SNOW HILL – Two local businesses face hefty fines and suspensions for liquor license violations following hearings with Worcester County’s Board of License Commissioners.
On Wednesday, the board fined de Lazy Lizard $3,000 and suspended its alcohol privileges until May 26, 2015 (the Tuesday after Memorial Day) following a number of license violations. The board also fined the Friendship Food Mart $3,000 and suspended its alcohol sales until Jan. 5.
“A liquor license is a privilege not a right,” BLC Chairman William Esham told de Lazy Lizard.
Violations stemmed from two occasions in September — a concert during Bike Week and a wedding held Sept. 27. During Bike Week, on Sept. 16, De Lazy Lizard violated its license by setting up a tent and offering live music outside. The number of entertainers also amounted to five — one more than allowed. The bar’s license allows four-piece, live entertainment inside.
Bar management said they weren’t aware that the band would include five people, as it was an AC/DC cover band and AC/DC only had four members.
Owner Todd Hayes said he made the decision to host the entertainment outside because last year the bar had nearly exceeded capacity during Bike Week. When the forecast called for rain, he decided to put a tent up.
“It was a series of bad justifications,” he said. “I apologize. I know now it’s inexcusable.”
As for the wedding on Sept. 27, the bar violated its license by again offering live music outside. Management explained that it had only been for an hour during the wedding reception and that it had only consisted of two steel drums.
Hayes told the board he spent everything he had to make de Lazy Lizard what it is today.
“I’ve committed myself to making this work,” he said.
Commissioners decided to take no action on the Sept. 27 violation but fined the bar $3,000 and suspended its alcohol privileges until May 26, 2015.
Commissioners also imposed a $3,000 fine and a suspension on Ankur Patel for liquor license violations at his Friendship Food Mart. The store’s alcohol privileges have been suspended until Jan. 5.
Wednesday’s hearing came after a clerk at the store sold alcohol to a minor on Oct. 11. It was the second time that had happened this year, according to the BLC’s investigator. The clerk has since been fired.
Jennifer Hall, a deputy with the Worcester County Sheriff’s Office, said staff at the store had been polite when told of the violation but that she often heard from Stephen Decatur High School students that it wasn’t unusual for minors to buy alcohol at Friendship Food Mart.
“It is considered to be a problem spot,” she said.
Another business fined for selling alcohol to a minor this week was Trader Lee’s. The board levied a $1,000 fine. It was the store’s first violation since 2011. Although staff called it a one-time mistake, Hall was concerned because a store employee posted a photo of the minor she had sent in to buy alcohol on Facebook after the incident and had advised other area business owners to be on the lookout for him.
“That right there upsets me,” she said, adding that safety was paramount. “He’s not armed. He does this as a volunteer.”
The board’s attorney said that in itself was not in violation of any laws and so the board would not take action on it.
Nevertheless, the commissioners expressed their displeasure.
“This board wanted to do more,” Esham said. “We support local police.”
Also fined for sales to minors were Barley Hops and Grapes ($750) and de Lazy Lizard Brew Pub ($500).