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Coakley’s in Havre de Grace fined $1,000 for serving intoxicated customers, disturbing the peace

The licensee of Coakley’s Pub in Havre de Grace was fined $1,000 Wednesday for failing to keep from disturbing the peace and for allowing visibly intoxicated customers to remain at the bar.

The business, which includes a liquor store on Union Avenue, was found not guilty of a similar disturbing the peace allegation nine months ago and of making a false statement to a Harford County Liquor Control Board inspector.

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Margaret Coakley, the licensee for Coakley’s, appeared before the board Wednesday for two of five show-cause hearings on liquor rule violations, some of which stem to the end of 2018.

At the start of the more than 4 1/2-hour meeting, board chair Sheryl Davis Kohl acknowledged that it has been a “significant amount of time” between when the alleged violations occurred and the hearings Wednesday.

She cited “unforeseen internal issues” that created the delay.

“We’re working to keep them from being recurring issues and hearings will be scheduled in a more timely manner,” Kohl said.

Earlier this year, liquor board administrator Pilar Gracia, who also served as the board’s lawyer, resigned from the board.

The board on Wednesday introduced the board’s new general manager, Scott Baker, the former Annapolis police chief who was fired in February. He starts with the liquor board Monday, but attended Wednesday’s marathon session.

In the more recent incident at Coakley’s on July 5, Havre de Grace Police were called to the bar on St. John Street because a group of 15 to 20 people on the sidewalk and street outside the bar would not leave, according to a report read by liquor board inspector William Knoerlein.

The liquor board had been sent a report from the Havre de Grace Police Department, which was called to quell the incident, and from that generated a violation report.

In the report, Patrolman Chad Smith said when he arrived at 12:30 a.m., he saw the people on the street, but didn’t see any disturbances.

Smith told the liquor board he was speaking with people outside then went to see what was happening inside. At the door, he saw a man with a ripped T-shirt, which he said indicated something had gone on before he arrived.

A manager he spoke with didn’t know anything, just that the bar was closing and customers needed to pay their tabs, the report stated. About 10 people, including two young women whom Smith had seen outside when he arrived, were still inside finishing their drinks.

As Smith resumed conversations out front and a woman walked into the bar, the person Smith was talking to said “you might want to watch that one,” Smith told the board.

As Smith went back in, he encountered three girls fighting and others trying to break it up.

Four people were charged in the incident, including two sisters and their father. The sisters had fought with another woman and her husband earlier in the night, and the woman had grabbed one of the sisters by the throat, Smith said.

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According to Smith, the incident appeared to be over but resumed some time later.

The sisters and their father were at the bar for 45 minutes, Smith said.

All four were taken to the Havre de Grace Police Department. The sisters and their father were charged with disorderly conduct and were released; a trial date is coming up in September.

The other woman, who was taken to the hospital to be treated for an eye injury, was charged via summons.

Smith said all four customers were intoxicated, but said the woman the sisters and father were fighting with was “highly intoxicated.”

It would have been beneficial if the manager who called police had told the other manager that night that she called police, Smith said.

Not guilty

Coakley’s was cited in October 2018 for failing to keep from disturbing the peace and for making a false statement to the liquor board in November 2017, but the board determined Wednesday the restaurant and store were not guilty of those violations.

In the October 2018 incident, the liquor board was notified of a fight about to happen at the bar between a man and woman.

The woman is a server at Coakley’s but was off duty on Oct. 21, 2018 when she got into an argument with her fiancé and allegedly assaulted him, Patrolman Bryan Adams told the board.

As police arrived, the fiancé was involved in a fight among 10 or so people, Adams said. He was escorted outside, to a car and taken home.

Staff at the bar told police the fiancé had been the aggressor all night, causing a number of problems in the bar, Adams said.

Lawyer Eric McLauchlin, representing Coakley’s, argued that the bar staff did all it could to keep the situation that involved the couple under control, but called police when they discovered it wasn’t working.

Liquor board members agreed and determined the business did not violate any liquor laws.

The second charge — making a false statement — stemmed from comments Coakley made in November 2017 when she sought to use the Cornerstone store for her business’ off-premise sales of alcoholic beverages, which was granted.

Coakley said the store would be like a convenience store, but also a “tourist stop,” and might sell items such as Maryland and Havre de Grace paraphernalia, fishing supplies and other items made by local businesses.

Inspector William Colburn said he conducted premise checks twice and none of those items were found, that the business was operating primarily as a liquor store.

Board member Butch Tilley told Coakley and McLaughlin that the board had been told by the previous administrator that the store had to be more retail than liquor sales.

“Now with the current board counsel, the statute does not read like that,” Tilley said. “It wasn’t a fair standard. It was nonsensical, there was no basis to it. We were going off false information.”

According to the board’s new lawyer, Amy Finneran, the liquor store is “operating as it’s supposed to be,” Tilley told them, and the board found no violation.

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