Lacking a state alcohol license turned into an arrest and heavy fine for a local business owner last week.
Owner of My Nook iCafe & Lounge Erik Allbrook was cited by the Milledgeville Police Department Thursday morning for unlawful sale and possession of alcohol.
“They said they were confiscating my liquor, and that I was coming with them,” he said.
Allbrook posted the $1,000 bond at MPD.
My Nook iCafe & Lounge, located at 921 N. Columbia St. across from the Goodie Gallery, opened in mid-September.
Police Chief Dray Swicord said although the establishment received the city alcohol permit in September Allbrook still hadn’t passed the state permitting process.
Allbrook claims he only recently found out he needed a state-issued permit for continued alcohol sales during My Nook special events.
“I found out there were two licenses I was supposed to have, one issued by the city and the other by the state. From my view, me and City Hall just chucked it up to a misunderstanding as far as paperwork,” the business owner contends. “Milledgeville (City Hall) contacted me about two weeks ago and explained to me what license I was finally missing. I stopped alcohol sales after calling the state. I had only been selling alcohol for two and a half months up until they told me to stop.”
Allbrook contends he’d already applied for the state license before the arrest.
Businesses wanting to sell alcohol beer, wine or liquor must first apply with City of Milledgeville. After satisfying all of the local requirements, the application is put before City Council for approval. Once the applicant receives the local license, it must accompany the application to Georgia Department of Revenue. One can’t sell locally without both the local and state license.
Also, distributors must make deliveries to the sellers — it must not be purchased at a local outlet such as a liquor store or grocery store. Distributors must verify both current state and local licenses before delivery is made.
Both licenses must be posted inside the establishment in plain view, as stated on the license.
However long the applicant chooses to wait between receipt of the local license and applying for the state permit is on the individual. There is no time limit.
The police chief said everything would have been OK if the My Nook owner completed his state licensing.
“You can take as long or as short of a time as you want, but in the meantime you can’t sell alcohol until you have both of them. That’s how you start getting alcohol,” Swicord said. “You can’t just go and buy beer and sell it.”
Swicord said Allbrook was “fully aware” and “had been told several times” that business must have both alcohol licenses.
“Everyone that goes through the process is aware of that,” the police chief said. “It’s there in black and white.
My Nook recently threw a New Year’s party, which according to MPD led to Allbrook’s brush up last Thursday.
“So New Year’s Eve night, I sent an undercover person in there to purchase alcohol from him,” the police chief said. “The following week we made contact with him, inventoried and seized his alcohol out of his building and we brought him down to the police station where he posted $1,000 bond for selling alcohol without a license.”
The citation is considered a misdemeanor.
MPD said the process has happened in the past, and “it’s nothing out of the ordinary.”
“Wherever alcohol is being sold, you have the ability to walk in and check inventory,” Swicord said.
Allbrook said in the midst of the alcohol license issue he’s filed two complaints with the police department about patrol cars parked in front of the establishment.
“According to the tenants before me, (MPD) had never done this before until I got there,” Allbrook said. “Twice they pulled over people leaving my store at night. Of course, I felt like that hindered business.”
The My Nook owner said that final complaint was a month ago.
Allbrook said the city was right to confiscate alcohol inventory but doesn’t understand the arrest, as it should have come from the state level in his opinion.
“That would have been their job to come in and do not the city’s,” Allbrook said. “Why was I arrested and embarrassed, forced to walk across the street and searched in front of a car just to be taken downtown and given a ticket?”
Allbrook disputes the New Year’s chain of events that led to the arrest and fine.
He will have his day in court Jan. 28.
“It’s in the court’s hands now,” Swicord said.