License Board Issues Warnings For Underage Violations

SNOW HILL — Two first-time offenders were let off with warnings by the Board of License Commissioners (BLC) on Wednesday, though reports of the incidents were stored in case of future violations.

Ponzetti’s Pizza and 94th St. Beer, Wine, and Liquor in Ocean City came before the BLC Wednesday for violations of the county’s alcohol code, specifically, the sale of alcohol to a minor.

“I was very, very disappointed,” said John Trader, owner of 94th St. Beer, Wine and Liquor after learning one of his employees sold alcohol to an undercover, underage Ocean City Police Department (OCPD) cadet without first checking their ID.

Trader said that he was especially displeased given the amount of training his employees are put through to prevent such incidents.

“We do a great deal of hands-on training,” said Trader. “We have a very stable workforce.”

He explained that new employees are “shadowed” by more experienced colleagues for 3-5 days before being trusted to handle alcohol sales by themselves. The entire staff is also trained in Techniques of Alcohol Management (TAM).

Trader added that, after the incident occurred, a mandatory meeting was held the next morning for all employees to discuss the responsible sale of alcohol. The one member of the staff who skipped the meeting was immediately terminated. However, the server actually responsible for the violation was allowed to remain.

“I consider him to be a valuable employee,” said Trader.

As evidence of the effectiveness of the training used by 94th St., it was noted by the board that the business had been checked by undercover OCPD cadets 14 times since 1996, and this was the first violation.

“I’m more disappointed in the one [violation] than I am proud of the 14 [passes],” admitted Trader.

Because of his record and level of training, the BLC decided to issue a warning, though Trader was informed that further infractions will result in the report of this incident being brought into discussion.

Steve and Dan Janson, owners of Ponzetti’s Pizza, spoke to the board next about a similar violation. However, unlike with 94th St., where an employee had made the mistake of selling to a cadet, it was Steve Janson himself who failed to check an ID.

“I have no excuse,” he told the BLC, adding that the best he could do in way of explanation was point out that he rarely works the bar and simply slipped up at a bad time.

“I made a mistake, personally,” said Steve Janson.

In response to the incident, he plans on taking TAM classes, despite already holding a certification.

“I’m already certified in TAM, but it’s been awhile,” he said.

Just like with 94th St., this was the first violation against Ponzetti’s. However, it was also the first check done by the OCPD.

Due to it being a first offense, a warning was once again issued in lieu of a fine.

BLC President William Esham cautioned Steve and Dan Janson to expect more visits from undercover cadets in the future.

“Now that this has happened, they’re likely to check you again,” he said.

In addition to the hearings, the BLC also reviewed several applications for new Beer/Wine/Liquor (BWL) licenses and an equal number of applications asking for licenses already in place to be transferred or upgraded. The three new businesses approved for new licenses were the Surf’s Up Café, The Pour House, and Guido’s Burritos, all located in Ocean City.

The board also approved an upgrade of the beer-wine license held by Frontier Town to a full BWL license.