Baltimore County’s Board of Liquor License Commissioners fined several bars Monday for failing to comply with coronavirus-related executive orders issued by Gov. Larry Hogan limiting restaurant and bar operations.
City View Bar and Grill in Woodlawn, Shuffles Saloon in Arbutus and the Rustic Inn in Perry Hall were among bars inspectors say violated mask-wearing and social distancing orders, either because employees were not masked or restaurant staff did not enforce capacity limit and social distancing rules.
The complaint against Shuffles Saloon was dismissed during the Monday virtual meeting.
In what liquor board chair Susan Green called a particularly “egregious” offense, City View Bar and Grill in the 6700 block of Security Square Boulevard was fined $750 for holding a gathering of more than 300 patrons during a special event Oct. 23.
Many customers were unmasked, “walking around with drinks” inside and outside under a tent — which bar owners had not received a permit to set up, a liquor license inspector told the liquor board during a virtual hearing Monday afternoon.
“Patrons were walking around drinking without [face] coverings, smoking cigars, congregating in large groups,” Matthew Gawel, chief building inspector, wrote.
Many tables and the bar were also at capacity without adequate space between tables, and employees were not masked, the inspector said. The complaint was made by a member of the county’s social distancing task force, which responds to complaints and does proactive inspections of county establishments looking for coronavirus restriction violations.
These are the types of incidents, Green said, that “are so disrespectful to the health of the community.”
Commissioners stopped short of fining City View owners $1,000 since staff members and bar management received crowd control training Oct. 27 after the incident.
Liquor license holders in the county can be fined up to $2,000 or have their license suspended or revoked for breaching county liquor laws, according to the liquor board’s rules and regulations handbook.
Liquor commissioners handed down a $1,000 fine to the owners of 118 Sail Inn in Sparrows Point, the highest fine commissioners have levied against a county bar not complying with coronavirus restrictions.
In its third violation, an inspector said during a Sept. 25 inspection that Sail Inn employees were not masked and social distancing measures were not being enforced, with a group of more than 10 people seated at one table and more than 50 people seated close together at the bar, according to liquor board documents.
“We don’t make these rules but the governor has ordered this executive order and we are taking our duty very seriously,” Green said. “So we hope we will not see you back here again.”
The Rustic Inn in Perry Hall was fined $250 after inspector Joe Fellner noticed a bartender and the owner, Bernadette Bosley, were without masks inside the restaurant Sept. 23.
Bosley said she had left her mask in a back room while leaving the building, and she had stopped to talk to a customer at the time of the violation. The bartender had pulled down her mask to drink water, Bosley said.
“Neither your patrons nor your employees can be walking through the establishment, whether they’re going to the restroom or leaving … they cannot be walking without a mask on,” Green said.
A second complaint brought against Shuffles Saloon in the 5600 block of Southwestern Boulevard was dismissed.
Mike Mohler, administrator for the liquor board who filed the complaint, said several unmasked patrons were throwing darts in the bar Nov. 5.
The bar had previous been cited in September for failing to enforce social distancing orders and mask-wearing among customers, according to liquor board documents. But because Green said bar owners had previously worked to correct that violation, the complaint was thrown out.
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“There are not too many people who have come before us who have gotten a pass — you got one today, but you won’t get a second one,” Green told the owners.
The liquor board has heard about 20 allegations of bars that are out of compliance with state and county orders since Maryland, and subsequently Baltimore County, began issuing orders during the summer allowing restaurants to reopen under reduced capacity and stringent health safety practices.
Most violators are fined around $250 for their offenses, according to a record of license hearing results. Several other agencies handle coronavirus-related complaints, including code enforcement officers, police, and the fire and health departments, and not all bars cited for violating coronavirus restrictions come before the board.
Among other food establishments cited for coronavirus-related offenses Monday were Buffalo Wild Wings at the White Marsh Mall and Howard’s Pub & Deli in Dundalk.
Maryland’s bars and restaurants have a state-mandated 10 p.m. closing time. During a Monday afternoon press conference, Hogan stressed that “These important safety measures and public health orders are only effective if they are being followed and enforced.”
He continued: “As COVID fatigue has set in, some individuals and businesses have started to become more lax.”
The Maryland State Police will send out “high visibility compliance units” to Bel Air, Towson, Salisbury, Silver Spring, Baltimore’s Fells Point neighborhood and Allegany County, which has experienced the worst infection rate in the state in recent weeks, Hogan announced Monday.