- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
St. Mary’s liquor board members suspended the liquor license of a California restaurant for six days and issued fines totaling $1,500 last week after ruling that the business sold alcohol when the permit was not in effect and committed other infractions.
St. Mary’s sheriff’s deputies testified at the meeting that they went to Chef’s American Bistro last Dec. 8 to remove its liquor license on behest of the state comptroller’s office, the state’s tax collector. The law officers said that Ahmed Koroma, the chef, informed them that he was making arrangements with the comptroller’s office to pay money to resolve the issue.
The officers posted a sign that alcohol could not be sold at the business, they testified, but the following day, the sign was gone and about two dozen people were seen inside drinking alcohol at the restaurant’s bar. The officers said Koroma showed them paperwork from the comptroller’s office that he believed showed the permit was back in good standing, but the officers said the receipt was not sufficient, and they found evidence that the restaurant did not have a valid alcohol-service training certificate, a current health department permit or a complete set of required alcohol purchase invoices.
Tamara Hildebrand, the alcohol board’s administrator, concurred during her testimony that the customer service contact card that Koroma had from the comptroller’s office did not mean that the license had been reinstated. The liquor license was returned to the restaurant on Dec. 15, after the financial and permit issues were resolved.
Shane Mattingly, a lawyer accompanying licensee Thomas Vandy, said that Koroma reopened the business on Dec. 9 after going to the comptroller’s office because “he decided to go by what was written on that receipt. He didn’t follow through, ... doing the paperwork like you’re supposed to. He sort of had rose-colored glasses on once he had his receipt.”
Joann Wood, the board’s lawyer, replied, “You’ve got to have the license on the site. It’s a pretty significant issue.”
The board members issued two three-day suspensions and the fines for the administrative violations.
“I think this was pretty blatant,” board Chairman Moses P. Saldaña said.