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Liquor board closes tavern for 20 days

assesses fine

December 20, 2001|By DAN KULIN /Staff Writer

Liquor board closes tavern for 20 days; assesses fine



dank@herald-mail.com

The Washington County liquor board on Wednesday ordered the Mulberry Street Tavern in downtown Hagerstown to close for 20 days starting Friday, and to pay a $2,500 fine.

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The liquor board, formally known as the Washington County Board of License Commissioners, held the tavern responsible for late-night raucous behavior that disturbed neighbors.

The liquor board also placed the tavern at 6 N. Mulberry St. on probation for one year. That means the tavern's liquor license would be revoked if the liquor board were to find the tavern guilty of another offense within the next year, said Board Chairman Donald L. Mellott.

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The board's decision can be appealed to Washington County Circuit Court.

Tavern owner Dennis Hollinger did not return phone calls Wednesday.

Hollinger's lawyer Roger Schlossberg said he was "extremely disappointed," but declined to further comment.

Hagerstown City Councilwoman Penny May Nigh and a tavern neighbor, who both complained about the noise tavern patrons made as they came and went from the bar, also expressed disappointment.

"It's a joke. It's just a slap on the fingers," said Gary Taylor, who videotaped the goings on in front of the tavern Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights for about nine months this year. The tavern is visible from the back porch of Taylor's East Washington Street home.

Taylor, 47, said it was his opinion that "They should have pulled his license."

"I was hoping they would close the tavern," Nigh said. "But it's a step in the right direction and the year probation is good."

Mellott said the liquor board was influenced by Hollinger's efforts to address neighbors complaints.

Between board hearings on the tavern in October and November, Hollinger met with some neighbors, started closing the bar an hour earlier, stopped having a disc jockey on Thursday nights and had his employees remind bar patrons verbally and with written notices that when they left the bar to do so quietly and quickly.

Mellott said the board took into consideration that for years there were no formal complaints about the tavern.

Mellott has said the board chose to charge the tavern with disrupting the peace and safety of the community after receiving numerous complaints from police and neighbors, who said tavern patrons were disrupting the neighborhood when they left the bar.

During an Oct. 24 board hearing, City Police Lt. Carvel Wright testified that police went to the tavern 317 times between Oct. 7, 2000, and Oct. 17, 2001, including 72 times for disturbance calls, and 23 times for "special checks," which are visits police make on their own to prevent disturbance calls.

Ten tavern neighbors, including Taylor, the mayor and Nigh testified during that hearing that they had seen or heard about tavern patrons being loud and raucous late Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights.

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