Pankaj ‘Sunny’ Sharma‘s appeal of Red Bank’s revocation of his Leighton Avenue store’s liquor license wrapped up near Trenton today without a decision, the Asbury Park Press reports.


Moreover, a ruling probably won’t be handed down until summer, and whichever way the ruling breaks, it is likely to be appealed.

As expected, Borough Attorney Tom Hall and Sharma attorney Samuel ‘Skip’ Reale Jr. squared off before Administrative Law Judge Joseph Martone over the town council’s unanimous revocation of Best Liquor’s retail distribution license last June.

But within the hearing was a mini-trial over a set of particular allegations.

From the report:

The majority of the trial consisted of testimony by Red Bank Police Sgt. Eliot Ramos, who arrested Mark Anthony Valdez, who was 18 at the time, and two boys who were then 17 years old, one from Red Bank and one from Middletown, were charged with possession and consumption of alcohol, which they allegedly purchased at the store.

Attorney Samuel “Skip’ Reale Jr., argued that the borough couldn’t prove that an object handed to a clerk in the store wasn’t a fake Pennsylvania driver’s license, which police found in Valdez’s vehicle when they stopped his vehicle after Ramos watch him purchase liquor while on stakeout across the street from Best Liquors.

Ramos testified that Valdez, who is in the Navy and unavailable to testify, admitted to him that he was underage and claimed a liquor store clerk never asked him for identification. But during cross-examination, Ramos said he didn’t return to the store and interview the clerk to determine if he checked Valdez identification.

“It’s a shoddy investigation,” Reale said, adding that borough officials could have suspended the store’s license instead of immediately revoking it. “Revocation is a death sentence for the business.”

Sharma testified, too, and indicated that his carding policy is more stringent now than it once was.

“If you come in 50 times a day, we will check ID every time,” Sharma said, adding there have been no underage drinking charges against the store since November 2006.

Email this story