Cape pool hall's liquor license to be suspended

Friday, October 26, 2007

The Billiard Center, a Cape Girardeau pool hall at 26 N. Main St., faces a 15-day suspension of its liquor license as a result of drug sales that resulted in the February arrest of four people, including the manager.

The suspension takes effect Nov. 16 unless appealed by owner Loi Ha. While Ha hasn't decided whether to appeal, he considers the suspension a fair penalty, perhaps even lenient.

"If it was somebody else, they would be revoked," Ha said Thursday.

A clean record -- Ha said he's had only two citations for underage drinking after 17 years in business -- helped keep the penalty to a suspension, he said.

On Feb. 16, James W. Dodd was arrested after an undercover officer witnessed him purchasing 120 OxyContin pills from two Poplar Bluff, Mo., men. Dodd was manager of the Billiard Center at the time. In August, Dodd pleaded guilty to possession of a controlled substance and distributing a controlled substance, was given a suspended sentence and placed on probation for five years.

The state Division of Alcohol and Tobacco Control imposed the suspension, which came after an informal hearing on the violations held Sept. 18 in Cape Girardeau, said Steve Shimmens, chief of enforcement for the division.

"They were cited based on the police report received from the Cape Girardeau Police Department," Shimmens said.

The Billiard Center rents time on its pool tables and sells food in addition to alcohol, and could remain in business during the suspension, Shimmens said. If the owners opt to keep the establishment open, he said, all the alcohol has to be stored where it cannot be accessed and the owner must post notice of the suspension, he said.

Since the arrests, Ha said, he has installed 15 cameras to keep an eye on events in the pool hall. He's also spending more time at the business, he said.

Dodd's arrest was a personal disappointment, Ha said. "The sad thing is, I looked at him like my son."

Dodd is no longer employed at the pool hall, Ha said.

335-6611, extension 126

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