Pizza Hut, Sizzler become first chains to get liquor licenses

May 12, 1993|By Amy L. Miller | Amy L. Miller,Staff Writer

Two restaurant chains received Carroll County liquor licenses yesterday, the first issued since the state Court of Special Appeals ruled in March that local liquor boards could grant licenses to franchises.

The Hampstead Pizza Hut, a party in the case responsible for the appeals court's decision, had applied for its license in February 1989. Sizzler, in the Crossroads Square shopping center, began the application process in 1986.

Liquor board members had held off acting on either case while the court system decided whether the state law prohibiting liquor licenses for chain stores, discount houses and supermarkets applied to chain restaurants.

Applicants from both establishments hoped to receive their licenses last month. However, board members had questions in each case that needed to be resolved at yesterday's hearings.

In the Pizza Hut case, the applicant, Gregory Hendrickson, no longer works for Pizza Hut of Maryland. However, he is the sole stockholder of Stead Inc., the corporation licensed by Pizza Hut to run the Hampstead restaurant.

Board members said they wanted to question the restaurant's current management about serving procedures.

"We just want to make sure the alcohol is served properly and the public interest is secured," said board chairman Earle H. Brewer.

Mr. Hendrickson, now employed with Boston Chicken, told the board he will spend three to five days a week at the Hampstead restaurant. He also intends to send friends, unknown to restaurant employees, to the Pizza Hut to eat and check on procedures.

A former Pizza Hut area manager for eight years, Mr. Hendrickson also said he felt confident the company's strict alcohol policies will be sufficient to guide employees. Pizza Hut requires that all customers who order beer or wine be carded.

Any Pizza Hut that does not follow the company's strict guidelines will lose its franchise, Mr. Hendrickson said.

"I've never been in a Pizza Hut that was not well run," said Mr. Brewer, agreeing with Mr. Hendrickson. "They require a strict adherence to their standards, and I feel secure that they would not allow a shoddy operation."

Mr. Hendrickson said the Pizza Hut will probably begin serving beer within the next few months, after all the food servers are trained.

A debate over whether the owners of Crossroads Square must sign the license application delayed the Sizzler case until this month. County and state liquor laws state that the owner of the premises must consent to an application and grant access to all board inspectors.

Walter A. Fitzgerald, owner of the Westminster Sizzler, said last month that members of Beral Partnership, which owns Crossroads Square, refused to sign the application unless the restaurant chain paid an additional $10,000 in rent.

However, Mr. Fitzgerald and his attorney, Linda Carter, argued that the signature was unnecessary because the national Sizzler corporation owns the building and leases it to the Westminster franchise.

Sizzler already pays Beral a percentage of the Westminster restaurant's sales, Mr. Fitzgerald said.

"It is the ensured access to these premises, specifically any and all parts of the building in which said business operates, that is the focus of this provision," said Ms. Carter in a brief submitted to the county attorney's office. "Such access can only be assented to by the building owner, not the land owner, where, as here, the two are not one and the same."

Michelle Ostrander, assistant county attorney, said her office agreed with that opinion, which allowed the liquor board to grant the license.

Mr. Fitzgerald said the buffet-style restaurant will begin to sell bottled wine and beer next week.

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