Despite assurances they would not cause trouble when the Harford County Liquor Control Board granted them a license last summer, operators of The Mallet Restaurant and Crabhouse om Fallston were fined $2,250 Wednesday for three liquor law violations, including serving alcohol after hours.
The restaurant, at 2403 Belair Road, has been open since August 2011, but the history of the location's problems with a myriad of liquor law violations runs back nearly four decades.
Multiple restaurants and night clubs on the property at the corner of Routes 1 and 152 have run afoul of the liquor control board, which ending up revoking the liquor licenses of at least two of The Mallet's predecessors, most recently Tully's of Fallston, whose license was revoked after a stabbing over Halloween weekend in 2009.
Last July, The Mallet's officers, Thomas and Colleen Graden and Anthony Ashe, assured liquor board members that The Mallet would not have a "nightclub" atmosphere and would cater primarily to families and couples in their 30s, 40s and 50s.
At their meeting in Bel Air Wednesday, liquor board members found The Mallet guilty of three liquor law violations: dispensing alcohol beverages in hours prohibited by the license, allowing alcohol to be consumed after 2:15 a.m. or before 8 a.m. and allowing alcohol beverage glasses, bottles or containers on the tables or counters after 2:30 a.m.
Board inspector Charlie Robbins said he stopped at the restaurant at 3:12 a.m. on Sunday, Jan. 1, and saw lights on in the tiki bar area and was able to get in through an unlocked door. Upon entering, Robbins said, he saw five people at the bar, including a man standing behind it, and three beers on the counter.
Although his clients chose not to contest the inspector's findings, Joseph Snee, The Mallet's lawyer, offered a brief explanation. The beers had been left behind by members a band that had recently left, he said, and the bartender picked them up and placed them on the bar. As he was walking around the bar to throw them away, Robbins came in, Snee said.
Ashe said the doors were typically locked but that as the band members left, one of them did not pull the door until it latched. He also mentioned that in its 190 days of being open under its current management, the restaurant had had no other issues and was compliant with regulations.
The board fined The Mallet $1,000 for each of the first two violations and $250 for the third.
Board member Vernon L. Gauss Jr. said the board could also have suspended the license but was giving The Mallet the "benefit of doubt."
Liquor store fined
The liquor board also meted out a fine to a Bel Air liquor store for failing to card and serving a minor.
On Dec. 15, 2011, a cashier at Tollgate Liquors, at 615 Belair Road, failed to card 19-year-old Bel Air police cadet and sold him alcohol.
Robbins said the woman told him she was having a bad day.
The president, Ranjit Singh, briefly spoke and said he regretted the incident and apologized.
Board members fined Singh $1,000.
Pelican Cove issues
Near the end of the meeting, Chairman Donald Hess asked his fellow members for advice on addressing a recurring problem at an establishment already found to be in violation of its license.
Hess said the establishment, which he went to pains not to identify by name, had received the stay of a previous fine and suspension by the board, after the licensee appealed the decision to the Harford County Circuit Court, where the matter remains pending.
One of the prior violations dealt with the requirement that the resident licensee be on the premises for a specified period of time.
Since the board's prior action, Robbins said he had been at the location 10 separate times and the resident licensee was only on location once.
Robbins also said he made his visits in accordance with the licensee's work schedule she had provided him. Board members agreed to charge the establishment with another violation but took no other action, citing the outstanding case.
Though Hess wouldn't identify the restaurant, in late January, the board fined the licensee of Pelican Cove, at 419 Constant Friendship Blvd. in Abingdon, $6,000 and suspended the license for 15 days for three violations, including that the resident licensee, Sharon Grist, wasn't at the location the required amount of time.
The board had also found Pelican Cove guilty of making a false statement to a representative of the board and failing to cooperate with a representative of the board on official business.
Pelican Cove filed its appeal and on Jan. 31, Circuit Court Judge William Carr issued the stay. As of Thursday morning, electronic court records did not show any hearing date.
Liquor board members also approved one-day beer and wine licenses for Harford Day School, St. Ignatius Holy Name Society, Y of Central Maryland and Bel Air Rotary Club.
Members also approved a 60-day extension of their tentative approval for the new location of Bel Air Liquors, which needed to complete the HVAC and plumbing in the building, as well as have time to move.
An application from Sean Bolan's Irish Pub in Bel Air to serve patrons outside on March 17, St. Patrick's Day, was also approved.
A request from Magoo's Smokehouse in Fallston to upgrade its license to be able to serve alcohol at a bar, which is under construction, was also approved.