SNOW HILL — June’s Board of License Commissioners (BLC) hearing resulted in the levying of $2,000 worth of fines between three area businesses that sold to a minor.
Rita’s World of Wine, Beer and Spirits, Casey’s Corner and the 19th Hole Bar and Grille all received violations for selling alcohol to underage police cadets posing as shoppers.
The first to come before the board, Rita’s World near Ocean Pines, received the lightest sentence, only having a letter of reprimand put on file, though BLC Chair William Esham warned owner Rita O’Neil that a subsequent violation would bring that letter out of the file and negatively influence the board’s next ruling. Rita’s World had one sale to a minor on record already, but it was in 2011 and the spot had passed six more checks by undercover cadets since then until their most recent violation.
Casey’s Corner, otherwise known as Mike’s Shell in Ocean City, was hit with the heaviest fine, $1,500. Like Rita’s, Mike’s Shell also had a sale to minor already on record, but it was more recent, taking place in 2012, with four checks passed since then before the most recent violation. Attorney Hugh Cropper told the BLC that there was no excuse for the sale beyond the clerk being overworked and distracted at the time.
The violation warranted a $500 fine. However, because it was the third violation in a short period of time it could have resulted in a much steeper fine or even a license suspension if not for the positive assessment of the store by Worcester County Sheriff’s Deputy Jennifer Hall.
“They’ve covered all of the bases that I feel they can cover,” she told the BLC. “It then just becomes incumbent upon the person at the register to ask for an ID because the tools there become useless when you do not.”
Attorney Joe Moore, representing 19th Hole Bar and Grille and Marlin Market on Route 611, used the same line of reasoning in defending the most recent violation.
“There are warnings and signs virtually all over the premises warning people that they will not be served if they do not have ID and that vertical IDs will not be accepted,” he said. “What I’m trying to do is show you all that they are using an absolute, honest effort to prevent what happened.”
Since their previous two violations, Moore said that every ID checking precaution that could feasibly be taken by 19th Hole has been. Besides extensive signage, cash registers require a date of birth to be put in for alcohol sales or the use of a manual override. Store policy is that anyone under 50 years of age must be checked, an agreement all employees must sign before they begin. Finally, all employees must be certified through alcohol classes.
It was a simple case of an employee disregarding training and the various available in the store, argued Moore. The clerk was immediately fired after the sale.
Before the BLC made a ruling, Hall made her first request of the board in five years, asking that leniency be shown to 19th Hole.
“I’ve never asked for anything before … my question would be, would you allow me to cite the gentleman seated here for underage sales to a minor in lieu of doing any heavy fines or suspension of a license to the company itself because they have had fantastic follow through? They’ve only improved since the times I’ve been in contact with them before,” she said.
Esham assured Hall the board “heard her loud and clear” about her support of the restaurant’s efforts, but he did not feel that a criminal citation would be the best route.
“I appreciate your request, but he’s already lost his job,” Esham said.
A $500 fine was levied, and no citation was made against the clerk.