Jj's Gets Ultimatum: Find New Owner Or Lose License

Liquor Board Finds Violations, Gives Nightclub 6 Months To Act

July 11, 1991|By Lorraine Mirabella | Lorraine Mirabella,Staff writer

A Parole nightclub that ignored repeated warnings to abide by state and county liquor laws will lose its license unless the club is sold within six months, the county liquor board has ruled.

JJ's Food and Beverage Emporium on Riva Road must shut down or be sold because itdisregarded restrictions set by the board after earlier violations, the board ruled Tuesday night. The bar served liquor without food, staged a "best body" contest, offered live music and gave away prizes, including free drinks, the board found.

JJ's, formerly a restaurant known as Bogie's, is the second bar in less than a year to draw the board's stiffest penalty. In September, the board shut down Earleigh Heights Tavern in Severna Park for what board members called the worst violations of a county liquor license in years, including drug violations.

The board has cited JJ's for violations three times since October, including the latest charges.

Board members voted to wait six months to revoke JJ's license to give owner Gordon Schaaf a chance to sell the bar, said chairman Thomas E. Riggin. If Schaaf finds a buyer acceptable to the liquor board within six months, the license could be transferred. If not, the board will revoke the license.

"While we certainly are not condoning the violations, we wanted to give Mr. Schaaf the opportunity to recouphis losses," said Riggin, who, with the other members, also suspended JJ's license for 30 days.

Schaaf's attorney, Alan J. Hyatt, pleaded with the board Tuesday night to give the owner another chance, blaming problems on Schaaf's misplaced trust in former general manager Steve Sanders.

"Neither Mr. Schaaf nor I will tell you the establishment was run in a legal, efficient, competent manner," Hyatt said. "But he's making an earnest attempt. The degree of violations and thedegree of harm was not so grievous that he should not be given an opportunity to redeem himself."

"All my instructions were violated,"Schaaf added.

Since the May violations, Hyatt said, the three-year owner of JJ's has fired Sanders and brought in manager Richard Aronowitz, who ran Schaaf's Washington restaurant, Fitch, Fox and Brown. Schaaf andAronowitz told the board they plan to transform JJ's into afine dining restaurant.

Schaaf also has filed for protection fromcreditors under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code.

"It is (Schaaf's) fervent hope he be given an opportunity to reorganize that business," Hyatt said.

But Riggin responded: "We've given Mr. Schaaf more chances than we've given anyone since I've been on the board. If he's not competent, how can we allow him to continue running an establishment where every night police have to go down there and stop fights?"

The board suspended JJ's license in October, charging the bar with selling alcohol to minors -- a charge the board ultimately dismissed -- and violating ownership laws after the only county resident listed on the license attempted to sell his share.

At the owner's request, a Circuit Court judge granted an injunction blocking the suspension from taking effect until the license could be transferred.

But in April, JJ's found itself back before the board, once againon charges of selling liquor to minors. The board restricted the business, permitting it to serve alcohol only with food and prohibiting live entertainment. The board suspended the license at that time for three days.

On May 7, 8, and 13, liquor inspectors visited the barand found waitresses serving alcohol without food, a disc jockey playing records, the back door open and unattended, a doorman on duty sporadically requesting patrons' identification, and, on one evening, a"best body" contest in which women in bikinis danced on stage, county liquor inspector reports show.

County police charged JJ's May 27with after-hours drinking by employees on the premises and on May 31with an alcohol violation after police found a patron drinking in the parking lot.

Chief Inspector Jack McSwain said that on one visit, he ordered a pizza, only to be told the bar had pizza shells but nocheese. Another visit revealed no food stock in the kitchen, he said.

Sanders said he was forced hire a DJ and run contests to draw more people to make enough money to pay his employees, whom he said Schaaf failed to pay.

"He knew everything that was going on," Sanderssaid of Schaaf. As for the lack of food with drink, Sanders said, "The food was there. There was plenty of stock."

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