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Tavern, liquor board reach settlement

June 29, 2002|by KIMBERLY YAKOWSKI

kimy@herald-mail.com

A faulty recording of testimony from a liquor board hearing forced board members this week to reach a settlement with the owner of a city tavern that was cited last year for disturbing its neighbors.

In December, the liquor board - formally known as the County Board of License Commissioners - placed the Mulberry Street Tavern's liquor license on probation for one year, ordered the business closed for 20 days and fined tavern owner R. Dennis Hollinger $2,500.

An appeal in Washington County Circuit Court scheduled for Friday was canceled after liquor board members learned a tape of testimony given during a hearing on the tavern last fall was incomplete, board attorney John Salvatore said.

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Salvatore said the board secretary had started the tape recorder and briefly left the meeting. During her absence the tape ended and someone at the meeting flipped it over but the machine failed to record, he said.

No one realized any of the testimony was lost until this week, when commission members reviewing the transcripts noticed that comments some residents made were missing.

Rather than hold the hearing again, the commission and Hollinger agreed he should pay the $2,500 fine and the other penalties and his appeal would be waived.

Salvatore said the commission was satisfied with the agreement because the tavern, at 6 N. Mulberry St., had corrected the problem of patrons being loud and disrupting the neighborhood as they left the bar.

Hollinger and his attorney did not return phone calls.

Losing the testimony "was a disappointment but it was a reasonable resolution," Salvatore said.

Salvatore said the board and police will keep an eye on the business to make sure the improvements made are maintained.

"It's never been the board's wish to put people out of business," he said.

The board's goal is to ensure the tavern conducts business in an orderly manner, he said.

The liquor board cited the tavern after receiving numerous complaints from police and neighbors.

Hagerstown Councilwoman Penny Nigh attended the hearings on Mulberry Street Tavern and said she doesn't agree with the settlement that was reached.

"I'm upset by it. I think with as many calls and disturbances it should have been shut down," Nigh said.

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.

Between the October and November board hearings, 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 that when they leave the bar they should do so quietly and quickly.

Nigh acknowledged that things have improved but said "when the heat's off, we'll see what happens."

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