- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
The Charles County liquor board refused a request Thursday morning to reconsider an approved license for a controversial liquor store in Waldorf.
Writing on behalf of the Westlake Advocates, the group that formed several months ago in opposition to Cheers liquor store, attorney Linda Carter requested that the board reconsider the store’s license on the grounds that improper notification was given about the pending license before the Charles County Board of License Commissioners approved it in May.
The store is situated 506 feet from Westlake High School, just outside the minimum requirement of 500 feet.
The store has been the subject of ongoing discussion since the summer, when residents of the area discovered that it would be opening. Charles County commissioner’s President Candice Quinn Kelly (D) and Del. C.T. Wilson (D-Charles) have been among the local politicians who have taken up the mantle against the store. Despite opposition, the store still retains its license.
Liquor board Vice Chairman Wayne Magoon spearheaded the discussion on whether to reconsider the license. Magoon asked Charles County Sheriff’s Office Master Cpl. Judith Thompson if she had been able to clearly observe the sign posted on the building when she inspected the property, which she confirmed she had. Magoon then asked if she had driven on a paved road toward the building, and Thompson replied that it was partially paved and partially unpaved.
Because Thompson said she had been able to see the sign clearly from the road, Magoon said that was more than enough evidence for him to be against allowing a reconsideration of the license. He made a motion to oppose it and was joined by the other four liquor board members.
“I think it shows that there’s more regard for businesses than there is for the quality of life of the residents,” said Dorchester resident and Westlake Advocates member Angela Sherard, who attended the meeting. “I just think it goes along with the grumbling of the residents with the comprehensive plan and being ignored on that. I think we’re just another victim of businesses being given precedence in Charles County.”
Sherard said the group’s next step is an outright boycott of the liquor store when it opens.
Opposition to the store has spurred the liquor board to propose legislative changes doubling the distance a liquor store must be from a school and bolstering public notice requirements. The Charles County delegation to the Maryland General Assembly has endorsed the proposals.
“Today’s decision is not the end. We have a lot to be thankful for and more energy to keep fighting,” Westlakes Advocates member Yvonne Jones wrote in an email. “We have inspired changes with how future liquor license applications will be processed. No other Charles County school’s student, teacher and parent body will have to worry about inadequate notification about public hearings to determine if a liquor store should operate within the confines of their own drug-free school zone.”
Speaking later in the day, Magoon said during a phone interview that he would be surprised if today’s discussion was the last the board hears of the controversial store.
“As all the laws were written, all the laws were followed,” Magoon said. “I certainly don’t expect this to be the end. We clearly have never experienced anything like this before on the liquor board. Most of our cases are cut and dry.”
Magoon also said it is his understanding that the store’s licensees are ready to go ahead and open their store but have not done so yet. He could not confirm if they officially had filed all the paperwork necessary for receipt of the license. County government spokeswoman Donna Fuqua said the county attorney’s office had not yet received the paperwork but understood it to be forthcoming.
In other action Thursday, the liquor board fined White Plains Regional Clubhouse $150 for a Sept. 25 underage beer sale, along with $50 for the offending server, Joseph Kunysz. During a compliance check, Thompson said, an undercover officer showed Kunysz a driver’s license saying the holder was born in 1994. Kunysz looked at the license and said “1994? Looks good to me,” before serving the beer.
Later, according to Thompson’s report, Kunysz realized what he had done, but it was too late. He attributed his error to an error in calculating the birthday.
Because the license was vertical and thus indicated the driver was underage, liquor board Chairwoman Pamela Smith chided Kunysz for having “wasted his time doing the math.”
“There was absolutely no need to do that,” Magoon said.
After the incident, Kunysz said he was fired from his job there. Magoon informed licensee Kevin Miga that although how he runs his business is his own concern, servers “frequently learn” from these sort of incidents and firing Kunysz might have been unduly harsh, as they often become better employees for it.
The board also approved a new liquor license for the Royal Tea Room in La Plata, allowing it to serve beer and wine on premises. They also approved an extension for the license for Red Oak Bistro in La Plata, appointed Magoon as vice chairman, recognized former member Burkey Boggs for the end of his term and appointed Guy Young in his place.
Temporary licenses issued included:
•10th District Volunteer Fire Department in Pisgah for a one-day license to sell and serve alcohol for a fundraiser 1 to 8 p.m. Dec. 8 at the firehouse.
•Charles County Fair Board for two one-day licenses to sell and serve alcohol at the Kris Kringle Christmas Market 4 to 9 p.m. Dec. 6 and 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Dec. 7.
•Southern Maryland chapter of Delta Waterfowl for a one-day license for a fundraiser at the Bryans Road Volunteer Fire Department 6 to 10 p.m. Nov. 15.