The Worcester County Board of License Commissioners levied two $1,000 fines against Guido’s Burritos on 33rd Street on Sept. 15, following testimony from law enforcement officers and Guido’s representatives that focused on an alleged lack of cooperation between the restaurant’s staff and contractors and police.
The fines were issued for a pair of infractions that occurred on Aug. 6 when two underage individuals were served alcohol, but officers from the Ocean City Police Department came with additional allegations that, several times, the restaurant and its third-party security firm routinely flouted their attempts to have them improve the process by which they check IDs.
Attorney Mark Cropper, representing Guido’s owner Rocco DiFilippo, cross-examined a handful of the officers regarding several incidents that occurred between May and July — dates in which the police were there on behalf of the Restaurant Association of Maryland (RAM) to enforce the legal drinking age.
“Cpl. (Aaron) Morgan’s report cites several instances in which (third-party firm) Azul Security … has been uncooperative with the Ocean City Police Department, Cropper said to the board. “(It says) ‘argumentative and perhaps belligerent,’” in the police report.”
On May 3, the police report referred to a “skinny black male” working for Azul whom Morgan alleged “speedily” checked IDs of patrons that had already come through the door. Morgan said he suggested that the process be improved.
“It wasn’t very efficient,” Morgan said when questioned by Cropper. “And I didn’t like the fact that the line was already on the property, already through the bar. If something happened where people ran, there would be just a scatter of people throughout the bar unchecked.”
Morgan said in another incident, the same Azul employee refused to hand over a confiscated ID. In yet another, an Azul supervisor handed a fake ID back to a person and told them to leave. The OCPD asks carders to confiscate fake IDs and, if able, involve law enforcement.
During the latter incident, Morgan asked Bradley Schmittle — a Guido’s manager at the time who was off the clock and drinking — about their training practices and if their surveillance system was working.
Schmittle allegedly told Morgan they only contract out-the-door staff because it was too expensive to train the staff to be proficient in checking IDs and, regarding the IDs, he wanted to stay out of it for fear of retaliation from Azul.
Cropper focused on the fact that Schmittle was not working at the time.
“You were drinking,” Cropper asked. “You were drinking a lot? You were in no way shape or form functioning as a manager of Guido’s Burritos when any of this took place, correct?”
Schmittle said that was the case.
Morgan described an environment of “general hostility” when dealing with carders on the property, but Cropper said that none of what Morgan described constituted a violation of any kind.
“You’re there to facilitate safety and to ensure that nobody underage gets in,” Cropper said. “This lack of cooperation that you’re talking about is because this independent third-party security staff didn’t follow your guidelines or advice as quickly as you wanted or the way you wanted.”
DiFilippo said that he was offended by the allegation that he is uncooperative and claimed that he was unaware of these incidents but, had he been, changes would have been made swiftly.
“Going forward from here, we should be — I’m not going to say more cooperative — more inclusive of the RAM program and the police officers directly themselves so that they’re made aware of wrongdoings and just have more open communication that way so that something like this doesn’t blindside us,” DiFilippo said.
Sgt. Doug Smith, a veteran of the police force and longtime local resident, said that his department is not looking to bust restaurants, but that he had heard that Guido’s is a place that attracts underage drinking.
“I have younger daughters. When I mention these checks, they say ‘Oh, everybody goes there,’” Smith said. “I think the problem here is the carders, obviously they are hired to do that. I know there are a ton of fakes out there now … We want there to be a cooperative relationship. We don’t want to bust every restaurant … When I go to Seacrets and I stand there, their manager gets called over by the carder, the carder hands the ID over to the manager and goes and scans the ID, walks the person over and hands me the ID and then I take over. That’s the level of cooperation we have with other bars.”
Before the board issued the fines, Chairman William Esham gave DiFilippo a stern warning.
“I have worked down here for a long time. I have known Sgt. Smith here a long time. You’ve got a problem, or someone there does with what you’re doing,” Esham said. “He wouldn’t be here, he wouldn’t be standing up and saying (so otherwise).”