The Corner Forum
Saturday, June 28, 2003
Issue #36

Excello Given 60 Days To Stop Selling Singles

By Marc Borbely, 536 13th St. NE

Editor's Note: Marc Borbely, the Corner Forum's editor, is one of the people protesting the renewal of Excello Liquors's liquor license.

The city's Alcoholic Beverage Control Board has given Excello Liquors, at 419 13th St. NE, 60 days to come into compliance with its voluntary agreement.

Mr. Jackson, an inspector from the city's Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration, testified at a fact-
finding hearing on Wednesday that on three visits to Excello from Feb. 24 to May 28, he found that Excello was in violation of its voluntary agreement. He said he found too much advertisement on the windows, that the public pay phone outside the store had not been removed, that the store was not keeping a log of calls made to the police, and that Excello was selling single-serving containers of alcoholic beverages.

Mr. Jackson testified that he felt Mr. Bang knew that he was in violation of his voluntary agreement and also that he felt Mr. Bang understood his instructions to stop selling singles.

However, Simon Osnos, attorney for Sung S. Bang, Excello's owner, said Mr. Bang had not understood the voluntary agreement that he signed, partly because he did not have an attorney at the time, and partly because of his limited English ability. "The voluntary agreement was evidently proffered to him by the ANC or other residents, and he doesn't really understand English all that well. ... There was a meeting with a bunch of people. He knew more or less, or most of, what he was getting into, but nobody went over it with him step by step. ... As it is, as far as I can tell, he has stopped selling single cans of beer."

Except for giving his name, in the beginning, Mr. Bang did not answer any questions directly to the Board. Instead, his attorney translated questions to him in Korean, and he answered back in Korean.

Mr. Osnos said Mr. Bang did not understand that he also could not sell singles of alcoholic beverages other than beer. "His understanding was that he cannot sell single cans of beer, and I don't think there's any evidence that he did sell any, and I think his testimony would be that if any singles were sold, it was because of a clerk's error," Mr. Osnos said.

Mr. Osnos said Mr. Bang didn't maintain a police log because none was needed. "I think his position would be that he hasn't had to call the police at all because there is no significant problem outside with loitering. There are many people that hang out from time to time, but evidently nothing that would cause him to feel it was necessary to call the police. So I have to assume that these people were not engaged in any illegal activity."

With respect to the telephone, Mr. Osnos said Mr. Bang had called the telephone company on numerous occasions, and the company sent him back a letter on June 5 threatening him with a termination fee of $13,000. The agreement was dated May 19, 1997, Mr. Osnos said, and has an automatic five-year renewal provision.

Charles Burger, the chairman of the five-member board, said: "Mr. Bang, the lack of knowledge of a voluntary agreement — your inability to understand a phone contract, your inability to hold up your end, your word, with your neighbors, is most disturbing. And I hate to say it, but I do not specifically think that it's all language and misunderstanding. ... This is very distressing, this case, and frankly there may be some confusion over some of the language or `I didn't know what I was signing.' I granted that. That's the only reason I'm not recommending to the Board that we go to a `show cause.' But I do want to make a couple of things clear. We're going to continue this fact-finding 60 days from now. ... We will be continually monitoring over the next 60 days. We also have undercover enforcement activity. I would say for the record, to the community: If anyone ever buys a single in there, bring in the receipt. I'm very serious about this. It's just going to be `Sale of no singles.' The voluntary agreement has to be followed." Mr. Burger also said there should be a police log even if no calls are made, and he asked that the phone be removed by the next fact-finding hearing, which will be on Sept. 3 at 10 a.m.

Had the Board decided to schedule a show-cause hearing, Excello would have faced a fine or having its license suspended or revoked.

ANC Commissioner Jessica Ward (6A01) and I watched the proceedings. The hearing was unrelated to the protest proceedings that began with a "roll-call" hearing at which 37 residents were either present or represented, on June 4. Commissioners Ward and Michael Musante (6A05) and I are scheduling a time to meet with Mr. Osnos prior to that hearing to see if a settlement on the protests can be negotiated before the next "status" hearing on July 23. At the status hearing, the Board will ask for an update on negotiations and may schedule a protest hearing to determine whether the license should be renewed. §