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Barracuda's owner faces liquor board

January 17, 2002

Barracuda's owner faces liquor board



By KIMBERLY YAKOWSKI

kimy@herald-mail.com

The owner of Barracuda Surf Bar appeared before the Washington County Board of License Commissioners Wednesday to respond to allegations that the bar has served drunken patrons and had alcohol visible to teenagers during teen night events.

Hagerstown City Police Lt. William Carvel Wright III told Liquor Board members that police went to the club 27 times for serious incidents, including six disturbances, three thefts, seven assaults and three arrests during about a six month period from July 2001 to Jan. 2002.

Officers also went to the club 51 times during that period for "preventative policing," which includes patrols through the parking lot and having an officer nearby at closing time, he said.

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It's making sure "you're there ahead of the problem so it isn't a problem," said Wright.

The frequent disturbances at the club started about six months ago when a different crowd began to frequent the bar, said Bill Burruss, the new owner.

Burruss said the club has had many new patrons from out of town.

One group came to Hagerstown with money to spend and consisted of "hard drinkers and partiers," he said.

Burruss told Liquor Board members he took ownership of Barracuda Surf Bar and the former Ramada at 901 Dual Highway about 1 1/2 years ago. On Dec. 1, 2001, the Ramada name was changed to Clarion, he said.

Wright said he saw visibly drunk patrons leaving the club at closing time and staff security acting unprofessionally.

"When people come out the staff usually tries to move them on but when the staff clowns around it causes a problem, especially when patrons are tired and drunk," said Wright.

Wright said he has been in touch with Burruss and believes he is taking the appropriate steps to solve the problems.

Music is not played too loud and the security usually does a good job, Wright said.

"They're definitely not the worst place in Hagerstown I've seen as far as behavior of crowds at closing times," he said.

Burruss said some members of his security staff were inexperienced, but that the club now has hired off-duty correctional officers to work security.

Hiring the correctional officers was a good idea, said Wright, because the officers are trained to handle unruly people.

Burruss said the club is taking "preventative measures," which include doubling the cover charge, sending bartenders for additional training to help them identify the right time to cut off drinkers, charging people a cover charge each time they enter the bar from outside and stopping serving "high octane" alcohol like brandy.

In response to questioning by the Liquor Board, Burruss said the club will take care to keep liquor out of the sight of teenagers during its occasional teen nights.

The club holds dance parties for young people between the ages of 14 to 18, who are given pizza and soda. The events end at 11 p.m.

"I'll personally check next time," to make sure the alcohol is covered or put away for their next teen event, he said.

Liquor Board Chairman Donald Mellott said the club will be notified in writing of the board's decision within two weeks.

If it's determined the club isn't taking sufficient measures to remedy the problems, sanctions such as fines, revocation or suspension of its license could be imposed.

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