The Howard County Liquor Board has fined a Jessup tavern $300 and suspended its license for a week for selling beer to undercover police cadets who were underage.
The sentence imposed on Three Nines Tavern on Washington Boulevard could have been far worse.
F. Todd Taylor Jr., a senior assistant county solicitor in the county's legal office, had recommended the board revoke the license altogether
or suspend it for 30 days. Mr. Taylor had also recommended the tavern be placed on two years' probation if the license were suspended.
In a decision and order signed last night, the board, made up of the five County Council members, said a more severe penalty was not warranted because of steps Three Nines has taken to assure liquor will not be sold to minors.
However, if the tavern is found to have served liquor to minors in the next 14 months, the board "will have little choice but to revoke the license," the board said in its decision and order.
The weeklong suspension will take effect at 6 a.m. on Dec. 12 and continue until 6 a.m. Dec. 19.
In the first instance, Cadet Josh ua Shandler entered the tavern without identification July 1 and bought a six-pack of beer from the cashier. Cadet Shandler turned 21 -- the legal age for drinking -- 19 days after the sale.
The second instance occurred Aug. 27 when Cadet Todd I. Leppert, 19, entered the package goods portion of the tavern without identification. He also bought a six-pack of beer.
During the Nov. 16 hearing of the case, Thomas M. Meachum, the attorney representing Three Nines, produced witnesses from other establishments who testified Cadet Leppert looked much older than 21.
Mr. Meachum also suggested the police department may have changed its policy of testing sales to minors by using older-looking undercover cadets.
Neither Mr. Meachum nor tavern manager Stanley J. Natiaska disputed the illegal sale.
After the sale, Mr. Natiaska asked to see Cadet Shandler and agreed that he should have been carded.
But in the second instance, Mr. Natiaska angrily accused liquor inspector Holly Burnham of using deception to check on the sale of alcohol to minors.
Regardless, Mr. Natiaska has now instituted new carding procedures. Employees are required to ask identification from everyone, regardless of age, who seeks to make a purchase in the package goods side of the operation.