The penalty for Baltimore County bar and restaurant owners caught for the first time serving alcohol to minors has gotten a bit steeper.
The Liquor Board has begun imposing fines on first-time offenders nabbed after serving undercover police cadets.
Previously, the board's practice was to suspend the offender's liquor license for two days, but then to waive the penalty in favor of one year of probation.
In effect, it was a warning that the chairman of the Liquor Board, William R. Snyder, says didn't make the point strongly enough.
Two license holders this week were fined $250 and a third was fined $350 based on visits that police cadet Brian Griffin made to the three establishments on York Road. Griffin, who was 19 on the day of his visits, Sept. 19, was served without any request for identification, the board found. The legal drinking age in Maryland is 21.
County police spokesman E. Jay Miller says two cadets on that day visited 15 locations and were served at seven. Three of the cases were heard by the board Monday.
Griffin's routine varied little, the board was told. He asked for a beer and was sold one at the Kosmakos Family Inn in the 9800 block of York Road, at Milano's restaurant in the 2000 block of York Road, and at Michael's in the 2100 block of York Road. He was served without question, with county vice detectives looking on, in all three places.
Milano's, which had a previous violation for serving a minor, was ordered to pay the higher fine, $350.
County Executive Roger B. Hayden appointed Snyder to head the Liquor Board in March, replacing Philip R. Leyhe as chairman.
Hayden also appointed Frank J. Wesolowski to one of the three board seats, making Leyhe the only holdover.
Snyder, a retired Crown Central Petroleum executive, says he wanted to send license holders a slightly stronger message than the suspended penalties carried, but without damaging business or hurting employees by suspending the license outright.
Second or third offenses, Snyder says, will result in suspensions, however.
"We're feeling our way," Snyder says, "trying to find a pattern that would be consistent. Some action has to be taken. They [licensees] must remember not to sell to minors."
The county police are concerned about the survival of their cadet program, given the hiring freeze in county government, says Miller. But the patrols to deter underage drinking will continue since there are five cadets still 18 or 19 years old, he says.