The county Safety Committee and Beer Board would like to crack down on stores caught selling alcohol to underage customers.
Local law enforcement officials conducted a sting to see which stores would sell beer to an underage operative. State law requires ID to be checked on all alcohol sales, no matter how old the buyer appears and 15 of the 40 convenience stores in Warren County were in violation.
County officials are exploring options on how to let local businesses know they are paying attention to this undercover sting and the results are not acceptable.
Safety Committee chair Ron Lee suggested the county send the businesses which violated the law a letter of reprimand and ask for their course of corrective action.
“In other words, your place of business is violating the law and you are going to be going to court for that, but we want to let you know that we would like to know what your plan of action is to correct that problem,” said Lee. “Are you going to be training these people, re-training, and getting everyone in compliance so this doesn’t happen to you again? Because the way I read the law is if you start getting into it the second time around, that’s when you start pulling licenses for a certain period of time and there are civil penalties.”
Selling alcohol to a minor is a Class A misdemeanor for the clerk who sells it. In the past, punishment has usually been a fine and one year of probation. The fine increases with multiple offenses and the store can temporarily lose its license to sell beer with repeated violations.
Lee told the committee he wants everyone to think about how they can word the letter of reprimand and said he wants the county attorney to look at it to make sure it is suitable before sending it. Commissioner Gary Prater suggested sending a positive letter to the stores which followed the rules.
“And for the ones who didn’t sell, write them a little letter telling them our appreciation,” said Prater.
Commissioner Christy Ross also suggested that in the letter of reprimand they could remind the stores what the consequences are for another violation.
“You could remind them what the repercussions are for the second offense. Sometimes they don’t know,” said Ross.
“Can we not suspend their sales for 90 days?” asked Commissioner Randy England.
“No, we can’t for that. This committee can’t,” said Prater.
Lee disagreed with that statement.
“There are provisions if you move to the next level then I believe this committee would have the right to the second time,” said Lee.
Lee said they would have to consult with the county attorney on the amount of time the license can be suspended and other legal aspects.
“Some of these are pretty serious,” said Lee.
“A lot of it is due to the help situation,” said Prater.
“In one case, you are right. Dollar General out in Green Hill, what happened was there was a young man, 18-year-old, he was selling. He didn’t ask for an ID from another 18-year-old. He worked there two weeks and now he’s gone,” said Lee. “But still, there is a responsibility of the store owners to train these people. Of course, I am not trying to make excuses. It has been a couple years since we have done one and people get complacent. They haven’t checked on us in a while and you just sort of get lax. Well that is what we don’t want. We want to make sure they stay on their toes. If y’all will just think about that and we will try to get our heads together maybe at our next meeting and sort of summarize what everybody’s idea is and maybe we will come up with a form letter and I agree with Gary, it is a two-way street there and we need to have a thank you card or something to the ones that abided by the law and tell them we appreciate what they are doing.”
Committee members will discuss the letter of reprimand more in their next meeting.