Two 20-year-old men drank beer and danced with friends at BJ's until1 a.m. one night last November. They spent a couple of hours at a friend's house after the Westminster bar closed, then headed home to Hanover, Pa.
The ride ended when the driver, who said he drank 10 or12 beers at BJ's, fell asleep at the wheel and crashed into a tree, killing his friend, who also was his housemate.
Yesterday, BJ's owners answered charges brought by the county liquor board that their employees served alcohol to three minors on Nov.21, including another friend they met at the bar.
J. Robert Johnson of Westminster, an attorney for the owners, said two of the three minors had presented driver's licenses stating they were at least 21,the legal drinking age.
Johnson said the owners were not able to answer charges that they served David G. Shorter, who died at the scene of the accident at 3:40 a.m. on Westminster Road outside Hanover.
David A. Maempel, the driver, said he had patronized BJ's about a dozen times since it opened in July and never had been asked for proof of age.
Liquor board administrator J. Ronald Lau asked him if hefelt "comfortable" going to BJ's even though he was younger than 21.
"I was fairly confident I would be served (alcohol) without beingquestioned," he testified.
Maempel said he and Shorter did not drink after they left BJ's and before they headed home.
Tracey Taylor, 20, of Westminster, a high school friend of Maempel's and Shorter's, said she had been to BJ's four or five times and had presented a false ID saying she was a 22-year-old American University student.
She said she got the ID on 42nd Street in New York, and her father "ripped it up."
Bartender Gregory A. Reitz of Westminster testified that he had carded Maempel and Taylor the first time each came to BJ's, and they had shown Maryland drivers licenses stating their ages as21.
Maempel and Taylor told the liquor board they have never had false Maryland drivers licenses.
"It boils down to a question of who you're going to believe," Johnson said.
Barry Snyder of Westminster, a co-owner of BJ's, testified that he did not recognize Maempel, but that he had talked to Taylor on several occasions.
"Obviously, she pulled the wool over my eyes" about her age, he said.
Johnson said, "It's unfortunate that this happened, but that doesn't mean standards (at BJ's) are lax.
"BJ's has exercised due caution," he said.
The bar has a doorman who checks IDs after 8 p.m., and no one younger than 21 is admitted after 9 p.m. without permission from the owners, Snyder said. He said he sometimes allows a minor to come listen to a live band if accompanied by someone older than 21 whom he knows.
Snyder and co-owner Joseph Kaplan of Baltimore face a maximum penalty of a $6,000 fine and suspension of their liquor license.
The three-member liquor board will issue a written decision on the charges within 30 days.
BJ's owners also face a fourth charge that they served beer to a 20-year-old Westminster man on Dec. 8. A hearing on that charge was postponed until next month.
Lau said the board has received complaints from anonymous callers that BJ's has servedalcohol to minors.
Before July, BJ's was operated by different owners under the name Jeremy's Restaurant and Lounge.
Maempel, who was hospitalized for head and rib injuries after the accident, has notbeen charged in his friend's death, said Officer Timothy J. Hippensteel of the West Manheim Township Police Department in Hanover. The case is under review by the district attorney, he said yesterday.
Maempel's blood-alcohol content was .0978 percent about an hour after the accident, a police report states. A level of .10 percent is considered legally drunk.
Hippensteel testified that an autopsy showed Shorter's blood-alcohol level was .179 percent.