G-Man Faces Stringent Rules in Order to Keep Liquor License

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By Jenn Miller

With nine violations over five years, the owners of the Gingerbread Man must follow stringent rules in order to hold onto their liquor license, according to records obtained by StateCollege.com.

Any new noise or other nuisance violations could put the pub’s liquor license and amusement permit at risk, according to a conditional licensing agreement between the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board and Scott Balboni, president of Hat Trick Group Inc., the company that owns the Gingerbread Man at 130 Heister Street. The G-Man is operating under reduced summer hours currently, only opening from Thursday to Saturday.

Since Hat Trick opened the bar/restaurant in 2009, the Pennsylvania State Police Liquor Control and Enforcement Bureau has cited the owners nine times for violations with fines totaling $5,450. The infractions included six loudspeaker violations, for a total of $2,650 in fines.

A loudspeaker violation is when music played inside an establishment can be heard outside the property, authorities say. The rule is intended to protect surrounding community members from loud music at late hours.

Additionally, the LCE fined the owners $1,250 for serving a minor alcohol and $550 for discrimination related to a beer pong tournament where the entry fee was cheaper for women participants.

But perhaps the most damaging violations occurred in 2012 when, in three separate incidents, employees were ultimately convicted on charges ranging from assault to disorderly conduct for incidents involving bar patrons.

A liquor license must be renewed with the PLCB every two years, which the board’s Licensing Bureau can reject based on how owners operate a business and owners’ history of violations.

Under the PLCB’s nuisance bar program, the Licensing Bureau objected to the renewal of Hat Trick’s liquor license and the amusement permit in 2011 based on its citation record, according to PLCB Spokesperson Shawn Kelly. After an administrative hearing, the board approved a conditional licensing agreement Jan. 11, 2012.

In July 2013, the Licensing Bureau again objected to renewing the license due to the bar’s citation record as well as “the conviction and reputation of two board-approved officers,” says Kelly.

At issue were three separate incidents involving employee Samuel Hill who was convicted of harassment and disorderly conduct; Patrick Fung, the company’s secretary and treasurer, who was convicted of harassment and disorderly conduct; and Teague Willits-Kelley, company vice-president, who was convicted of harassment.

LCE Officer Chris Burns says the three separate incidents involved bar patrons. Local police initially handled the calls and then the cases were transferred to the LCE. Ultimately, authorities suspended Hat Trick’s liquor license for 24 days in 2013, Burns says.

Earlier this month, the PLCB entered into a revised conditional licensing agreement with Hat Trick, which includes several requirements to ensure the board renews its liquor license and amusement permit, which authorizes dancing and other entertainment at bars.

Under the agreement, if Hat Trick sees two or more adjudicated violations for noise or disorderly operations during any two-year license term, Hat Trick must surrender its amusement permit. Also, if Hat Trick sees three or more loudspeaker violations – even if they do not result in LCE citations – the incidents would be a violation of the agreement and the board may not renew the license.

The agreement also mandates the following:

– Maintain a surveillance system with at least three cameras with one located on the outside patio, one at the front entrance on Heister Street and one located at the side entrance on Wilson Alley.

– Patrol the exterior of the property at least once an hour between 9 p.m. and closing time “for disturbances and to confirm that amplified sound is not emanating from the licensed premises.”

– Meet with State College Police Chief Thomas King or a designated representative at least twice a year, until the chief deems the meetings no longer necessary.

– Remain compliant with responsible alcohol training for employees.

King says Balboni began meeting with him in advance of the conditional license in hopes of addressing some of the issues. Subsequently, King met with Gingerbread Man staff to educate them on their rights when it comes to use of force with unruly patrons.

Specifically, King says he made clear that door staff and other employees do not have the right to use force against a patron or to detain a patron – unless it is an act of self-defense. For example, if staff asks an unruly patron to leave, but the patron refuses, staff cannot use force to make the patron leave the property, King says. Instead, staff should call police who will handle the situation and potentially cite the patron for trespassing.

“There have been occasions in town where door staff got too aggressive, and that’s what we’re trying to make sure doesn’t occur,” King says.

King says Balboni implemented changes in the fall of 2013 and the bar has shown improvements.

“In the past school year things changed dramatically down there. Clearly they have made changes in the last year or so,” King says.

Police will continue to monitor the situation, King says.

Several attempts to reach Balboni for comment were unsuccessful.

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