Almost 20% of alcohol establishments in ABC sweep fined for serving to minors

by Michael Tilley (mtilley@talkbusiness.net) 962 views 

Several underage Arkansans volunteered over the July 4th holiday to try and buy alcohol. Many were successful. Who solicited them to volunteer? The state of Arkansas.

Arkansas’ Alcohol Beverage Control (ABC) Enforcement Division conducted its first ever statewide sweep dubbed “Operation Check-In,” with 18 ABC agents visiting 740 operations that hold an alcohol permit. The ABC is an agency of the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration (DFA).

In the stops at liquor stores, bars, convenience stores and other establishments, 142 tickets were written for selling alcohol to minors – or almost 1 out of 5 (19.2%) of permit holders selling to a minor. Agents also wrote 147 tickets for other violations, which may include consuming alcohol while working, possession of drug paraphernalia, overserving, and allowing prostitution on the premise.

“Our agents covered a lot of ground over a short period, providing a strong reminder that non-compliance is not tolerated,” Boyce Hamlet, director of ABC’s Enforcement Division, said in a statement. “When someone sells to a minor or overserves, it becomes a public safety issue and it is our responsibility to ensure this behavior is detected and discontinued.”

“Operation Check-In” was coordinated with law enforcement agencies around the state, and is part of ABC’s effort to monitor the more than 5,000 active alcohol permits.

Scott Hardin, the DFA communications director, said underage volunteers also worked with ABC agents and other law enforcement officers during the holiday sweep.

“They presented real IDs (his or her actual ID) in each situation. ABC policy requires each individual present an actual ID (their own),” Hardin noted in an e-mail interview with Talk Business & Politics. “Those that served to minors either did not ask for an ID and served or asked for an ID, looked at it (clearly showing the individual is underage) and still served.”

The employee of an establishment who sold alcohol to a minor and the permit holder for the establishment are fined when alcohol is sold to a minor. Hardin said the amount depends on several factors, including if there are previous violations.

One establishment with previous violations is Colton’s Steak House & Grill in Van Buren (Crawford County). The Little Rock-based chain was cited three times in less than a year for serving alcohol to minors at its Van Buren restaurant. A May 5, 2017, violation resulted in a $700 fine, a June 20, 2017, violation cost the chain $1,000, and an April 13, 2018, violation carried a $3,000 fine.

“There isn’t a specific formula as this is at the discretion of ABC’s Director,” Hardin said when asked how many fines before a restaurant or other establishment loses an alcohol permit. “Each case is unique, with many factors in the decision to pull the permit. In some cases, one major violation may be enough while another may take years of ongoing, minor violations.”

The list of operations ticketed during the July 4th sweep could be available later this week, Hardin said.

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