Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Council suspends 2 liquor licenses

The crackdowns continued on liquor establishments Monday night (July 25, 2005) as the City Council meted out two suspensions for a liquor store near City Hall and a West Front Street bar.

Acting as the local Alcoholic Beverage Control board, the council imposed a 30-day suspension on Apven-Bam Inc., trading as George W. Bantle Liquors at 438 Watchung Avenue and a 12-day suspension, to include two weekends, on Luigi Terraglia, trading as Pueblo Viejo at 311-17 West Front Street.

Frank Capece, the city‘s attorney for ABC matters, said the Watchung Avenue store had four instances of selling liquor to underage persons since 2002. Under ABC laws, he said, the fourth violation should have triggered revocation of the store’s liquor license. But because the violations dated back to 2002, the council chose the more lenient penalty.

Barbara "M." Maisto, a corporate lawyer for licensee Barbara "A." Maisto, said a July 2 auto accident had left the licensee totally incapacitated until mid-September and asked for an adjournment to that time. When a reporter asked about the relationship between the two similarly named women, the attorney refused to answer.

The attorney said the store was the sole livelihood of the licensee and it would violate her 14th Amendment rights to due process to hold the hearing without letting her respond to the charges.
But citing the violations, Capece said, “It’s rare that you ever get a case so black and white.”

Capece said holding a liquor license was a privilege that implied certain responsibilities.

“I can think of no more basic responsibility than that you don’t sell liquor to minors,” he said.
Police Captain Anthony Celentano said some of the charges resulted from “integrity checks,” in which undercover police officers under 21 attempted to buy liquor in so-called “sting” operations.

The Pueblo Viejo settlement came out of an agreement between manager Taufik Palacios and the Police Division that the nightclub would work with Celentano to screen security guards and monitor conditions at the club.

Palacios said gangs such as the Latin Kings and Salvadoran groups caused trouble at the club. He said management had installed 32 cameras to monitor activity in the club.

“That’s the best I can do,” he said.

Noting that most of the 27 police calls over six months about fights or narcotic distribution were from the management itself, Capece said the council should not use the volume of calls to decide the case.

City Council President Linda Carter and Councilman Cory Storch opposed the settlement.

Carter asked why the club was not getting 15 or 30 days‘ suspension. Capece said he asked for “what was defensible” if the matter was appealed.

But Carter said things shouldn’t have gone so far before the action plan was devised.

“There is more they could have done,“ she said.

“This is a dangerous place, right in the middle of the downtown,” Storch said.

Both license holders can appeal the suspensions to the state ABC board and Capece said he framed his cases with those appeals in mind.

--Bernice Paglia

KEYWORDS: Liquor licenses, public hearing

Related story: Drink Up (6/28/05)