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Decker's License Still Not Issued; Owners Violated Liquor Board Rules

The downtown Bel Air store has not sold alcohol since its license expired May 1.

UPDATE (4:53 p.m.)—In a decision that multiple attorneys have vowed to challenge, the licensees for Decker's Fine Wine & Spirits have been found guilty of three charges by the Harford County Liquor Control Board. Decker's will remain prohibited from selling alcohol until the board renders a decision on penalties within a week.

Joseph Borromeo, a 75 percent owner, and Virgil Dale Davis, a 25 percent owner, were found guilty by the board for failing to keep complete and accurate records of alcoholic purchases, buying alcoholic beverages from someone other than a wholesaler and making any material false statement for application of a license.

In December, former general manager Mike Serrini told Patch his records were clean.

"Every single thing in this store is accountable for. I have every receipt for everything in this store and everything is perfect," Serrini said.

During Wednesday's testimony, Inspector Danielle Markette said Serrini was fired for failing to keep proper records.

Commissioners James Thornton and Vernon Gauss Jr., who were not present at the first portion of the hearing April 27, did not participate in the decision.

4:46 p.m. The hearing has been concluded.

4:45 p.m. Hess said a decision on the penalties will be made in the coming week.

Past violations within the last five years were read to the record.

  • Feb. 3, 2006: $2,000 fine
  • Feb. 17, 2006: $2,000 fine and three-day suspension
  • March 11, 2010: $2,000 fine

The board can take these into account when issuing its decision.

4:44 p.m. For the charge of making any material false statement for application of a license, the licensees are also guilty for similar reasons as stated below.

4:43 p.m. For the charge of purchasing alcoholic beverages from other than a wholesaler, the licensees are also guilty.

"Based on the inspectors reports and the documentation from the exhibits," Tunney said.

4:42 p.m. For charge one of failure to keep complete and accurate records of alcoholic purchases, the licenses have been found guilty "based on the evidence brought before the board," as stated by Commissioner Sandi L. Tunney.

4:41 p.m. Hess said the board is prepared to make a decision but is allowing for final comments.

Attorney Joe Snee is renewing all of his objections and says his simple request for documents was not met. His objections include that he was not allowed to cross-examine any witnesses and that his client "has been damaged."

His client is the business, not a licensee.

"I just think it's a shame that as a matter of law, the chair [Hess] chose to rule against me," Snee said.

Snee also renewed his motion to dismiss the case.

4:38 p.m. The board is back on the dais. We're almost ready to get this thing going again.

4:27 p.m. The board is still in the "Private" room with the board counsel. A woman's laughter was heard about three minutes ago, but that's all I can tell you.

4:15 p.m. Snee has moved to dismiss the case entirely.

Hess said the board will take a short break to confer with the board counsel.

4:14 p.m. Snee and the attorney for the Melhis, who are being charged in this hearing continue to object Hess's denial that they can "cross-examine" witnesses that testify.

So far, inspectors Robbins and Markette, Borromeo and Gatsoulas have testified.

Snee and the Melhi's attorney have asked that the hearing be postponed a second time.

"If we had an idea to postpone this hearing, do think we'd issue a license?" Hess asked before stating that it will continue.

4:08 p.m. A Notary Public Loriann Gatsoulas is now testifying before the board.

She said she did not meet Borromeo, who claims his name was forged on the leasing document.

Gatsoulas said Borromeo's signature was not on the lease when she notarized it and maintains that she never met Borromeo.

Gatsoulas has notarized the previous three renewals for the business, despite having never met Borromeo, the 75 percent owner.

"I do not recall seeing another signature on there," Gatsoulas said, adding that she received the lease from 25-percent owner Virgil Dale Davis and handed back to him directly after she notarized it.

4:06 p.m. Borromeo said he did not have knowledge that his signature was notarized on the lease.

Borromeo said he has no paperwork to prove his ownership in the business.

"I met the owner," Borromeo said. "I have signed so many documents I don't really remember."

Virgil Dale Davis declined to question Borromeo.

As he has done with everyone who has testified, Snee objected to not being able to ask any questions.

"That's my ruling and that's what's going to stand," Hess said.

4:01 p.m. “All I know is I didn’t receive any income or anything else," Borromeo said.

