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Sharpsburg councilman files complaint against GeGe's Place

Oowner Benjamin Brown has been accused over the last several months of allowing rowdy behavior outside the restaurant

September 22, 2010|By DAN DEARTH

The controversy surrounding a Sharpsburg restaurant was rekindled Wednesday when a town councilman filed a complaint against the establishment with Washington County liquor officials.

Sharpsburg Councilman Mathew Barnhart told the Board of License Commissioners for Washington County, known as the liquor board, that the owner of GeGe's Place at 208 S. Church St. allowed alcohol to be used in an enclosed area outside the business last week without having a permit.

Barnhart witnessed the event, he said, when he looked over the enclosure to investigate a strange odor. He said he also believed that drunken patrons were urinating in public and vandalizing a nearby park after they left the business late at night.

"We are at the end of our rope with a lot of these issues," Barnhart said.

GeGe's owner, Benjamin Brown, has been accused over the last several months of allowing rowdy behavior outside the restaurant. Some of the complaints included fighting, loud noise and public urination.

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Those issues were discussed Aug. 4 and 18 during hearings at the liquor board on West Washington Street in Hagerstown. Brown was exonerated by the liquor board in a letter dated Aug. 26, but he was warned that officials expected improvement "regarding the matters discussed at the hearing."

Brown was not present when Barnhart issued the complaint, but he said in a telephone interview Wednesday afternoon that customers use the enclosure to smoke and pitch horseshoes.

"I try to keep an eye on it, but it's possible someone might have snuck a beer out there," he said. "I want to do the right thing."

Brown said he didn't get a permit to serve alcohol in the enclosure, which was erected a few months ago, because it would have cost $600 and expired on Dec. 31. As a result, he said, he planned to wait until January to make the application.

Brown said he probably would install cameras in the enclosure to deter drinking outside.

The liquor board probably wouldn't have the authority to address several of the complaints, including allegations of vandalism at the park and patrons urinating in public off the restaurant's premises, said Charles F. Mades, liquor board treasurer.

"To me, that's a police issue," Mades said.

Liquor Board Chairman Robert L. Everhart said Barnhart's complaint against GeGe's was the first one that the liquor board has heard since the end of last month.

Everhart urged Barnhart and other Sharpsburg officials to get the town's legal counsel involved.

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