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Harford licensees cite issues with liquor board inspector in defending violations

A Harford County liquor licensee took the board’s inspector to task Wednesday for the way he said the inspector treated him during inspections of his business earlier this year.

Richard McGarry, owner of North Harford Liquors, appeared before the Harford County Liquor Control Board Wednesday to answer to allegations that he failed to maintain records that include alcohol purchase invoices, failed to display a license on his premises, failed to cooperate with a board representative and failed to maintain a keg registration.

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After a 40-minute hearing, four of the five-member board (Paul Majewski II was absent) determined McGarry was guilty of the license and cooperation charges and not guilty of the maintaining records and keg registration charges. He was fined $500 for each violation for which he was found guilty.

McGarry told the board he took the records home in February because he didn’t have enough storage space in his office.

“I had them in my cubicle, but every time I opened a file drawer, I knocked them over,” McGarry said. “Was I wrong? Now I know I was wrong, but they are back in my office.”

As for not displaying the license he was supposed to, McGarry said he never had it, and once he found out he needed it, tried to get it from the state. But after three tries he gave up, he said.

Eventually, however, he made some calls and got the license “because I didn’t want to have to deal with this gentleman over here,” McGarry said, looking at the liquor board’s inspector, William Colburn.

“I don’t like when somebody comes in my business, starts yelling at me and telling me ‘I can shut you down if you don’t have that license,’” McGarry said.

When Scott Baker assumed the role of the board’s general manager last month, McGarry said he received an email from him saying how he wants to work with the licensees.

“That’s what I expect from you guys, not somebody to come in and yell at you and downgrade you,” he said.

The board’s lawyer, Amy Finneran, told McGarry if he had an issue with Colburn’s treatment of him, to put it in writing to the board.

While the board didn’t agree that McGarry maintained his records properly, members said a guilty finding would mean McGarry would lose his liquor license.

“We’re not in the business of shutting people down,” board member Butch Tilley said. “But this is a serious offense. The records need to be on the premises. We want to work with you as long as you’re working with us.”

Another licensee who appeared before the board Wednesday to answer to charges of failing to maintain records and cooperating with a board representative, also took issue with Colburn’s actions during an inspection of his Fallston restaurant in June.

Alexandros Theodoropoulos, who has owned Black Forest Taphouse for three years, said Colburn followed him to his office during a routine inspection of the premises June 24.

Theodoropoulos said he was uncomfortable with that because he considers it his private space, and his daughter was up there that day.

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Finneran told Theodoropoulos that Colburn had authority to inspect any place where alcohol could be stored, including Theodoropoulos’ office.

Colburn also said Theodoropoulos refused to turn over employee records during his inspection, which Theodoropoulos argued he didn’t have to do without employee permission under federal and state privacy statutes.

Finneran, board members and Theodoropoulos’ lawyer, David Mister, argued about what statutes take precedent and if they covered an employee’s personal information when it comes to proving they are old enough to hold the job they have.

They didn’t come to a conclusion and agreed it’s something that should be examined further.

Theodoropoulos was found not guilty of failing to maintain records and guilty of failing to cooperate with the inspector. He was fined $500.

Colburn said he had no comment about McGarry’s or Theodoropoulos’ complaints.

Concerns about Colburn’s behavior were also brought to the board earlier this year after several businesses canceled drag shows because they said Colburn threatened them.

“Mr. Colburn’s statement to me, his exact words were, ‘I cannot tell you to cancel this event, but if you go forward with it, I will show up with a video recorder and as soon as something happens, I will pull your license,’” Larry Dougherty Jr. said during a May 22 meeting. “I felt threatened. That’s kind of a bullying tactic.”

More than two dozen people attended that meeting to call an end to “discrimination” and “homophobia” they said led to the cancellation of several drag shows in the county in the spring.

Organizers of the drag events met with liquor board members to discuss the shows and what happens at them and the “misunderstanding” was resolved, according to a statement from the liquor board and the Maryland LGBT Chamber of Commerce.

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