Club may lose liquor license

Operator charged with 10 rule violations

revocation considered

March 06, 2002|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,SUN STAFF

The Centennial Cue and Karaoke Club in Ellicott City is operating without the ability to sell alcoholic beverages, which isn't good for business, but things could get worse.

Howard County's liquor board is considering revoking the club's suspended license, after Harrison Ho Kang, the sole legal operator, acknowledged at a hearing that he had left the business. He is charged with violating 10 liquor board rules.

The club, which boasts 20 large pool tables and a long bar, is at 10045 Baltimore National Pike in a new shopping center behind the Double T and Forest diners. It was not making money, Kang told the board at a hearing Monday evening.

"I was almost going out of business," he said, noting that he was five months behind in his commercial rent when his extended family moved in and took over the operation, barring him from the premises.

The board is made up of Howard County Council members, who occasionally hear complicated or more serious cases. Most liquor cases are heard by an appointed Alcoholic Beverage Commission.

Police Detective Martin Johnson, under questioning by Assistant County Solicitor F. Todd Taylor Jr., said he visited the 18-month-old business first at 2:35 a.m. Jan. 19.

Johnson said a half-dozen young men were inside, one drinking from what looked like a beer bottle. Although Kang said the men were his friends and no one was drinking beer, Johnson said licensed establishments are not allowed to remain open after hours for anyone but employees.

The detective said he came back two days later for a regulatory inspection and found no one on duty who was certified to sell alcohol, no business employee records, no federal tax stamp, no Maryland retail sales license, no access to the storage area for alcohol, and Smirnoff Ice for sale that was not bought from a licensed wholesaler, which state law requires.

Later, he found that Kang had not paid Maryland sales and withholding taxes, he testified.

Johnson said he returned to the club several more times to find things not put right, despite repeated assurances from Kang, until Feb. 19, when an unidentified man and woman who were selling alcohol told him that they had taken over, that Kang was gone, and that he would not be allowed back.

Johnson said the couple had bought more liquor from wholesalers but were not licensed operators. Howard law requires that Kang, the licensee, to work at the business, or lawfully transfer the license.

The detective said he could not find Kang - at the home where he had lived with other family members, at an Ellicott City apartment where he had moved, at the business or in any other place. Johnson said he then reported Kang as a missing person.

Kang turned up a couple of days later, but Johnson had the license suspended on an emergency basis Feb. 21 and the board scheduled a hearing.

Kang asked for a postponement Monday night, claiming that he wanted a lawyer but could not afford one. The board rejected the request.

"I'm not going back there," he said, after claiming that he had corrected most of the violations that Johnson noted.

Kang said the man and woman running the place are his niece and nephew, and he wants to transfer the liquor license to them, "but we don't have any paperwork yet."

Board Chairman Christopher J. Merdon and the board deliberated in executive session, and said a decision on revocation - which Taylor requested - would be issued in writing in several weeks.

The club's liquor license remains suspended.

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