The operators of the Otter Point Yacht Club in Abingdon were fined $1,000 recently by the Harford County Liquor Control Board after the club failed a compliance test and served an alcoholic beverage to an underage police cadet.
“Today, we’re embarrassed and we’re upset,” yacht club Commodore Ann Pongracz said during a show cause hearing March 11 at the liquor board headquarters in Bel Air.
Pongracz appeared for the hearing with Vice Commodore Janine Rogers and Rear Commodore Frank McCauley. They did not contest the charges or dispute the facts of what happened during the Feb. 21 compliance test, as reported by Inspector William Colburn.
Colburn conducted the test with Harford County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Troy Cooper and cadet Billy Broadhurst Jr. The deputy and cadet entered the yacht club at 6:02 p.m.; Broadhurst went to the bar and ordered a beer from the bartender, according to the inspector’s report.
The bartender asked Broadhurst for identification, and the cadet showed his vertical Pennsylvania driver’s license with an accurate birth date indicating he is 20 years old. The bartender looked at the license and told Broadhurst: “You’re good.” She accepted cash and gave the cadet an open bottle of beer, according to the report.
Cooper, the deputy, witnessed the transaction. Colburn entered the establishment upon being notified of what happened. The inspector asked the bartender if there was a manager available, and she said that “there isn’t one.” The bartender “appeared very agitated” and asked Colburn to speed things up as he explained the process of the compliance test, noting she had other customers to serve, according to the inspector’s report.
Colburn also asked the bartender to provide a copy of the receipt of the transaction. She said she had thrown it away, but noted Colburn could look through the trash — he declined her offer, according to his report.
The yacht club faced two charges stemming from the compliance test; first, for serving alcohol to an underage patron and second, for allowing people who are not members of the club — Broadhurst and Cooper — to enter the premises and serving them alcohol, according to the report.
Sheryl Davis Kohl, chair of the liquor board, recused herself from voting on whether or not to find the license holders guilty and what sort of fine to levy. Kohl said the bartender is a tenant in a rental property she owns.
Pongracz, who delivered a statement to the board after the inspector’s report was read into the record, noted there are no paid employees at the yacht club. The bartender who served the cadet and others work on a volunteer basis — Pongracz noted the bartender is “pretty mortified” following the compliance test. The commodore said the test happened the same evening as a “bar bingo” event, which was open to the public.
“We’re very sorry,” Prongracz told the board. She said the bartender will be recertified in training for safe alcohol service, and guests as well as members must sign in when attending events at the club.
Otter Point has not had any prior violations in the past five years, Amy Finneran, liquor board counsel, said.
Board members voted 3-0 to find the club guilty of each violation resulting from the Feb. 21 compliance test and levy a fine of $500 per charge.
Walter “Butch” Tilley III, board vice chair, said preventing underage drinking is “a top priority” for the board “in terms of public safety for the community.”