Tavern's License Revoked

Liquor Board Pulls Permit After Hearing

September 28, 1990|By Lorraine Mirabella | Lorraine Mirabella,Staff writer

For months, the smoke-filled Earleigh Heights Tavern was something of a narcotics supermarket, where customers routinely dealt drugs inside and on the parking lot, minors walked out with cases of beer and a bouncer ran the place, county police detectives say.

But nobody will be selling drugs -- or even alcohol -- at the controversial, 20-year-old bar anymore.

On Tuesday night, the liquor board imposed its toughest penalty in three years and shut down the Severna Park bar, revoking its license based on what board members said was the worst violations of a county liquor license in years.

"The game is over for Earleigh Heights Tavern," said Thomas E. Riggin, chairman of the Board of Liquor License Commissioners.

Owner David G. Paff allowed customers to sell drugs on his property and sold alcohol to minors, the board found. Of six charges, the board dismissed only one -- a charge of selling alcohol to minors.

"Everything was out of control up there," Riggin said. "I don't think Mr. Paff had any control over the situation. Someone else was running it, doing what he damn well pleased."

Paff's attorney, William L. Hudock, said he expects his client to appeal the decision to Circuit Court but could not confirm that yesterday with Paff. Paff has 30 days to appeal.

"I think it's rather severe," said Hudock, who objected to most of the testimony from police officers, calling it hearsay. "Mr. Paff has tried to maintain control. His biggest problem was the person keeping control. The licensee was involved in none of these transactions. They merely happened on his lot."

Riggin said Paff will be back before the board next month on a charge of fraudulent application. The board chairman said that during testimony it became clear that Paff had signed his deceased wife's name to three previous applications.

More than a dozen undercover police officers staked out the Earleigh Heights Road bar June 1 after numerous complaints from neighbors about disorderly conduct and drug trafficking, which some said they could see from their living rooms, testimony showed.

During three hours of surveillance, police arrested 15 people, including six minors, on drug and alcohol charges, testimony showed.

In the first incident, police charged three 16-year-old girls with possession of alcohol. The girls asked a customer to buy them beer, which he handed them in the parking lot, police testimony said. However, the liquor board could find no evidence that Paff or his employees sold beer to the girls. Later that night, police stopped a jeep on Yorktown Drive off Jumpers Hole Road after seeing it on the tavern's parking lot. Police charged three minors with possession of alcohol. Two of them told officers they bought two 12-packs of beer from a barmaid who never asked for identification, testimony showed.

Police also arrested three men and charged them with smoking marijuana in the parking lot and charged three other men with buying cocaine in the lot.

Three others were arrested after a woman approached detective Arthur Foote in the parking lot and asked for a man named Harry. Foote watched the woman's two companions buy cocaine; a second officer stopped their van and charged all three with cocaine possession, testimony showed.

Earlier, Foote testified he bought cocaine inside the bar from a man he identified as Harry. Police said they expect to file additional charges against Paff based on that purchase.

"Nobody seemed to mind what was going on," testified Foote, adding that customers could buy drugs inside the bar near the phone booth.

Paff, who has owned the bar for six years and lives on the site, testified he periodically checked the parking lot but had no idea his bouncer wasn't doing his job.

"Most of the time, I'm upstairs where I live," testified Paff. "I'm supposed to have people do the job for me."

Since the June 1 raid, Paff has fired the bouncer and hired two others.

He has been trying to sell the bar for several months and earlier this week signed a sales contract, contingent upon keeping his liquor license, he said.

Residents of Earleigh Heights and The Oaks of Severna Park had gathered more than 80 signatures on petitions urging the board to revoke the license.

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