The Prince George's County Board of License Commissioners reinstated Backyard Sports Grill's liquor license Wednesday following a two-week suspension.
The board set a show-cause hearing following a series of incidents at the Southern-style restaurant and bar on the corner of Route 1 and Hartwick Road.
On July 31, Backyard Sports Grill hired a promoter and failed to bring in an off-duty police officer for security — a violation of its special entertainment permit. A fight at the bar spread next door to Slices Pizza Co., and four people were assaulted outside the bar, according to city documents.
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The bar again used a promoter on Sept. 26, and a "large fight" took place in the early-morning hours, according to city documents. The fight spilled onto the street, and an off-duty Prince George's County Police officer working secondary employment was assaulted.
On Nov. 24, the College Park City Council unanimously voted to send a letter to the board urging it to revoke the bar's liquor license.
"It is clear that the current license holders are not in control [of] the events that occur at this establishment," Mayor Andy Fellows wrote in a letter to the board's chairman. "The recent events constitute a threat to the public health and safety."
But Chairman Charles Caldwell said the board takes "very seriously" the possibility of putting people out of business. First-time restaurant owners Dana and Kristi Lee have stated that Backyard Sports Grill, which opened in March, would be unable to survive as a restaurant without a liquor license.
"They just took this over," Caldwell said. "They're learning. They've obviously made some mistakes, but we're giving them the opportunity to get their act together."
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Backyard Sports Grill voluntarily surrendered its special entertainment license, said Sean Morris, the lawyer representing Backyard Sports Grill.
"We'll simply be a sports bar and restaurant going forward," he said. "Thankfully, the board recognized that to the extent that there were issues, it was on these weekend nights when DJs came in. It was not indicative of the overall operation of the restaurant, and we're in agreement not to have those DJ events."
The Lees have also retained a management consultant to advise them on attracting "more professional clientele," and have met regularly with county police to discuss how to improve security and safety measures, according to a letter they submitted to the council in November.
Not having a special entertainment permit will "do away with root of the problem," Caldwell said.
District 3 Councilman Robert Day, who advocated that the establishment's license be revoked, said he hopes the Lees stick to their word.
"I wish the liquor board would have worked with the city on this one," Day said. "Let's just hope there are no other incidents and they follow the rules and their business thrives. … We'll see where this ends up. Hopefully it's a good turnaround story."
Morris said his clients are pleased with the board's decision. The day after the hearing, Backyard Sports Grill planned to show Thursday night football and serve $3 domestic bottles, according to its Facebook page.
"They're gratified that they'll have the chance to be a good citizen of College Park," Morris said, "and prove the Board of License Commissioners made the right choice in giving them a second chance."