Posted: Tuesday, August 20th 2013 at 10:39pm
Seven Helen businesses fined for alcohol violations
By Rob Moore Editor
HELEN - Seven Helen businesses found their alcohol sales licenses in question Tuesday, nearly a week after their now-former employees pleaded guilty to selling alcohol to underage patrons.
The Helen City Commission held seven independent show cause hearings over a five-hour period, addressing alleged violations that occurred in June at each of the establishments.
Commissioners had the option to fine each establishment, fine the establishment and suspend its alcohol license, or to revoke the establishment's alcohol license.
The first hearing addressed nine counts of after-hours alcohol sales at Club Escape on Main Street, as well as use of the premises as a residence.
Club Escape co-owner Mark Turner pleaded no contest to the violations in city court last week, paying a fine of $4,500.
On Tuesday, Club Escape co-owner and alcohol licensee Jorge Ramirez agreed to pay a $4,500 fine to the city. He voluntarily closed the club last week as part of a two-week license suspension, and it will remain closed until Aug. 30. In addition, the club will remain on probation through the end of the year.
Ramirez's attorney said Turner is actively seeking to sell his partial interest in the club.
The second hearing addressed sale of alcohol to an underage person by an employee of Bigg Daddy's on Edelweiss Strasse.
Because it was the club's first offense, owner Jeff Zerby was fined $500.
Pies n Pints
Haley Nottage, owner of Pies n Pints on South Main Street, also was fined $500 for the first offense to occur in the almost four years of her establishment's existence.
Hogpen Gap Grill
Haley Nottage, who also owns Hogpen Gap Grill on North Main Street, said she has conducted ServSafe Alcohol training classes with employees at that establishment and Pies n Pints.
Since the two sales violations on June 29 were the first for Hogpen Gap Grill, Nottage was fined $500 for that establishment as well.
Mike Ghanes, owner of Hayloft Tavern Inc. on Tannen Weg, addressed two instances of his employees selling alcohol to an underage person.
"I'm responsible ultimately for the actions of my servers," Ghanes said.
Ghanes was fined $500.
Circle K Stores
Officials for Circle K Stores Inc. addressed an incident where a clerk in the store sold alcohol to an underage person.
"We take this very, very seriously," the district manager told the commission.
The employee involved was discharged, and current employees were re-trained.
"I know sometimes it will slip through, but it is very serious," said Commissioner Dona K. Burke.
Circle K was fined $750.
King Ludwig's Biergarten
Cynthia Morris of King Ludwig's Biergarten on North Main Street apologized for the mistake of selling to an underage person.
Because the establishment was charged with the violation on Oct. 15, 2011, and fined by the city commission in November 2011, the commission doubled the minimum fine to $1,000.
Commissioner Helen Wilkins and others cautioned Morris to be careful, pointing out a subsequent violation could jeopardize her livelihood.
"We don't want to shut you down," Wilkins said.
Servers/clerks who were charged with sale of alcohol to underage patrons during the June undercover operation included the following:
* Amanda S. Chandler - Pies n Pints;
* Krystal S. Chastain - Circle K;
* Paul J. Morris - King Ludwig's Biergarten;
* Alissa K. Johnson - Hayloft Tavern (two counts);
* Christopher Martin - Bigg Daddy's.
Police said each of the servers/clerks was terminated from employment following the charges.
The servers each pleaded no contest in city court last week, with each fined $955.
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