Bars in Perry Hall and Kingsville were among the businesses cited Monday afternoon by Baltimore County’s Board of Liquor License Commissioners for not complying with coronavirus-related orders.
Liquor board chair Susan Green warned violators that restrictions “are going to get more serious” should some continue ignore state and local orders, even while bar owners say they’re struggling to survive and enforce mask-wearing and social distancing measures.
Commissioners handed down fines to Della Rose’s Perry Hall Pub, Gunpowder Lodge in Kingsville, Avenue Tavern in Essex, Applebee’s in Nottingham, Corinthian Lounge & Restaurant in Windsor Mill and Poplar Inn in Dundalk during virtual hearings.
Each restaurant and bar was fined $750, with $500 suspended, and many were cited for offenses that occurred the night before Thanksgiving.
All were first-time violators of Gov. Larry Hogan’s coronavirus-related executive orders requiring patrons and restaurant staff to wear face coverings when not eating or drinking, and to keep at least a 6-foot distance from each other.
According to the Social Distancing Task Force Checklist devised by the liquor board, which outlines criteria by which to evaluate a restaurant’s compliance with restrictions, most of the bars cited were found to have violated one or two of the 12 checklist items.
Corinthian Lounge & Restaurant was forcibly closed by fire department officials after they found around 30 mostly unmasked customers sitting shoulder to shoulder around the bar, according to fire department director Marcus Johnson.
Line cooks were also unmasked and there was no crowd manager on site as required, Johnson wrote to liquor commissioners.
Johnson said the fire department closed the bar until its owner demonstrates there are certified crowd managers on duty. Johnson told commissioners Monday the owner had still not contacted the fire marshal’s office as directed to indicate a crowd manager was certified and available to work.
Noting that the city of Baltimore and Anne Arundel County have closed down restaurants amid proliferating coronavirus cases, Green said that County Executive Johnny Olszewski, Jr. “is trying very hard to allow the licensees to stay open.”
Olszewski “is counting on the licensees for following the executive order so he doesn’t have to shut the businesses down,” she said.
Liquor commissioners also cited the owner of Gunpowder Lodge in the 10000 block of Belair Road for failing to enforce social distancing restrictions between patrons seated at the bar on Nov. 25 and because employees in the kitchen were unmasked.
Gunpowder Lodge owner Daniel Santoro told commissioners that in his decade of running the restaurant, he’s never been cited for any violation by the board.
When an employee tested positive for coronavirus, Santoro said he shut down the restaurant for five days and hired a cleaning crew.
“We’re in a bad situation,” he said. “We’re a local business doing the best we can.”
Also on Nov. 25, Joseph Della Rose, owner of Della Rose’s in the 5000 block of Honeygo Center Drive, said he had forgotten that he removed his mask when he was behind the bar and did not put it back on when he served a tray of nachos to customers before he was observed by an inspector.
Rose said the pandemic and the restrictions that came with it — county restaurants may operate at up to 50% capacity and must close at 10 p.m. — “has effected our income very much.”
“I don’t know if we’re going to be able to survive this,” he said. “I messed up one time — I ask for your forgiveness.”
Elesha White, owner of the Avenue Tavern in 1800 block of Eastern Boulevard, told liquor commissioners that enforcing social distancing rules among customers is difficult, especially when the tavern is understaffed.
An inspector found that customers at the bar were seated closely together on Nov. 28, and a disc jockey was not wearing a mask. Patrons were also walking around the restaurant without face coverings.
Inspectors returned later that day and noticed the same infractions, they said.
“We keep trying new things … to make [customers] realize that it’s not a joke,” White said, adding that some have been barred from the tavern for not adhering to state and local restrictions.
“We tell them over and over,” she said. “We truly are trying.”
She said live entertainment has been canceled and two tables have been removed to allow for more adequate social distancing at the bar. Groups of more than three people are not allowed to sit at the bar, White said.
Applebee’s in the 5200 block of Campbell Boulevard was among other establishments cited after an inspector found that its line cooks were working without masks on Nov. 29.
Kitchen staff at Poplar Inn in the 7700 block of Wise Avenue were also working without masks on Oct. 18, and there were two employees without face coverings serving customers, according to an inspector.