Six cited for underage beer sales

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 10, 2004

The N.C. Division of Alcohol Law Enforcement (ALE) conducted an undercover alcohol compliance check operation in Hertford and Gates counties on March 2.

Of the 15 randomly chosen locations checked, six sold beer to the underage person.

&uot;We train employees of these establishments to check the ID’s of anyone who looks to be underage,&uot; said ALE District Supervisor Pat Forbis. &uot;Four of the clerks who were cited did check the ID, but still sold to the minor. We still have work to do to keep young people from getting illegal access to alcohol.&uot;

The six clerks cited in the undercover operation worked at the following local businesses:

Red Apple #8, North Academy Street, Ahoskie.

Ahoskie Food Center, North Academy Street, Ahoskie.

Duck Thru, North Academy Street, Ahoskie.

Duck Thru #3, NC 561 West, Ahoskie.

Red Apple #23, US 13 North, Ahoskie.

Dave’s Place, US 13 just north of the Winton bridge.

Employees in the store who violated the law were issued criminal citations for selling alcoholic beverages to a person less 21 years of age.

In addition, an administrative violation report against the owner of the establishment will be submitted to the Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) Commission in Raleigh, who may impose additional penalties.

Forbis said that ALE purposely uses a teenager, who volunteers for the assignment, with a valid identification to serve as the customer attempting to purchase beer.

&uot;If asked his age without showing identification, these young people are trained to answer truthfully,&uot; stressed Forbis. &uot;The young man we used in the Hertford and Gates county operation was 18.&uot;

He continued, &uot;We even went as far as to first use what we call an age check. We first took this young man to Wal-Mart and to Food Lion where we randomly asked 10 or 12 people at each location to guess the young man’s age. The majority answered in the 16-to-18 year-old range. By doing that, we felt comfortable with the fact that we had chosen a young man that indeed looked his age. It’s not like we chose a young person that appeared to look older than they actually were. Therefore, we did not deceive the clerks at the stores we checked.&uot;

Forbis passed along praise to the nine local businesses that did check the young man’s identification and refused to allow him to purchase beer. They were: Trade Mart (North Academy St., Ahoskie), Red Apple #34 (NC 42 West, Ahoskie), Big Daddy’s (NC 42 West, Ahoskie), Red Apple #19 (East Memorial Drive, Ahoskie), Duck Thru (East Memorial Drive, Ahoskie), Chubbies Sports Bar (Jersey St., Ahoskie), Duck Thru #4 (Cofield), Red Apple #11 (Main St., Winton) and Duck Thru #18 (Main St., Winton).

&uot;In a perfect world, we would have zero violations,&uot; noted Forbis. &uot;But this is not a perfect world. We’re attempting, through educating store clerks to closely check ID’s and through our Keys to Life program offered at the high school and middle school levels, to have a buy rate of 10 percent – one sale among 10 stores.&uot;

Forbis said the beer and wine retail outlets are his department’s first line of defense against the sale of alcohol to minors.

&uot;It’s not like we out on a mission to cite these clerks for breaking the law,&uot; he stressed. &uot;We would much rather teach them to take that extra few seconds to ask for an ID and then take their time in checking it. Our top priority is making each and every effort at our disposal to keep alcohol out of the hands of our children.&uot;

Statistics show that alcohol kills 6.5 times more young people under the age of 21 than all other illicit drugs combined and is the drug of choice for underage persons in North Carolina. Although underage persons obtain alcoholic beverages from many sources, reducing the source of supply through retail compliance checks has been shown to be one of the most effective strategies to reduce underage drinking.

ALE is a division of the Department of Crime Control and Public Safety. The division’s field agents have statewide authority to enforce drug laws and laws dealing with the legal and illegal manufacture, sale, consumption, distribution and transportation of alcoholic beverages. ALE puts special emphasis on enforcing laws against the possession of alcohol by underage persons, and the prevention of violent crimes due to alcohol and drug abuse.