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Harrison merchant ‘unfit’ to hold liquor license

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By Karen Zautyk

Observer Correspondent

The N.J. Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) last week suspended indefinitely the liquor license of Basic Food and Liquor Mart, 762 Harrison Ave., Harrison, for “a host of violations” committed by its owner/operator Sanjaykan (Sonny} Patel, N.J. Attorney General Jeffrey Chiesa reported.

Among the offenses cited was the sale of alcohol to a 14-year-old girl, who subsequently spent three days in intensive care.

Harrison police told The Observer that the store has been shuttered for some time. However, the ABC noted its license is still owned by the same trading company, Shakti Inc. Under the agreement announced Thursday, Shakti is required to sell that license by Oct. 1, 2014, with 50% of the sale price being paid to the ABC “as a financial penalty for the violations.”

Patel, 46, had a criminal record and thus was prohibited by N.J. law from having a financial interest in a liquor license, but he acquired one and began selling alcohol in 2005, Chiesa’s office said.

The ABC said Basic Food and Liquor Mart came to its attention in late 2011 when the mother of the 14-yearold alleged that Patel had sold her daughter and a 15-year-old friend three cans of Four Loko (since banned in New Jersey) and a bottle of Bacardi rum.

According to authorities, the girl consumed the alcohol at a park and then returned home suffering from abdominal pain, dizziness and difficulty breathing. Taken by ambulance to a hospital, she was diagnosed with acute pancreatitis, which required a three-day stay in the ICU.

The girl reportedly told police that she had bought alcohol at the store on another occasion and had not been carded by Patel.

During its investigation, the ABC reported, it “caught Patel again selling to multiple underage persons” and had “uncovered improprieties in the business’ ownership filings,” leading to the discovery of Patel’s being “criminally disqualified” to hold a license. That ineligibility dated to 1994, when Patel pleaded guilty to receiving stolen property, authorities said.

In annual ABC administrative filings, Patel disclosed neither his interest in the license, nor his criminal background, and his wife was listed as the sole stockholder of Shakti Inc., Chiesa’s office reported.

Citing the Harrison case, ABC Director Michael Halfacre stated: “Here is a prime example of why we do not allow criminals to hold a financial interest in a liquor license. By having committed a crime of moral turpitude [the stolen property count], Mr. Patel proved himself to be unfit to participate in the alcoholic beverage business.”

In selling alcohol to minors, Halfacre said, Patel showed “shockingly poor judgment.”

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