State liquor boss sides with city, rejects transfer of beer permit at China Garden

Snow falls in front of China Garden's window

Above: Snow falls in front of China Garden's window. If the state's decision stands, the take-out restaurant would not be able to sell or deliver beer.

In a town chock-full of bars that rarely seem to suffer any serious consequences for the problems they cause, a small Chinese carryout restaurant tucked away in a strip mall in Lakewood’s downtown district faces the loss of its liquor permit due to the criminal history of a former employee.

China Garden, located in the Lakewood City Center shopping plaza at 14867 Detroit Ave., is perhaps better known for its cigarette and beer home delivery service than for its cuisine. Bunts Rd. resident Yim Wah Kwok owned the business for the last several years and employed 45-year-old Angel Rosado off-and-on during that time.

Between 2004 and 2008, Rosado was convicted in Lakewood Municipal Court of intoxication and disorderly conduct on six separate occasions. He earned other convictions in the city for resisting arrest, and possession of drug paraphernalia.

While working at China Garden in July 2007, Rosado illegally sold a tobacco product to a 16-year-old girl working undercover for the authorities. He was found guilty of the incident, fined $150 and given a year of probation.

Less than a year later on March 13, 2008, Rosado added a new item to China Garden’s menu: crack cocaine. A confidential informant made contact with Rosado on that day and purchased seven grams of cocaine from him at the restaurant. He was found guilty of drug trafficking and sentenced to one year in jail, with three years of post-release probation.

City objects to liquor permit transfer between niece and uncle

Around April of this year, Kwok transferred ownership of the business to her uncle Zeng Chun Huang, an Andrews Ave. resident. As part of the deal, she applied to the Ohio Division of Liquor Control to transfer the restaurant’s class C-1 liquor permit – basically a license to sell packaged beer – to her uncle’s company.

The transaction might have gone off without a hitch, except for one thing: Angel Rosado was out of jail and again working at China Garden. It did not sit well with city officials. The Lakewood City Council voted unanimously to object to the transfer. (see .PDF)

How did a convicted drug trafficker keep his job?

When someone is caught dealing cocaine in the workplace, it usually results in termination. How was Rosado able to return to work at the scene of his crime?

The September 24th liquor control hearing on the permit transfer objection revealed that Kwok provided living accommodations for Rosado because his high school-aged son was a very close friend of her uncle’s grandson. Rosado lived at her uncle and aunt’s Andrews Ave. house, which Kwok had owned, presumably so Rosado’s son could attend Lakewood High School. (see .PDF)

Kwok claimed that neither she nor her uncle were aware of Rosado’s criminal record. Kwok said she was out of the country when Rosado was arrested for drug trafficking. She also said Rosado no longer worked at China Garden, nor lived with her uncle, although some of his belongings were still at the house. Kwok’s uncle, who is unable to speak or understand English, communicated through Kwok that he was unaware of Rosado’s history.

Hearing officer called city’s case ‘insufficient’

James Bally, the liquor control officer who presided over the hearing, wrote in an opinion that the evidence and testimony provided by the city was “insufficient” to block the permit transfer. He felt that while Rosado had engaged in criminal activities, there was absolutely no indication that either Kwok or her uncle were involved in any wrongdoing whatsoever. In the time Kwok held the beer permit, Bally noted “there have been no citations, no liquor violations, no expressions of police activity, and no evidence of any neighborhood interference relating to this business.” (see .PDF)

Bally pointed out that the city did not object to any of China Garden’s annual permit renewals (which occurred every October 1st) even though they had information about Angel Rosado as early as 2004.

Bally observed that Rosado did not hold a managerial role, and was only an occasional employee. Further, he suggested that the city didn’t have a basis to block the permit transfer because Rosado no longer worked there and the business wasn’t a source of trouble.

City scores rare victory

As Lakewood’s mayor has reminded city council at least a half dozen times over the last three years, the city has historically not been very successful in their efforts to block liquor permits.

It was somewhat surprising then when Ernie Davis, the acting superintendent of the Division of Liquor Control, disagreed with Bally and sustained the city’s objection.

Davis felt Rosado’s crimes – particularly those that took place in the restaurant – and his apparent continued employment there were grounds to deny the permit’s transfer of ownership.

At the bottom of his September 30th ruling, he hand-wrote: “Due to the continued presence of Angel Rossato [sic] at China Garden I’m sustaining the city’s objection. The 9/07 [sic] arrest inside the permit premise and his (Rossato’s) [sic] continued presence threatens the good order of the community.” (see .PDF)

Davis’ ruling was released on November 30th. China Garden has 30 days to appeal the decision before it becomes final.

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