Surprise! Or not.
Rocker Bret Michaels played a private party Wednesday night at The Mallet in Fallston, but the operators of the restaurant failed to notify the county liquor control board, which admittedly upset the board when it learned about the party earlier in the day.
Michaels appeared at the surprise party for the wife of one of Harford County's more prominent and well connected land developers, Michael Euler, at an establishment whose long line of previous operators have had a litany of liquor regulations violations.
According to information liquor board members received through their chief inspector and Euler's lawyer Wednesday afternoon, the surprise party is by invitation only. Euler rented the lower portion of The Mallet, at 2403 Belair Road in Fallston, and hired Michaels, of the band Poison and the star of his reality show "Rock of Love," and his band to play at the party.
While the liquor licensees of The Mallet appear to have temporarily skirted trouble with the Harford County Liquor Control Board for not notifying the board they intended to close the downstairs to the public, Joe Snee, the lawyer for the restaurant's licensees — and for Euler – complained to the liquor board about the likelihood of pre-event publicity, after the board tried to meet with Snee privately to discuss the matter.
Charles Robbins, the liquor board's chief inspector, found out about the event during Wednesday's regularly scheduled liquor board meeting inBel Air. Robbins left the meeting room briefly and then returned and handed some papers to Board Administrator Kathryn Thess.
Nothing was said about The Mallet or the party during the regular liquor board meeting; however, after the meeting was adjourned the three board members who were in attendance – Chairman Donald Hess and members Sandi Tunney and Randall Worthington – remained on the dais.
Snee, who had business involving other clients during the meeting, was asked by Thess to stick around.
Joining the board members in their meeting room were Thess, Snee and Robbins.
The door was left slightly ajar. A reporter covering the meeting for The Aegis returned to the room and when she was told the discussion was "off the record," she reminded the board that three of its four members were present constituting a quorum. (A fifth seat on the board is vacant.)
No official record
The conversations that followed between the board and Snee were not tape recorded, even though board meetings are typically recorded.
Board members were heard admonishing Snee because his client, Tony Ashe, the licensee for The Mallet, did not notify the liquor board part of the restaurant would be closed for the private party.
Snee told the board members he had told Ashe the same thing and sounded perplexed as to why his client hadn't notified them.
"To me, this is almost a first strike," board chairman Hess told Snee.
Hess said the board didn't have a problem with what the party, but it did not like the way the licensee, Ashe, who was not present, had handled the matter.
According to Hess and Thess, whenever a restaurant or portion of one is going to be closed to the public, the licensee must notify the board, which was not done.
Snee told Hess he could either run back to his office a block away and write up a formal, written notification of the intent to close, or he could make the request informally while he was there.
While it's unclear if the board members ever officially acted on Snee's subsequent oral request on behalf of Ashe, but they made it clear the party could go on, regardless.
Board still rankled
But the whole situation still had the board rankled.
The building at the corner of Routes 1 and 152 that houses The Mallet has been site of several restaurants night clubs going back over four decades. Many of the operations turned into frequent liquor law violators and some even became considered public nuisances by police.
Tully's of Fallston, the club that preceded The Mallet, had its license revoked after the liquor board found violations of several liquor regulations occurred Halloween night 2009, when one man was stabbed and six people were arrested following a brawl in the parking lot.
"I've explained it over and over and over, if you screw up, you will lose your license," Hess told Snee. "We won't tolerate what we went through before. And then this comes up?"
The board chairman also told Snee to admonish his client, or Hess would do it himself.
Snee, who told the board he was is planning to attend party because of his business relationship with the host, Euler, said he would "make heads roll."
"I don't want to revisit ancient history myself," Snee said. "I want to deliver the message myself in a 'come to Jesus' moment."
The board members said that had they known about the party and the Michaels appearance further in advance, they would have notified the appropriate people to have the appropriate security and crowd control in place.
Thess said she had heard about the event several weeks ago, but had never gotten any official notification and didn't know when it was going to be.
Robbins found the event on a Facebook page, where Ashe, the owner and general manager of The Mallet, had posted that the lower restaurant would be closed Wednesday night.
A Facebook post from an hour earlier says: "The owners of The Mallet have asked me to post: the restaurant has been rented for a PRIVATE party this evening and YES, Bret Michaels and band are performing."
It doesn't say who was hosting the party, but Snee and liquor board members confirmed it was Euler, who does not have a financial interest in the restaurant.
Snee and liquor board members agreed there could be problems if the word got out that Michaels was to perform in Harford County that evening.
Snee said people knowing about the appearance is an invitation for disaster, and any publicity could violate confidentiality agreements between The Mallet and Euler regarding the surprise birthday party aspect of the event.
Liquor board member Tunney said she was concerned what might happen if people found out Michaels was performing in and congregated at the restaurant, where they would not be allowed in.