SNOW HILL — A nearly spotless record and the support of the Ocean City Police Department (OCPD) helped one local business avoid the worst repercussions after it was found guilty of a serious liquor license infraction.
“Just so you understand, this is a bad violation,” said Board of License Commissioners (BLC) President William Esham.
Buxy’s Salty Dog Saloon, which has operated in Ocean City for 13 years with next-to-no license issues, was charged with serving alcohol after hours, an allegation owner Doug Buxbaum didn’t contest.
“We regret this happened,” he told the BLC. “I would hope to guarantee this won’t happen in the future.”
At 3:46 a.m. on Aug. 22, OCPD officers responded to an incident near Buxy’s. While in the area, officers noticed that there was still activity within the bar, despite the late hour and investigated.
OCPD Lt. Ray Austin confirmed that officers noticed several employees drinking alcohol while closing up the bar with at least one employee visibly intoxicated. This was in violation of the law, which says no drinks can be served after 2 a.m. and all drinks must be finished and off the bar by 2:30.
The fact that it was employees drinking was even worse, said Esham, since they were more knowledgeable about the law than most customers would be and put Buxbaum’s liquor license in jeopardy through their actions.
“You just put his license at risk. That’s his business,” Esham said to a group of employees in the audience.
It’s rare for an after-hour’s violation to occur with Esham unable to remember the last time he’s encountered one sitting on the BLC. He was even more surprised that it came from Buxy’s, which only has one other violation, a sale to a minor, on record. That infraction, Esham noted, occurred more than a decade ago.
“I can’t recall an incident where we even got called there,” said Austin.
Austin spoke favorably of Buxy’s and assured the BLC it wasn’t considered a trouble spot in anyway. Buxbaum himself was apologetic and stressed how seriously he as a business owner viewed the violation made by a few of his employees.
“We take all matters in article 2B very seriously,” said Buxbaum.
He added that a meeting was called the day after the incident where his employees were informed of the severity of the offense.
The board eventually settled on a $500 fine and a stern warning.
“We just can’t allow it,” Esham told Buxbaum. “We won’t allow it.”
The maximum penalty for the offense could have been a $4,000 fine and/or suspension or revocation of Buxbaum’s liquor license. Esham remarked that only the establishment’s positive reputation and the good assessment by Austin staved off a heavier punishment.
Buxy’s was the only business at this month’s BLC meeting to receive any fine.
Goose Creek in Pocomoke appeared before the board for the violation of making an alcohol sale to a minor. Since that business has operated for seven years with no prior transgressions and the owners demonstrated that they took almost every possible avenue to avoid illegal sales, the BLC let them off with a letter of reprimand.
Besides the hearings, other notable items that were approved by the board include the expansion of two licenses from beer-wine to beer-wine-liquor.
The licenses belonged to Peppers Tavern in Ocean City and DeNovo’s Trattoria in Ocean Pines. Both businesses proved that they met the state-mandated 70 seats on premise, not including bar area, and therefore qualified to serve liquor as well as beer and wine.