Liquor stores told to turn away 'habitual drunkards'

March 25, 1994|By Donna E. Boller | Donna E. Boller,Sun Staff Reporter

Westminster Mayor W. Benjamin Brown announced yesterday that he will rely on Main Street liquor store owners rather than city police to enforce a 1947 law that bans sales to "habitual drunkard[s]," but some street people say they are already being harassed by police.

The mayor met privately for about 20 minutes with representatives of two Main Street package goods stores to discuss enforcement of the statute. The law bars liquor-license holders from serving "a habitual drunkard . . . or a mentally deficient person" or people whose relatives have asked store owners not to serve them because they are "of intemperate habits or of unsound mind or on account of . . . [their] physical condition."

Mr. Brown plans to use the law to stop eight to 10 people, some of whom identify themselves as regular drinkers, from congregating on East Main Street.

Several men who regularly hang out on Main Street said yesterday that recently police have taken actions that included arrests for trespassing on railroad property when they crossed the railroad tracks, telling them to move on when they gathered on Main Street and tracking them down in hiding places where they had gone to drink.

The men said that, although they are committing no crime, police routinely pour out their liquor when they find their hiding places.

Two of the men refused to give their names. They said they feared additional harassment.

One man, Barry Sayer, said he was approached Wednesday while he was buying vodka by Officer Howard Friedman.

Mr. Sayer said Officer Friedman looked across the street toward a gathering of several men with whom Mr. Sayer had been talking and told Mr. Sayer, "If you buy that, you better not go across the street and drink it."

Mr. Sayer said the officer was attempting to limit his right to associate with friends.

Police Chief Sam R. Leppo said Westminster police "don't harass or lean on people." He declined to say whether he would consider Officer Friedman's reported actions harassment. "I don't know that the comment was ever made," he said.

Chief Leppo said police are enforcing open container, disorderly conduct and trespass laws. He said officers respond when residents complain of people drinking, "but I don't know that anyone is spending time tracking people down."

The police chief said arrests for trespassing on railroad property are unrelated to Mayor Brown's efforts. Chief Leppo said Maryland Midland Railway Co. requested enforcement last year after encountering problems with people on the railroad tracks.

The mayor reported that Forest Howell, co-owner of Schmitt's Rexall, plans to draw up a list of people who will be refused alcohol because Mr. Howell believes they fit one of the categories in the 1947 law.

The mayor said any action by the Carriage House will await a meeting with owner Chuck Fitzgerald, who is out of town.

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