License to Swill 

The state auditor puts the "fun" in fund-raiser -- liquor license be damned.

State Auditor Jim Petro is The Edge's early pick in the Ohio attorney general's race for one reason: He understands the importance of beer.

Petro demonstrated his superior values last week at a fund-raiser at the swanky new Red Tail country club in Avon. For $250 or $500 per head, supporters could press the flesh with Captain Anal and other semi-notable Republicans.

Like any decent Midwestern boy, Petro knew he couldn't charge Five Big Ones and serve Diet Sprite. He needed to load up on tasty and nourishing brewskies. But, alas, his plans for hospitality appeared thwarted by the long snout of the law.

It seems Red Tail's owner, Carnegie Management, had yet to secure a liquor license. CEO Rustom Khouri beseeched the Avon City Council for action, but his application lingered in the bureaucratic jungle known as Columbus. Khouri could have applied for a temporary permit, but Liquor Control spokeswoman Patty Haskins says no such request was made.

Instead, Petro & Co. did what all self-respecting big shots do when the law gets in their way: They blew it off. Or so it seemed. Last Wednesday, Republicans merrily swilled their $500 beers, sans that pesky liquor permit.

The Edge presumed Petro and Khouri had a convincingly specious argument for their actions ("Hey, moron, can't a guy pound a few hundred illegal beers in peace?), but they wouldn't return our calls.

But just before Scene went to press, they called with a cunning defense: Khouri had actually donated the brewskies, which allowed Petro to cast aside the need for a license. Moreover, pleads Khouri, there was never any intention to circumvent the law. "The way they watch you in Avon, do you think I'd try something like that without checking it out first?"

Well . . . it wouldn't be the first trouble for Carnegie. In 1998, Petro himself uncovered a cozy relationship between Carnegie VP Peter Restivo and then-Council Prez Ed Krystowski. It seems Carnegie made 60 grand in purchases from Krystowski's tractor business in 1997 -- just four days after the councilman broke a tie vote on Red Tail's approval. The two men eventually pleaded guilty to misdemeanor ethics violations.

Fortunately, Petro is the kind of standup guy who lets bygones be bygones -- especially when there's free beer involved.

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