SNOW HILL — At this month’s Board of License Commissioners (BLC) meeting, only $1,000 worth of fines was levied for underage alcohol sales, though the board stressed that it observed a disturbing lack of communication and training in several cases that needs to be rectified.
With only three cases, there were a small number of sales to minor violations at the August BLC meeting. Because all three were first-time offenders, repercussions were light, though Board Chair William Esham warned that he noticed an unhealthy pattern amongst all three of the businesses, where language barriers or cultural differences played a part in illegal sales.
“If they have a hard time speaking English,” he said of summer employees, “then they probably have a hard time reading it.”
The first case presented to the board, and the only one to receive a fine, was Flavors of Italy on 6th Street and the Boardwalk in Ocean City. The meeting started off poorly for the restaurant when the BLC learned that the actual alcohol beverage license holder was not in attendance and had instead sent his wife, who helps manage the location, without informing the commission.
Things became worse when the BLC found out that of Flavors’ 25 employees only one, the absentee license holder, was TAM certified. A third strike against the business came when Ocean City Police Department Lt. Scott Harner informed the commission that despite his department offering training to Flavors employees after the incident, no follow-up was made to set up a session by the business.
“It’s free, it’s current,” Harner said in defense of OCPD alcohol training.
While Flavors employs a number of foreign summer workers, including the one that committed the violation, Harner promised the commission that OCPD is “sensitive” to those unique needs. Unfortunately, he reiterated that Flavors did not set-up an employee program post-violation.
“To date, they have not taken advantage of that training,” said Harner.
Referencing the employee, Esham said, “She really didn’t receive any formal training and that’s bad.”
Despite the lack of training structure, Flavors only received a $1,000 fine.
“You’re getting off easy,” said Esham.
Esham pointed out that the restaurant’s clean 10-year record played a big factor as well as the honesty shown by everyone from Flavors in admitting that training is lacking. Harner promised the commission that he will again attempt to schedule a training session and expects Flavors to take advantage of it this time around.
Of the other two businesses that committed sale to minor violations, Piezano’s Pizza and Six 12 Beer and Wine, both were able to plead a clean record, just like Flavors. Both businesses were also able to avoid fines, instead being written letters of reprimand that will go on file in the case of subsequent violations.
With Piezano’s Pizza on the Boardwalk, the BLC noted that, unlike Flavors, the owners immediately contacted OCPD for a training session following the violation, resulting in a letter instead of a fine. Similar to Flavors, however, was that the employee that committed the violation was a foreign worker and made a mistake in interpreting the license.
With Six 12 Beer and Wine, located on 12th Street and the Boardwalk, there was again a mix-up with the non-native cashier misreading an underage police cadet’s identification.
“What you’ve got to worry about is who you’re hiring,” stated Esham.
A tidy track-record and clear steps toward further training allowed the business to dodge a fine in favor of a letter of reprimand.