The Harford County Liquor Control Board has to do better, and usually does, than the nonsense it perpetrated last week.
The Mallet, a Fallston restaurant and bar, which so far has apparently followed the rules, shut down its lower level last Wednesday night and rented it out for a private birthday party. The party, hosted and paid for by a prominent Harford County developer as a surprise for his wife, featured a performance by Bret Michaels, an international rock star who in recent years has become just as famous for his reality TV presence. The liquor board, which generally meets Wednesdays, was just finding out about the closure the day of the party and its meeting last week. The liquor board is supposed to be notified in advance of such closures.
What transpired after last Wednesday's scheduled meeting is inexcusable. The liquor board tried to meet privately with the lawyer, who coincidentally represents the restaurant's owner and the developer, in private to discuss the event, flouting the spirit, if not the letter, of Maryland's Open Meetings Act. As a practical matter, no harm was done by the attempted closed meeting that was aborted after a reporter for The Aegis pointed out there was a quorum of liquor board members at the post-meeting side session.
This is a simple matter: If the Harford County Liquor Control Board demands that licensees obey the law, then the liquor board should too. Operating in such a way that reeks of an old parental adage "Do what I say, not what I do" is unbecoming of the liquor board, a public body entrusted with the important task of making sure those with licenses to sell alcoholic beverages do so legally.
The liquor board should also keep in mind, which it usually does, that anyone can make mistake, as it proved last week, and continue to treat first time violations as learning opportunities for violators. And we encourage the liquor board to crack down much harder on second time offenders who didn't learn from their first mistake, much the same way we chastise those committing their first violation of the Open Meetings Act before we get testy with those repeating their offense.