Hayden ousts chairman of liquor board

February 24, 1994|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,Sun Staff Writer

Baltimore County Executive Roger B. Hayden has forced liquor board Chairman William R. Snyder to resign after months of pressure from the county's Licensed Beverage Association, which says Mr. Snyder favored big business over local tavern operators.

Mr. Hayden would not comment on the resignation, calling it a personnel matter, but Mr. Snyder and the attorney for the tavern owners agreed on the reasons for it.

"We . . . petitioned our government, and they apparently heard it," said David Mister, the beverage association's lawyer.

"People in our association tend to be politically active on a grass-roots level. I'm sorry it ended that way," he said, praising Mr. Snyder as an honest, hard-working man who tried hard to be open and available.

"The association's goal, or strategy, was to have me removed," Mr. Snyder agreed yesterday.

He said he was worried that his fate might discourage other business people from accepting political appointments in county government.

The resignation comes against a backdrop of bitter competition between old-line neighborhood bars and restaurants and the national chains that are capturing an increasing share of a shrinking retail liquor business.

To protect its members from new competition in areas such as Towson -- where there is a demand for new liquor licenses -- the beverage association has defeated recent attempts to change laws that keep licenses from being transferred from Essex, Middle River and other areas where there is an oversupply.

Association leaders said yesterday that Mr. Snyder, 67, favored the big chains in his demeanor at hearings and in his decisions.

Mr. Mister said the former chairman "seemed to play economic BTC development coordinator," which the lawyer said was not his job.

"There was gentleness and interest given [by Mr. Snyder] to large interstate corporations," while local tavern operators got a brusque or unfriendly reception at hearings, Mr. Mister said.

Mr. Snyder denied that that was his intent, arguing that big companies often were better prepared when they came before the board than local bar and restaurant owners were. He said he was impartial in dealing with all licenses.

Mr. Snyder and the bar owners also crossed swords over the issue of liquor purchases by underage, undercover police cadets.

The beverage association has been pushing Mr. Hayden to get the liquor board to stop punishing licensees the first time they are caught serving cadets. It wants a warning letter instead for first offenders.

Mr. Snyder strongly opposed warning letters during a meeting in Mr. Hayden's office last month. He noted that the board already sends out a warning when it first receives a complaint about underage buyers -- and before any cadet visits.

Col. Donald L. Shinnamon of the county police said yesterday that his department also opposes any change in the policy.

Mr. Snyder, who was appointed by Mr. Hayden in March 1991, said he ultimately left without submitting a letter of resignation.

"There was a minor misunderstanding between me and the county executive," he said yesterday, adding that he met with Mr. Hayden Friday to "discuss things," then resigned after another meeting Tuesday.

Charles E. Norton Jr., an Arbutus lawyer who has been an alternate liquor board member since November 1991, will replace Mr. Snyder.

Mr. Hayden had only praise for his departed board chairman, but he refused to comment directly on Mr. Snyder's resignation.

Beverage association officials applauded it, however.

"We thought he was overstepping his authority as chairman," said Stephen A. Xintas, past president and board member of the association. "We're just looking for some fairness from Roger [Hayden]."

John K. Milani, the association's vice president, said he was upset by Mr. Snyder's efforts to change the rules governing the number and location of licenses without involving state legislators.

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