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St. Mary’s liquor board members suspended the liquor license of The Lexington Restaurant & Lounge in Lexington Park for 15 days last Thursday on police testimony that 50 people were fighting inside the business last July, and that their exodus was followed by a shooting across the street.

Kris L. Greer, the restaurant’s licensee, protested that she was the one who called police to the area, and that she had five security employees working for her that night.

St. Mary’s sheriff’s deputies testified that they began arriving at the scene shortly before 1 a.m. on July 29, and that they deployed pepper spray to get people out of the restaurant before gunfire initially started just down the street, and then erupted in the parking lot of a small shopping center on the other side of South Shangri-La Drive. The law officers found a man with a gunshot wound in his shoulder, and the crowd outside swelled to about 200 people as 35 law officers from three counties eventually responded.

“I saw subjects running across the road, shooting at each other,” sheriff’s deputy Elizabeth Goodwin testified, and while some people yelled at police to help the wounded man, “the other half of the crowd was trying to attack the victim.”

Greer said her staff kept the number of customers that night at below the maximum allowed capacity, and she challenged police testimony that the music played at the restaurant influences the customers’ behavior.

“I don’t think we should be penalized because of the type of music that we play. I think that’s racial profiling,” she said, adding that her business’ surroundings are the problem. “Lexington Park is not a safe place right now,” she said. “That’s got nothing to do with my business. I can’t control what goes on in the park. The police couldn’t control it.”

Linda Palchinsky, a member of the St. Mary’s Alcohol Beverage Board and owner of another restaurant in Lexington Park, rejected that assessment.

“Lexington Park is really trying to clean it up,” Palchinsky said. “When you have 200 people ... in one place, it’s not going to be safe.”

The board members voted that the restaurant had committed an administrative infraction of conduct contrary to the peace and safety of the community, by being unable to control the crowd in the premises with the security and staff on site. The board members imposed a 30-day suspension of the liquor license, suspended to the 15-day penalty.

Eight businesses fined for underage sales

Liquor board members also levied fines during a series of hearings for eight businesses where police alleged that underage alcohol sales occurred.

The board issued summonses for the alleged violations after sheriff’s deputies reported sending underage informants into 43 businesses on July 31 and Aug. 1 to try to buy alcohol, and that 10 locations failed the compliance test. The administrative hearings of two of the businesses were postponed on Thursday to next month.

The board members issued $1,000 fines, suspended to a $500 fine and a requirement of advanced alcohol-service training, when licensees admitted that the underage-sale violations occurred at Niko’s Pizza & Carryout at St. Mary’s Square in Lexington Park, Coffee Quarter on MacArthur Boulevard in California, Monterey Mexican Restaurant on MacArthur Boulevard in California, Stop & Shop on Great Mills Road in Lexington Park, A&B Liquors at Three Notch Road in Mechanicsville, and Dave McKay’s Liquors on Mohawk Drive in Charlotte Hall. David A. McKay said that two informants were sent into his business, and one was denied service in an attempt to buy alcohol.

The board ordered that the Loveville Tavern on Point Lookout Road near Leonardtown be fined a full $1,000 and that it also participate in the advanced alcohol-service training. Board Chairman Moses P. Saldaña said the business had three other violations earlier this year — for having more customers than permitted, failing to prevent drinking in the parking lot and having inadequate security.

Patrick Dugan of Toot’s Bar in Hollywood contested the underage-sale allegation against his business, saying that his bartender’s account differed from testimony by 20-year-old correctional officer Luis Ramos that his ID was checked before he was served a beer and paid for the beverage.

“I was told the transaction was never completed,” Dugan said, in that his bartender served Ramos the beer, then checked his ID and took the beverage away from the counter where he sat. The board found that the violation occurred and fined Dugan $1,000, suspended to a $500 fine and the advanced training.

In a separate matter, the liquor board fined Bon Buffet’s Ren Xun Yang and Ren Hang Yang $250 on their admission that they had a store-bought bottle of triple sec at their Lexington Park business, one that had not been purchased from a duly licensed manufacturer, wholesaler, private bulk sale permit holder or nonresident winery permit holder.

Board denies stay during challenge to market’s approval

Board members denied a request by David Dent, representing the St. Mary’s County Licensed Beverage Association, that it stay its granting of a restaurant license last month to a Hollywood Road grocery, as the association appeals that decision in St. Mary’s Circuit Court.

Dent said that the association contends that a “grandfathered” package goods license, one that allowed the grocery to keep selling alcohol after state laws restricted that activity, was no longer valid when that permit was upgraded for the new McKay’s Market & Cafe. Dent said that if the appeal is successful, the business will have to apply for a new license.

Michael Davis, the business’ attorney, countered that the proprietors have spent $300,000 on improvements to the premises, and that the mere filing of the appeal should not be allowed to impinge on their progress.

jwharton@somdnews.com