PORT JEFFERSON — The 47 Bar & Grill, 210 W. Main St., Port Jefferson, has had its entire stock of liquor and beer confiscated following the execution of a search warrant by the Cincinnati District of the Ohio Investigative Unit of the Ohio Highway Patrol.
The action was taken Thursday, Feb. 14, because the tavern had been selling alcohol without a license to do so. The license had been revoked because sales taxes had not been paid.
The Ohio Investigative Unit is in charge of enforcing Ohio’s alcohol, tobacco and food stamp fraud laws. The Cincinnati District of the OIU is responsible for this enforcement in Shelby County.
Upon calling the 47 Bar & Grill, Friday, the Sidney Daily News spoke with a woman who identified herself as the owner, but who declined to give her name, and refused to comment.
According to the Ohio Department of Commerce Division of Liquor Control website, Kimberly Pflum is the holder of the liquor permit for 47 Bar & Grill. The website lists the permit as “rejected” as of Jan. 7, 2019.
Adam Johnson, agent in charge for the CDOIU, said a search warrant was executed at the 47 Bar & Grill, at 10:45 a.m. on Valentine’s Day, following a series of complaints and violations spanning the past year.
Johnson said he had personally spoken with the owner last summer regarding issues, including non-payment of taxes. He said he had given her information about how to “work it out,” or fix these issues; however, no action was taken.
In these types of cases, Johnson said, business owners are given the chance to pay any back taxes in order to avoid the cancellation of their liquor licenses. This can include an opportunity to be put on a payment plan if all unpaid taxes cannot be paid at once.
“If you just don’t do any of that, your license will be cancelled,” Johnson said.
Once the 47 Bar & Grill’s license was rejected, the owner was sent a letter certifying she no longer had permission to sell liquor and that any sale of alcohol within the establishment would be illegal, Johnson said.
However, alcohol sales continued. This was confirmed when, according to Johnson, two CDOIU agents entered the 47 Bar & Grill, on two occasions within the past two weeks, and successfully purchased alcohol each time.
“(The sale of alcohol) wasn’t very covert or anything; (the establishment) was operating like a normal bar,” Johnson said. “The agents went in dressed in plain clothes, secured the purchased alcohol as evidence, and quietly left. Once we saw that, we went forward with preparing an affidavit and presented it to a judge.”
Johnson said the judge found enough probable cause to sign off on the search warrant, which was executed Thursday morning.
“It was a soft warrant; nothing tactical,” Johnson said. “We gave (the owner) a copy of the search warrant, made sure no patrons were in the bar, and boxed (the alcohol) up.”
Johnson said several hundred bottles and cans of beer were confiscated from the bar, along with bottles of liquors and spirits.
At the time of the search warrant execution, the bar owner declined to speak with agents, instead requesting a lawyer.
Johnson said the CDOIU will be speaking with a prosecutor in the coming week regarding possible charges against the owner. He said the unit will seek two charges: the illegal sale of alcohol without an issued warrant, which is a misdemeanor in the first degree, and a “keeper of a place where alcohol is stored” charge, which is a misdemeanor in the third degree.
According to the Ohio Revised Code, “No person shall keep a place where beer or intoxicating liquors are sold, furnished, or given away in violation of law.” Hence the latter charge.
At press time the 47 Bar & Grill appeared to remain open. Its Facebook page advertised meal specials that were available Friday.
Reach the writer at 937-538-4825.