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Lawyer for Rafael’s Restaurant in Westminster asks that liquor license suspension be reconsidered

The defense lawyer for Rafael’s Restaurant, which recently had its liquor license suspended, is requesting the liquor board to reconsider its penalty.

Clark Shaffer of Shaffer and Shaffer, LLP sent a motion for reconsideration to Carroll County’s Board of License Commissioners, also known as the liquor board, on Wednesday requesting to change the initial penalty of a nine-month liquor license suspension and a $2,000 fine for each of the three violations.

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The liquor board held a six-hour violation hearing on Jan. 7 at Carroll Community College and determined the Westminster restaurant violated three of its rules after arguments were heard about whether a bartender knowingly served alcohol to a customer who showed signs of being intoxicated on the night of Feb. 14, 2019.

Shaffer argued that although the customer, John Benjamin Batz of Westminster, may have been intoxicated, it was not easily noticed by the server. He said at the time when stakes are high, evidence should be clear and convincing.

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Batz, who was identified on video footage at Rafael’s drinking, is serving eight years for negligent manslaughter after he struck and killed Eric Hendler, 31, of Hampstead who was walking northbound on Brodbeck Road. It happened about three hours after Batz left Rafael’s.

The board concluded the restaurant was guilty of selling or providing alcoholic beverage to an intoxicated person, illegal conduct and peace and safety of the community. And Shaffer said the nine-month suspension went into effect the following week.

Shaffer said in an interview he wants them to “reconsider and hopefully reduce the penalty.”

“This penalty is grossly and outrageously disproportionate with the behavior being sanctioned and is grossly and outrageously inconsistent with previous practices of the Board in imposing sanctions,” the motion states.

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The motion also states if the nine-month suspension is upheld, it could “result in the closing of Rafael’s Restaurant and the loss of employment for many people, and the loss of a beneficial restaurant presence, with a successful 18 year history, on Main Street in downtown Westminster.”

Timothy Dixon, assistant county attorney for Carroll, said it’s too soon to comment on the motion and that the board does not meet again until next month.

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