Liquor law violations admitted

Licensee who had Mandel's help months ago faces skeptical board with a new lawyer

Baltimore & Region


Months after attorney Marvin Mandel, the former governor, helped persuade a skeptical Howard County licensing board to approve a liquor license for Young Duk Suh despite the licensee's past infractions, Suh admitted that he violated a number of county liquor laws.

Suh's hard-won license for the tiny Rainpia Cafe, on U.S. 40 near Bethany Lane, hangs in the balance again, after a hearing this week before the county's Alcoholic Beverage Hearing Board.

Suh, through Robert J. Kim, his new attorney, agreed that when the county liquor inspector, Detective Martin Johnson, visited the business in April, he found several technical violations.

Three nonemployees were in the store long after the 2 a.m. closing, and windows were covered, preventing inspection from outside -- both violations of county liquor laws. In addition, Johnson found bottles of alcohol that were not purchased from wholesalers, that employee records were missing and that the required federal tax certificates were not displayed.

Kim pleaded for another chance for Suh, arguing that the technical rules are obscure and that his client had not served liquor to minors or allowed customers to get drunk. Suh and his wife, Jung Suh, speak and understand English poorly, the lawyer said, though they did take courses in techniques of alcohol management. Kim also said that 90 percent of the Suhs' customers are Korean-Americans.

In November, Mandel assured board members that Suh would scrupulously follow the law.

"He knows he has the responsibility," Mandel told the board.

Suh, who lives in Clarksville with his family, said that he had learned his lesson from earlier liquor law violations at a restaurant he owned in Georgia, two Maryland driving-under-the-influence infractions in 1989 and 1990 and incorrect information on his Howard County license application, which he blamed on a business consultant.

"This is my last chance. I'm almost 50 years old," he said last year. "This is my life at this store," he told skeptical board members in November.

With Mandel's aid, the application was approved, 4-0 -- though board Chairman John L. Peoples Jr. gave Suh a clear warning.

"I will not have any mercy if he comes back in here" on a violation, Peoples said.

After Tuesday's hearing, board members delivered a barrage of criticism and retired to closed session. Their decision is to be revealed in writing in a few weeks.

"We want to be supportive of businesses, and especially mom-and-pop operations, but we have to feel confident something has been put in place to help you," said board member Ethel B. Hill.

Peoples seemed less impressed with Suh and Kim's new assurances that rules will be followed. "From our standpoint, it seems like a broken record," he said.

Hill and board member William Neault also suggested having the county's booklet of liquor rules translated into Korean.

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