License Commissioners Issue Verbal Warnings To Violators

SNOW HILL — Fines were minimal this month for alcoholic beverage violators, with only $1,000 being levied. However, in both cases heard, the Board of License Commissioners (BLC) stressed the seriousness of the offenses, promising if either applicant returned to the board with a violation in the near future there would be greater consequences.

The first hearing the BLC conducted during its meeting last Thursday was a “peace and safety” violation at Station 7 Restaurant in West Ocean City. The violation came from a culmination of noise complaints by neighbors of the restaurant this winter as well as a report from BLC Special Investigator Jeff Mayne. In Mayne’s report, he underlined that in meeting with one of the applicants for Station 7, James Wampler, he felt as though he was being brushed off.

“The licensee was not very receptive to changing his entertainment in order to keep the neighbor happy. He asserted that he has a right to make a living,” wrote Mayne in his report. “I reminded him that he did not have a right to operate his alcoholic beverage license in any manner he sees fit, because his license is a privilege governed by laws and regulations, not the least of which was the law that requires him to operate in such a manner as not to interfere with the peace and quiet of his neighbors.”

Reports from Maryland State Police Tfc. Heath Berkey concurred with Mayne’s findings.

“During my encounters with personnel from Station 7, I do not feel that they were very receptive to turning the music down,” wrote Berkey, “and keeping it down due to the need for us to respond there additional times.”

In light of the noise complaints and the lack of cooperation from management, Station 7 was fined $1,000 and will have to end their entertainment by 11 p.m. Also, though unrelated to the noise complaints, the restaurant will be removing two poles that have been used for “various activities,” according to BLC Attorney Tom Coates.

“There are two poles in the premise that have been used by patrons or employees or whoever for various activities and all of that activity will cease,” he said.

Coates, who rarely offers comments, did tell Station 7 management it was fortunate to only receive a moderate fine and a reduction in entertainment hours.

“You’re lucky the board took this light of an action today. Based on my conversations with Mr. Mayne and others, there was merit for more serious action,” he said. “If Mr. Mayne or a police officer ever steps in the premises again and suggests that you do something, you need to listen to them.”

BLC Chair William Esham agreed, reiterating Mayne’s statement that “an alcoholic beverage license is a privilege, not a right” and telling Station 7 management to “pay attention” to officers and board representatives in the future.

The final hearing the BLC held last week was for JC’s Northside Pub in Ocean City. The violation was for afterhours drinking amongst the staff. A cook who reportedly admitted that he should never have been behind the bar was caught pouring shots at 3 a.m. on Dec. 9, 2012, well after the business had closed for the night. Unlike Station 7, JC’s managed to avoid a fine entirely, only receiving an official letter of reprimand. The pub’s sterling reputation and willingness to cooperate were listed as reasons why punishment was mitigated.

“My job description puts me in direct contact with most of the business owners and alcohol establishments,” said Ocean City Police Department Public Affairs Officer Mike Levy, “and I can tell you from experience there are a lot of them that aren’t managed very well. This particular establishment, in my opinion, is one of the better managed properties that I deal with.”

After the violation, JC’s owner Jeff Edwards told the board that the action was taken seriously even though the employees were only serving themselves and not customers.

“I took it upon myself to re-educate and educate the entire staff, front and back of the house,” he told the board.

Edwards brought in a TAM trainer to update his staff, even those who normally would never serve liquor, on the latest alcoholic beverage regulations.

“I felt was a responsibility to myself, to the license and to the respect of having the license,” said Edwards.

Levy confirmed that Edwards has been responsible, is often on site at the restaurant and has always been just a phone call away for his department. The testimony offered by Levy went a long way toward putting his mind at ease, according to Esham.

The board voted unanimously to only write JC’s a letter of reprimand. However, Esham explained that the letter would remain on the pub’s file as a violation and would come back to haunt it if there are future problems

“That is a violation and it will go on your record, you’re just walking out without a fine. This is a bad violation,” he said. “I’m sure you know that. We’ve had nothing but good things said about you before you got here and while you’re here so you’re going to walk away from here with a letter of reprimand.”