A Flathead County District Court judge ruled this week that a Kalispell liquor store can keep its doors open as it appeals the state’s decision to revoke its agency contract due to multiple violations.
BYOB Liquor is accused of violating several terms of its contract with the state Department of Revenue, including selling liquor-filled chocolates and failing to file required paperwork with state regulators.
The alleged discrepancies, which led to a January decision from the Revenue Department that the store should be shuttered, were discovered during an audit of the business.
At a hearing on Feb. 23, Judge Ted Lympus ruled that the store could stay open while its owner, Donna Glantz, appealed the state’s decision. Lympus’ order is contingent on seven factors, and violating those conditions could be grounds for revoking his decision and closing the store.
According to the conditions, BYOB must provide weekly sales accounting reports, must not default on its payments to the state and Donna Glantz’s husband, Jim Glantz, cannot be on the BYOB premises or be involved in the store’s operational activities.
Joel Silverman, attorney for the Revenue Department, said part of the reason to deny Jim Glantz’s participation in the business is that he is not listed as an owner, but has signed paperwork for the store in the past.
Silverman, who advocated for the store’s immediate closure, told Lympus that the state is supposed to have control over alcohol sales in Montana, and he was concerned “about the department’s ability to protect the people, and the people don’t know what’s happening at BYOB.”
According to Silverman, BYOB has a balance of $370,000 with the state for liquor orders but is still within the 60-day payment period.
During her testimony, Donna Glantz said she has found a potential buyer for BYOB, and the deal was contingent on Lympus’ decision on whether to keep the store open.
Silverman noted after the hearing that the $370,000 balance would need to be paid before any such transaction would be approved.
The Revenue Department also requested that BYOB pay a $500,000 bond, which Donna Glantz said she could not afford on top of the $370,000 already owed. As part of the conditions for the stay of closure order, Lympus said BYOB would not be required to pay the bond.
However, he again reminded Glantz of the importance of adhering to the conditions.
“This could all fall apart in a hurry if a delinquency occurs,” Lympus said.
During questioning, Donna Glantz told the court that the Revenue Department had never provided the correct paperwork for her to fill out. She also said that she sold the liquor-filled candies under the assumption that it was OK with the state, but removed them from her shelves when the Revenue Department asked her to.
At the hearing, BYOB’s attorney, David Stufft, had Donna Glantz cut open a liquor-chocolate candy while she was on the stand, and was asked to show Lympus that there was no liquid inside.
Glantz asked the court to allow her to keep her store open during the appeal so she could keep paying the state what she owes and so her employees could keep their jobs.
“I’d like a fair trial,” she said. “It’s just been judged by the state all along.”
Silverman told Lympus that BYOB has been uncooperative thus far with regulators, which Glantz denied. He noted that BYOB has failed to collect payment for liquor at the point of sale, something he said clutters the transparency of the industry.
“This is the only case like this (in the state,)” Silverman said, adding that the department has tried asking the store to clean up its act before and is at a loss of what to do to ensure compliance.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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