Liquor permits under review
Caffé Gelato, Seasons Pizza allegedly served minors
After at least two alcohol violations in a 12-month period, one Main Street restaurant voluntarily gave up its special-use permit to serve alcohol and another could have its permit suspended.
Through Newark’s point system – which was rolled out in 2016 as a way to hold accountable unruly bars and restaurants – establishments that serve liquor can accrue different amounts of points for violations such as pedestrian issues, noise complaints and disorderly conduct, as well as more serious
If an establishment reaches 10 points, Newark Police Department can make a recommendation to city council to suspend its special-use permit for 30 days, meaning the establishment could not serve alcohol during that time.
Caffé Gelato, Seasons Pizza and Mod Pizza – none of which have a particularly unruly reputation – have all accrued over 10 points for serving alcohol to minors at least twice within a 12 month cycle.
The restaurants were among five total that failed an inspection by the Newark Police Department conducted with Delaware Alcohol and Tobacco Enforcement in September.
NPD routinely sends underage cooperating witnesses into bars, accompanied by undercover officers. The witnesses cannot lie, and if asked for identification, they show their real driver’s license indicating they are under 21.
Serving underage patrons is worth six points, said Sgt. Greg D’Elia, of the NPD’s Special Operations Unit.
Following a violation, the establishments are sent a letter notifying them of the infraction. The businesses also had mandator y meetings with the Special Operations Unit supervisor, city solicitor and a representative from the planning department.
Mod Pizza and Seasons Pizza had meetings on Oct. 19, and Caffé Gelato had one on Feb. 15 and another this week.
“The hope with the points is that they correct whatever the problem is right from the start, get right back on to where they need to be,” D’Elia explained. “And then we just double check to make sure that they are. And if they’re not, then we have to have a sit down and kind of figure out where the problem lies.”
Following its violation, Caffé Gelato is scheduled to appear before city council in December. Council will decide whether to suspend the restaurant’s specialuse permit.
Caffé Gelato will also go before the state for review of its liquor license, D’Elia said.
Owner Ryan German said Caffé Gelato is not in the business to ser ve minors.
“By no means do we generate any revenue from serving underage,” German said. “We want to make sure we do everything the right way. We want to make sure that we work with the city to do ever ything just right. It’s not something that’s in our wheelhouse or that we do.”
German said he is making sure all staff members, not just serving staff, understand the importance of checking IDs. The restaurant also invested in a card reader to make sure IDs are valid.
“We certainly do not serve underage; we don’t have any revenue stream underage,” he said. “We serve drinks complementary to our meals, people seated at a table, or seated at the bar waiting for table, and we’re trying to do a really good job at serving good food and providing a good restaurant here in the city of Newark.”
Seasons Pizza manager Jessica Miller said the pizzeria owners decided to voluntarily relinquish their special-use permit to serve alcohol.
“I know that we weren’t selling a lot anyway,” she noted.
She explained that once hired, employees attend an Alcoholic Beverage Control class. The employee who served a minor was a new employee, she said.
“So he hadn’t yet went through the ABC class. So he shouldn’t even have been serving it,” she said.
She noted that other Seasons Pizza locations sell alcohol, but they also have full dining rooms and a wait staff. Newark’s location has counter service.
Mod Pizza General Manager Alberto Rodriguez said that his restaurant’s mandator y meeting ultimately didn’t result in a recommendation to council suspend its special-use permit.
Following the second violation, he said that the restaurant has clamped down on how alcohol sales are made. Although management staff did take Alcoholic Beverage Control classes, he said that he is now the only one able to ser ve alcohol. When he isn’t present at the restaurant, alcohol won’t be sold or even advertised as available, he said.
“We do sell some alcohol; we just don’t sell exclusively enough to be like a bar,” he said. “So we do take a hit on that whenever I’m not here.”
Previously, employees were supposed to have at least two people verify an ID – with Rodriguez verifying if he was present at the time. But these instances of violation, he believed, came down to the employees not paying enough attention.
D’Elia said that in most instances, the problem can be solved with the owner being notified.
“Sometimes the management doesn’t tell the owners what’s going on,” he continued. “And we want to bring it directly to the attention of whoever owns the restaurant, or whoever manages the restaurant on a daily basis, and then really try to establish a partnership with them to try to fix whatever the problem may be.”