11 businesses, including two golf clubs, sell alcohol to underage college students in Harford Liquor Sting

Enforcement effort targets private clubs

June 07, 2011|By ERIKA BUTLERebutler@theaegis.com

Underage college students, working undercover with police and the county liquor board, walked into seven different private clubs in Harford County on separate occasions over the weekend and were sold an alcoholic drink.

At one club, a law officer accompanying the student was asked to leave because of his attire, and initially refused, according to a liquor inspector who was present.

The students were also sold alcoholic beverages at four different liquor stores or restaurants, including one in Havre de Grace, on back-to-back nights.

Working with the Harford County Sheriff's Office, the Harford County Liquor Control Board conducted undercover compliance tests over the course of three days — Thursday, Friday and Saturday — at 43 establishments, including private clubs, authorized to sell alcoholic beverages.

Three different students — a 20-year-old male Thursday, an 18-year-old male Friday and a 19-year-old-woman Saturday — tried to buy alcohol.

Of the 43 places checked, 11 sold alcohol to the underage Harford Community College students, according to the liquor control board, for a compliance rate of 72 percent.

The places that allegedly sold to the underage students included Winters Run Golf Course and Maryland Golf and Country Clubs, both in Bel Air; VFW 8672 in Jarrettsville; Elks Lodge, Bush River Yacht Club and Otter Point Yacht Club, all in Abingdon; VFW 6054 and H. Patel 7-Eleven (on Route 40), both in Aberdeen; Edgewood Liquors; Riverside Pub & Grille in Belcamp; and Coakley's Pub, in Havre de Grace, the latter which served the undercover students on back-to-back nights and was the only place checked twice.

The most recent compliance test was markedly different than previous ones conducted by the liquor board.

Not only was the test conducted over three days using three different underage buyers, it also marked the first time private clubs were checked.

Not just anyone is allowed to walk off the street and be served in these private clubs, such as American Legions, VFWs or country clubs. Patrons have to be members of the clubs or a guest of a member, according to liquor laws in Harford County.

For some of the private establishments checked, it was the first time they had been part of a compliance check, liquor board administrator Kathryn Thess said Tuesday.

"We're testing them on everything we've educated them on," Thess said. "The bottom line is, they sold alcohol. Whether it's just to a member or not, they still have to be of legal age."

"It goes back to the shooting at the fire station and problems with promoters," chief liquor board inspector Charlie Robbins said Tuesday. "We want to get them up to speed."

In July 2008, Tariq Alston was killed at a party at the Joppa-Magnolia fire hall that was organized by someone outside the fire company organization. The organizer had not gotten permission for alcohol to be served at the party, which included an admission charge.

A similar shooting occurred in downtown Bel Air last summer. An Aberdeen man, Derrick Maxey Jr., 25, was shot to death outside the American Legion on Bond Street, where he had attended a private party.

During the weekend sting, not only did seven of the clubs allegedly serve an underage patron, they also allegedly allowed a non-member or friend of a member to purchase alcohol, which is also a violation of their class of liquor license, according to the liquor board.

The sheriff's deputy accompanying the underage student ran into a some resistance from a manager at Maryland Golf and Country Clubs.

After the student had bought her drink, she left the club and Robbins, the liquor inspector, went inside to inform the manager of the violation.

After the student had left, but before Robbins got inside, the manager at the club approached the deputy who was with the student and asked him to leave, because he was wearing jeans and a sweatshirt, Robbins said.

According to Robbins, the deputy identified himself and said he was part of a compliance check, but the manager was insistent he leave. That's when Robbins arrived and identified himself and informed the manager of the violations. The deputy ultimately left once the violations had been explained, Robbins said.

Establishments that passed the compliance test included Villa Fresh Pizza, C.R. Wings, Double T. Diner, Bel Air Billiards, Fuji Sushi, American Legion 39, Festival Wine & Spirits, Bellissimo and Looney's Pub, all in Bel Air; Knights of Columbus and Moose 1952, both in Forest Hill; Richlin Ballroom, Herb's Deli and Clarence's Taste of New Orleans, both in Edgewood; VFW 8126 and Post Road Liquors, both in Havre de Grace; Winters Run Inn, in Joppa; Big 5 7-11, New Fallston Liquors and Basta Pasta, all in Fallston; North Harford Liquors, Hess Country Spirits and Gene's Bar, all in Jarrettsville; and Wine World and Pelican's Cove, both in Abingdon; and Forty Liquors, Town Pub, Amin 7-11 and Clarion Hotel, all in Aberdeen.

Letters of congratulations will be sent to the establishments that did not serve the underage patrons; those who allegedly violated liquor laws will be scheduled for show-cause hearings before the liquor board in August.

After each show cause hearing, the liquor board will determine if a violation occurred and what, if any, penalties should be imposed, which could involve a fine or license suspension or both, depending on the severity of the offense and the licensee's past record.

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