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Target: Underage drinkers-Fifth local sting nets five of seven for liquor violations

The latest police sting proves underage drinkers can buy alcohol in Genoa as easily as they can in Oregon.

Genoa Police Chief Randy Hill said on a recent Friday night five of seven establishments sold alcohol to an underage buyer working in conjunction with the police department.

In a September sting in Oregon seven of 10 establishments did the same.

There’s plenty of disturbing news in this failure of adult clerks, waiters and waitresses to protect us all from the damage alcohol abuse can inflict on our young. And, there’s some good news too.

First, the bad news.

The Oregon Police Department, in conjunction with the Oregon Community and Family Coalition, conducted four stings in 2008. The results show more than half broke the law. Of the 29 businesses targeted, 16 sold to undercover operatives. Seven did it twice.

Disturbing also was how easy it was to make the buy. All underage operatives were instructed to show their license if asked and not to argue, cajole or intimidate. When asked, all showed the vertical license issued to drivers under 21. This license differs from the horizontal license issued to those over 21. This makes it a no-brainer for the clerk. No math to do. Still, in the Genoa sting three of five clerks or wait staff saw the vertical license and still sold the alcohol.

Why?

Well, money, maybe.

According to a 2006 study for the Journal of Studies on Alcohol & Drugs, the authors concluded that in 2005 underage drinkers consumed 15 percent of all alcohol sold in the United States totaling $19.8 billion in sales for a profit of $3.6 billion.

While that may be incentive for unscrupulous store or bar owners to turn a blind eye or not educate staff, they risk revocation of their liquor license. Jada Brady, assistant director of the Ohio Liquor Control Commission, said the commission in 2008 revoked six licenses and issued fines or license suspensions in another 699 cases. These penalties increase as the age of the buyer drops. For example, a first-time offense of selling alcohol to a 20-year-old results in a $200 fine or a license suspension of two days while selling to a 17-year-old results in a $1,000 fine or 10-day suspension.

Multiple violations incur stiffer fines and suspensions.

On the other hand, there is absolutely no reason for clerks and wait staff to sell to underage drinkers. Everyone caught in the Oregon stings was charged with a first-degree misdemeanor subject to a fine of up to $1,000 and six months in jail. Most have already had their day in Oregon Municipal Court. The typical offender incurred $136 in fines and court costs. Add in the cost of an attorney and a convenience store clerk has to work a lot of hours to pay for a bad decision.

Hence, education may work here. And, it’s available. Employers can enroll employees in a training program called Responsible Alcohol Sales which is offered through The Community Partnership. The three-hour course costs $10 per employee.

So, where’s the good news?

Well, in the latest sting in Oregon, conducted over the Christmas holidays, only three of 14 clerks were cited. Maybe, efforts by law enforcement are paying off.

In other good news, 13 of the 29 businesses refused to sell alcohol to undercover operatives. In Oregon, they are: Buffalo Wild Wings, Corduroy Carryout, Kroger on Navarre, Navarre Carryout, Olney Market, Pearson’s Party Store, The Pharm on Wheeling, Ralphie’s and Rite-Aid on Navarre. In Genoa, The Bharmacy and Miller’s NewMarket also refused.

These responsible businesses deserve support. We should at least make it harder for underage youth to kill their brain cells.

For information about the training program for clerks and wait staff call Adorn Grabarczyk at 419-866-3611. Comment at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 
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