Hess said that he is surprised to hear Borromeo say that since he is a 75 percent owner.

3:59 p.m. Borromeo said he signed for a promissory note of $550,000 from Ravinder Kaur Melhi, Amrik's wife, but didn't think he would have to pay it and that it would only be used as collateral.

Borromeo said he has not made any payments on the note.

3:58 p.m. "Initially I signed it but I changed my mind," Borromeo said of lease. He said he told , who is also involved with the business, that he "could not do it."

Chairman Donald Hess asked if Borromeo filled out any paperwork to transfer his share. Borromeo said there was no written note indicating he no longer wished to be on the lease, he only gave verbal notification.

3:56 p.m. Joseph Borromeo—75 percent owner—is on the stand in front of the board.

3:51 p.m. In Robbins' testimony, he said Davis (25 percent ownership) acknowledged that he never saw Borromeo (75 percent owneership) sign the latest lease agreement.

3:49 p.m. The license was transferred from the Decker family to Davis and Borromeo in March 2005.

3:44 p.m. According inspector Robbins' testimony, Borromeo told Robbins he previously asked to be removed from the liquor license and that his signature was forged on the most recent application.

3:43 p.m. Robbins is reading a letter from Borromeo sent to the board in the fall in which Borromeo claimed he was not aware of the charges against him.

3:41 p.m.  Chief Inspector Charles Robbins is now on the stand regarding the charge of falsifying the application. 

Markette's testimony was in reference to the other two charges: purchasing from someone other than a licensed wholesaler and failure to keep complete and accurate records.

3:38 p.m. Neither of the licensees has questions for Markette.

Commissioners James Thornton and Vernon Gauss Jr. were not present at the first part of this meeting, which took place in late April. All decisions regarding the hearing will be made by Chairman Conald Hess and Commissioners Randall Worthington Sr. and Sandi Tunney.

Snee is being rejected the opportunity to speak to inspector Markette on the basis that he does not represent either licensee. Snee objected on the grounds that he represents the business, but Hess denied Snee from asking any questions.

3:37 p.m. Some of the items from Tick Tock were gifts, Markette said. Other alcohol unaccounted for came from out of state and could have been untaxed, she added.

3:19 p.m. Serrini told Markette during the investigation he could not provide invoices for the purchases because he was not employed at the store when they were purchased.

3:17 p.m. Markette said other alcohol found in the store had shipping labels indicating the alcohol was purchased from Tick Tock Liquors.

3:12 p.m. Liquor board inspector Danielle Markette said she conducted an inspection in September with store manager Mike Serrini present where she discovered four cases of alcohol that were not purchased from a wholesaler.

The alcohol was from Tick Tock Liquors in Hyattsville.

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ORIGINAL (3:09 p.m.)—A pair of licensees for hope to Wednesday night, 18 days after their liquor license expired.

Joseph Borromeo and Virgil Dale Davis face three charges from the Harford County Liquor Control Board: purchasing from someone other than a licensed wholesaler, falsifying an application and failure to keep complete and accurate records.

Borromeo, who owns 75 percent of the business, does not have an attorney. Davis owns the remaining 25 percent and is being represented by a J. Young.

Attorney Joe Snee is also in attendance, though he is not representing either licensee. Chairman Donald Hess asked who Snee is representing since the business itself cannot be defended, only the licensees.

"We are going to deal strictly with the licensees," Hess said.

"Fundamentally that's an error in conclusion of law," Snee said.

"I hate to tell you I didn’t go to first year law school, but I am the chairman of the board," Hess responded. "As of today we are going to proceed against Mr. Borromeo and Mr. Davis."

Snee is also disputing a delay in receiving documents he requested, but Hess said the board has 30 days to answer the request.

"If we were wrong, the court will tell us we were wrong," Hess said. "If you're not going to represent one of our licensees, what right do you have? ... The decision has been made by me."

The two men have four prior violations at the same business dating back to 2005, when they purchased the store from the Decker family. They have been fined a total of $6,500 and had their license suspended for three days in 2006 after receiving their third violation in three years.

The most recent violation came in 2010. All four were related to selling to underage individuals, according to Kathryn Thess, an administrator for the liquor board.

If Borromeo and Davis are found guilty of additional violations Wednesday, the board could take their past violations into consideration since they occurred within the last five years.

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