SNOW HILL – A West Ocean City business faces a hefty fine and a week-long suspension after selling alcohol to minors twice within 30 days.
The Worcester County Board of License Commissioners (BLC) on Wednesday fined Marlin Market $2,500 and suspended its alcohol privileges for a week as a result of two violations. Though the store implemented changes and fired the employees who made the sales to minors, BLC members stressed the business owner remained responsible.
“Regardless of what the employees are doing, it’s the licensee that’s responsible,” said BLC Chairman William Esham.
Attorney Mark Cropper, representing the Marlin Market, said the first sale to a minor occurred when an employee failed to scan a customer’s identification and instead was able to manually override that requirement. Cropper said the employee was fired the next day and the cash register system was changed so there was no option for a manual override. The employee policy manual was also changed to emphasize practices to prevent minors from purchasing alcohol.
Nevertheless, Cropper said just weeks after the first violation a second violation occurred at Marlin Market. On a check conducted by the Worcester County Sheriff’s Office, when the minor attempting to purchase alcohol told the clerk he didn’t have his identification, the clerk scanned his own identification to allow the sale to go through.
When board members asked the clerk why he’d done it, he explained that he’d started the practice of scanning his own identification just a couple days before the violation when some of the store’s regular customers’ identifications wouldn’t go through the scanner.
“It was a newer thing I’d done because of the automated scanner,” he said.
Cropper stressed that the employee had been fired immediately and that Marlin Market’s connections had made a significant effort after the first violation to ensure minors were not able to purchase alcohol.
“I would submit to the board that at some point a licensee has met his burden …,” Cropper said. “Once in a while you have an employee that does something so completely unpredictable and out of character you cannot anticipate it and you cannot prevent it.”
Esham acknowledged that it was an unusual situation.
“I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen this or not,” he said, adding that the licensee had acted appropriately after the first violation in implementing changes.
BLC member Charles Nichols made a motion to fine Marlin Market $500 for the first violation and $2,500 for the second violation and also to suspend the store’s license for 30 days. When BLC member Marty Pusey said she had questions, BLC attorney Thomas Coates said the board could go into closed session.
When the board reconvened in open session, Nichols revised his motion to include fines of $500 and $2,000 and to include a suspension of seven days starting March 7. The motion passed 3-0.
Wednesday’s BLC meeting also included several new license requests. The board was quick to approve a license for a third Dough Roller location. The popular restaurant is taking over the building in West Ocean City formerly occupied by Applebees. The 150-seat facility will serve breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Mad Fish on the commercial harbor will be able to offer the carryout sale of beer and wine following approval from the BLC this week. Though the restaurant’s connections asked for permission to offer carryout beer, wine and liquor — in an effort to cater to the boating community near the restaurant — BLC members opted to grant approval for just beer and wine. Esham said there were already approximately six businesses offering carryout liquor sales within a mile.
Other new businesses licensed by the board included El Maya (Market Street in Pocomoke), WXYZ Bar and Tiki Bar (in Aloft in Ocean City) and Three Anchors Coastal Eats and Spirits (K-Coast building on 78th Street). License transfers were approved for the Lucky Anchor Bar and Grill (the former Alibi Room.) and Taphouse Tavern (previously Kirby’s Red Onion).