The owner of a liquor store with a large number of violations and suspensions was rebuked when he presented himself before the City Council on Tuesday to renew his license.
Alcibiade Estrella, the owner of Kings Bar and Liquor, an establishment on 12th Avenue, came with his niece to renew his coin-operated machine license. The license allows the shop to operate amusement devices that require the insertion of coins by customers.
Estrella’s shop has been a nuisance to the neighborhood with large number of individuals standing in front of the establishment drinking alcohol late at night, an issue that has resulted in numerous suspensions of his license. Since 2007, the shop had numerous violations that included: selling to underage customers, selling without having the shop’s license properly displayed, and operating a coin device without proper paperwork.
“You’ve been operating that pool table since before 2010,” said Ruby Cotton, the 4th Ward councilwoman, who went inside the shop and asked if the store had a license to operate that table, and she was informed that it did, but upon investigation it was clear that the shop did not have a license to operate the table.
After being confronted with the illegal operation of the pool table, Estrella said, through his niece, who was translating, that he was out of the country at the time. Estrella said, he did not know the illegal operation was taking place because he was out of the country.
“There is a sign in the window which reads ‘no hard liquor outside past 10 p.m.’ – the issue is there should be no hard liquor outside at all,” said Kenneth Morris, councilman at-large. The sign was saying that the store would not sell hard liquor to patrons after 10 p.m. because the license states the store ought not to sell to patrons after a certain time.
However, because the shop also has a license to allow drinking inside the establishment until 3 a.m., the sign was telling customers that they cannot buy alcohol to take out after 10 p.m. The poorly written sign was to discourage customers from asking to buy alcohol after a certain time, but under scrutiny it gave a whole different impression. Morris, based on his comments, thought the sign meant that patrons were allowed to buy hard liquor and take it outside, and drink in front of the shop. Estrella, through his translator, clarified that this was not the case.
“They can sell packaged goods up until 10’o clock,” said Kathleen Gibson, license supervisor. “They can’t sell after 10’o clock, but they could have patrons coming in until 3 a.m.” Gibson pointed out that because of the irregularities, the shop was closed for 128 days, and the business was suspended for 7 months.
Besides the billiard table the shop was also operating a jukebox without a license. It emerged during the course of the hearing, that many of the violations came not due to malicious intent and a defiance of the law, but because the owner and managers of the shop were not aware of the laws. For example, Estrella stated through the translator that he did not know he needed separate license for the jukebox and the pool table, and assumed it was covered under one of the license he had already procured from the city.
“What I am seeing,” said Kenneth McDaniel “it sounds like they just don’t have the full, through understanding, of some of the laws.” McDaniel asked Gibson whether the city has any sort of programs where operators of similar businesses can go to become acquainted with the law. “When they go in front of the board, the board educates them to a certain degree,” said Gibson, but she owned that the Alcohol Beverage Control Board does not provide anything comprehensive.
After the discussion members of the council voted in favor of providing the establishment with a coin operation license, and told the owner to operate in a manner that reduces the nuisance the shop causes in the neighborhood. “It’s not like we’re trying to stop him from having his license. He has to realize he has to take his business more seriously than he has in the past,” said Cotton. “All these violations here means that he wasn’t taking his business seriously.”