$500 Fines Issued For Underage Alcohol Sales
SNOW HILL — Hearings for seven different alcohol license violations managed to only generate a collective $2,000 in fines at this month’s Board of License Commissioners (BLC) hearing. Approval was also granted for a premises change at an Ocean City restaurant that recently came under fire for noise violations.
The board judged seven of the nine license violation charges on this month’s agenda, with two of the hearings suspended.
The Plaza Tapatia in Pocomoke and the location in Ocean Pines were both delayed until next month. Of the remaining seven violations, four received a $500 fine each, while the other three only received official letters of reprimand.
The first violation hearing was for the Ocean Pines Beach Club, which was unique in that it was the only business this month that infringed upon the entertainment portion of its license as opposed to the rules for alcohol.
Attorney Joe Moore, on behalf of Ocean Pines, told the board that while a “technical violation” did occur, the club was not really at fault. Earlier this summer at a private wedding which took place at the club, a band hired by the wedding party played past the club’s deadline for outdoor music.
“It was there. There was a band there and when the officer came up at 10:32 at night he could hear it, so I suppose that’s a technical violation. Likewise, I suppose that it’s a technical violation of our license,” said Moore.
But he pointed out that the club did not arrange for the band, merely allowed it to be there. In response to the violation, the club no longer allows outdoor music at private events past 7 p.m.
BLC Chair William Esham reminded Moore that a technical violation is still a violation, but the board voted to only issue a letter of reprimand to the club in lieu of a fine.
The Upper Deck Restaurant and Lounge in Pocomoke didn’t fare as well in its hearing for the sale of alcohol to a minor. Owner Brian Julian explained that the sale happened because the officer and cadet who were there for the compliance check visited at an extremely busy time and so were seated, had their order taken and were served by three different individuals. Julian admitted that it was not an excuse, only an explanation, and that it’s been a wake-up call. Because Upper Deck had one previous violation, a $500 fine was imposed for the violation.
Town Market in Snow Hill received the same penalty. It was also in front of the BLC for its second violation since 2011. Owner TJ Patel told the board that the compliance check had occurred while his mother was briefly watching the register, something which is unusual, and she forgot to card. Patel was fined $500 and the BLC stressed the importance of only allowing cashiers who are TAM certified to sell alcohol whenever possible.
Smith’s Market in Showell received the third consecutive $500 fine for the day. The violation was uncommon in that the clerk did card the underage police cadet but still sold the alcohol. It was merely a case of dates getting mixed up, said attorney Hugh Cropper, who represented the market.
The clerk who made the sale was confused over the dates, said Cropper, who then admitted that, because the license was vertical which means the owner is usually under 21, it should have been rejected out of hand.
“Don’t take any vertical licenses even if they’re 21,” Cropper advised.
Still, he pointed out that there is a brief period “when somebody reaches the age of 21 the vertical license doesn’t automatically expire” in Maryland. This was also the market’s second violation in as many years and a $500 fine was imposed.
The Atlantic Hotel made its first ever appearance before the board for a sale to minor violation this week. There were no unusual or noteworthy circumstances behind the event, with the server admitting to forgetting to card, but promising that it would be a learning experience. Because it was the first ever failed compliance check, the hotel only received a letter of reprimand, which will be placed on its permanent record and taken out if any subsequent violations occur.
The Noble Grape in Berlin received a letter of reprimand under similar circumstances. In this instance the server had asked for an ID but did not check it once the cadet stated falsely that they were 21. Worcester County Sheriff’s Deputy Jennifer Hall explained that cadets will lie in that situation since the onus is still on the clerk to physically check an ID.
“[The owner] thought that we were trying to be deceptive and I just reminded him that that is what the youth would do if they were coming in there attempting to buy alcohol,” she told the board.
As it was the Noble Grape’s first violation after several successful compliance checks, it received a letter of reprimand.
The final business to appear for a sale to minor violation was Minit Market from Ocean City. That business had four prior violations. However, those sales were spread out over a little more than a decade. The actual clerk who made the sale was a foreign student who was unfamiliar with the concept of vertical licenses. In their native country of Ireland, the drinking age is also 18.
Because the violations were so spread out with successful checks peppered between, the board issued a $500 fine.
Besides the hearings and a few other license changes, the BLC granted permission for Galaxy Bar and Grille to install several large glass panels that will enclose a portion of their open air bar. Galaxy recently landed in hot water after numerous noise complaints from neighbors from last summer persuaded the board to severely hamstring the bar’s late night music privileges.
“If that’s all they’re doing, it can’t do anything but improve the situation that needed improving as it stands today,” he said.
However, he made it clear that the board still views the prior noise violations as serious.
“You need to understand that there is no promise that we can help you…our approval of this gives you no promises of anything else,” said Esham.