for a change of officers at Sapore Di Mare in Joppa, Chili's of Bel Air, Ruby Tuesday in Bel Air and Basta Pasta in Fallston.
Members also approved a request from Steel Horse Restaurant to close the restaurant at 4 p.m. on Mondays and Tuesdays until mid-April and gave them four weeks or 30 days to close their restaurant on Saturdays and Sundays for renovations.
Administrator Kathryn Thess reported to the board that Kent Island Seafood will close on Feb. 8 for a few weeks until the licensee recovers from surgery.
Two one-day beer and wine licenses were approved, including an artist's reception for the Havre de Grace Main Street Corporation on Feb. 3 and a wine and cheese reception for the Harford Artist Association on Feb. 4.