Cafe gets tentative OK for liquor as some protest mall rowdies


Carroll County's liquor board yesterday tentatively approved a Class B beer, wine and liquor license for Ricky's Cafe in Carrolltowne Mall.

The restaurant, to be established where PJ's Family Pub now operates, will begin serving after it gets approval from the health department, fire marshal and county permits and inspections office.

The owners -- Enrique M. and Zora E. Baca of Baltimore and David M. Huff of Westminster -- must also give the board a signed copy of the lease.

Three residents objected to the license at yesterday's hearing. Their complaints focused on teen-agers cruising around the mall, drinking alcohol and taking illegal drugs on the lot.

"There has been an incredible amount of vandalism on our properties," said Kathleen Horneman, who lives on Gemini Drive behind the mall. "Most of it is caused by kids who are drunk or on drugs."

But board members said they have no jurisdiction over those activities.

"We can understand your concerns and will take what we can in consideration of this application," said Earle H. Brewer, the liquor board chairman. "But the board has no authority over the mall.

"We can only see if [Mr. Baca] is responsible enough to care for the area we can hold him accountable for."

Residents also expressed concern about the age of the applicants. Mr. Baca is 29, his sister is 38 and Mr. Huff is 28 years old.

But Mr. Brewer said that wasn't one of his primary concerns.

"We have had people younger than this apply for a license," he said. "Experience is what I look at. Each of these men has had about 10 years in the restaurant business."

Mr. Huff has worked for PJ's for about 10 years, while Mr. Baca has managed the Eldersburg PJ's for two months and worked in several other restaurants since about 1982.

Ms. Baca, who will work at the restaurant on weekends, is employed as a medical technician at Harbor Hospital in Baltimore.

Board member Russell Mayer questioned Mr. Baca about an item on his driving record that said he had been stopped for driving while intoxicated when he was 20 years old.

"Young people make a lot of mistakes," Mr. Baca replied. "I feel I have learned from those mistakes."

Later, Mr. Mayer said he would approve the license but that the violations still concerned him.

"If these hadn't been alcohol violations, they wouldn't matter so much to me," he said. "I want him to remember that we have concerns and that we will be watching him."

Both sides said they were pleased with the final decision.

"We didn't have a problem with Ricky's Cafe per se," said Paul Horneman of Gemini Drive. "The main thing was to make the board aware of the problem so that in future deliberations they will take it into consideration.

"We are trying to sensitize all parts of the county government to our problem."

Meanwhile, Mr. Baca said that he intends to be part of meetings between the police and community members to stop teen-agers from cruising around the mall.

"I intend to work closely with the community," he said. "That problem has to be resolved no matter what. We will do whatever we can to help them out."

In other board news, members have again refused to renew the Tollgate Inn's liquor license. The Silver Run restaurant was denied a license in May because it was not meeting the food sales requirement.

County regulations require that 41 percent of a restaurant's sales be in food if it has a Class B license.

The decision was appealed to Carroll County Circuit Court, which sent the case back down to the board for reconsideration.

While changing the menu and attempting to attract new patrons has increased food sales, the percentage is still below 41 percent.

Food made up 19.9 percent of the sales in June and July, 33 percent in August and 31.9 percent in September, board members said.

"I think we should stay with our original decision," Mr. Brewer said. "Based on this new evidence, the 41 percent has not been reached.

"The establishment has more than enough time to be a restaurant if they're going to be a restaurant."

The facility has had a liquor license since April 1991.

Steven R. Tully, attorney for the inn's owner, Allen Younger, said he was disappointed that the board was not willing to work with the owner a bit longer.

"I thought there had been substantial progress," he said.

"I don't know what benefit the county gets from a closed restaurant."

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