The licensees of Tersiguel's French Country restaurant in Ellicott City were fined $500 by the Howard County Alcoholic Beverage Hearing Board and lost 138 bottles of wine to the Maryland comptroller's office because the wine was not bought legally through a wholesaler.
Fernand Tersiguel, owner of the popular French restaurant in the 8200 block Main St., said yesterday that he got the wine from the family of a friend who had died.
"I had it for three years," he said, until a disgruntled employee reported the wine to Howard County police, who notified the comptroller's office in September.
"In the grand scheme of things, it's a tax issue," said Detective Martin Johnson, who added that under Maryland law, licensees must buy alcoholic beverages from wholesalers to make sure the state gets the tax revenue from the purchase.
The law also protects wholesalers from competition from out-of-state merchants.
The board decided, in its ruling Jan. 29, that a $500 fine was a deterrent to others, but it did not take stronger action because the licensees have "a long record of community service" and no other violations.