The city suspended two Union Avenue liquor stores – Limestone Liquors and Pal’s Liquors – for selling to underage patrons on Wednesday following hearings before the Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) board.
Theresa Richardson, attorney for both businesses, has vowed to appeal the suspensions with the state liquor board. She argued both businesses haven’t collected any violations over the past couple of decades.
Richardson wanted the board to impose fines in lieu of suspension. The three-person board rejected her request.
Limestone Liquors, located at 349 Union Avenue, was given a 26-day suspension, for violations committed on May 31, 2018.
Police cited the business for selling liquor to an underage patron, conducting business without a current cigarette license, failure to provide a copy of the current liquor license application, and failure to produce a list of employees.
Richardson argued her client was targeted by police. But, sergeant Eric Montoya, who conducted the undercover investigations, said police received numerous complaints of liquor businesses on Union Avenue selling to underage patrons.
Montoya said police targeted all the liquor businesses on Union Avenue. Not all liquor stores sold to underage customers. Police said Hillcrest Wine & Liquors and El Oasis Montesino Liquor refused to sell to the undercover, underage police officer.
Police officer Edward Akins, who at the time was under 21 years of age, told the board he walked into Limestone Liquors and purchased a 24-ounce container of Corona without having to show an identification card.
“This was a mistake,” said Richardson. She said her client has been in business for 25 years.
“We’re on top of our game,” said Manuel Antigua, owner of Limestone Liquors. “We call police when we see people in front of the door.”
Antigua explained anyone under 30 has to show an ID card.
“It’s everybody,” interjected Frank Soto, prosecutor for the board.
A liquor business has to check the age of every patron before selling alcohol.
The board then held a hearing on Pal’s Liquors, located at 241 Union Avenue, for selling to an underage patron on May 30, 2018.
Akins went inside the business and came out with a container of Coors Light. Rafael Jackson, owner of Pal’s Liquors, said his brother was manning the business at the time the violations occurred.
“What happened was unfortunate. It was a mistake,” argued Richardson. “Closure is not an appropriate penalty.”
Richardson again suggested the board levy a fine. Fines levied do not go into municipal coffers. Fines are collected by the state, according to officials.
She said Jackson has been in business for 24 years. “He’s a responsible business man,” she said.
The board imposed a 27-day suspension against Pal’s Liquors.
The suspension for both businesses will kick in on Oct. 8. Richardson said she will file an appeal before that date. Liquor stores are allowed to remain open while the appeal process is occurring.
Both businesses were offered 3-day suspension in return for a “non vult” or guilty plea. Richardson refused, forcing hearings.
When asked why she rejected the 3-day suspension terms for her clients, she said neither deserved to be suspended.
Other lawyers took “non vult” pleas for their clients.
Attorney Peter Pena accepted a 12-day suspension for Kings Bar & Liquors, known as Estrella Bar and Liquor, located at 291 12th Avenue.
On Apr. 12, 2018, police found marijuana cigar, 75 glassines of heroin, 4 vials of crack cocaine in plain view.
On Jun. 1, 2018, the business was cited for covering its windows and failure to disclose a cash machine at the shop.
On Jul. 31, 2018, the liquor store was cited for failure to have an employee list. Police also cited the business for becoming a neighborhood nuisance for having large groups in front of the shop.
Estrella Bar and Liquor suspension starts on Oct. 1.
Pena also accepted a 3-day suspension for Mamajuana Café on 3rd Avenue. On Jun. 30, 2018, the business was cited for operating with an expired license.
Mamajuana Café was closed for three days in the summer due to the license issue. It won’t have to close for another three days.
Attorney Lawrence Callegari had nuisance charges against his client Lena Y Carbon Restaurant and Lounge located at 201 Market Street dismissed.
Soto dismissed nuisance violation against the business for playing loud music on Jul. 15, 2018. He said the loud music infraction occurred at 6 p.m. He appeared to assert loud music before 10 p.m. is allowed.
Loud music any time of the day is against the law, according to both state and municipal laws. When questioned about the dismissal, Soto said the music was not that loud.
Octavio Aguilar, chairman of the ABC board, said the music was soft. Soto said he didn’t have information as to whether police used a decibel meter to measure the sound.