Restaurant faces liquor license suspension

Watered gin, tax errors among reasons given

April 07, 2002

An Ellicott City rib restaurant is facing a three-month liquor license suspension, starting Thursday, though an operator said he is hoping for a reprieve.

The Howard County Liquor Board, which is composed of County Council members, imposed the penalty on Johnny Star Rib Company licensees Thomas Klara and Jonathan Irwin, who operate the restaurant in the 4900 block of Waterloo Road.

According to a board opinion dated Monday, inspectors with the state comptroller's office who visited the restaurant several times last year found two bottles of gin that had been watered down, and other licensing and tax irregularities that amounted to "a serious management failure."

Johnny's was found guilty in 1999 of serving minors and serving alcohol after hours, though Irwin said an underage police cadet was refused service recently. Liquor makes up 4 percent of his business receipts, he told the board, adding that he had fired a manager who could not explain the gin tampering. The place also lacked a federal tax stamp and did not have Maryland licenses on display.

Irwin said he was surprised at the outcome and plans to ask for a reconsideration. If that doesn't work, he will appeal the ruling, he said.

"They really hammered me. I didn't expect it," he said, noting the restaurant will remain open.

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