Liquor compliance checks planned

Published 12:00 am Thursday, November 18, 1999

From staff reports

Local police and sheriff’s deputies will be doing checks of local taverns soon to ensure they are not selling alcohol to minors.

Thursday, November 18, 1999

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Local police and sheriff’s deputies will be doing checks of local taverns soon to ensure they are not selling alcohol to minors.

Tom Ludford, a 39-year veteran with the Minnesota State Patrol, has been working for the Alcohol and Gambling Division of the Minnesota Department of Public Safety since his retirement two years ago. He met with tavern owners Wednesday at the American Legion to explain how compliance checks will be done.

Ludford said the goal was not to embarrass people, but to educate them on how they can remain compliant and keep juveniles out. To do so, he said that those businesses selling alcohol should continue to card anyone who appears to be under the age of 30.

&uot;This may upset some of your customers and you may lose their business for a time. Very often, however, they will come back when they realize that what you’re doing is protecting your business.&uot;

It is a gross misdemeanor to sell alcohol to a minor in Minnesota, and the citation carries a maximum penalty of a $3,000 fine and a year in jail. The citation for a minor is a misdemeanor, with the penalty not as severe.

Businesses caught selling to minors may also face a civil fine between $500 and $2,000 and may have their liquor license sanctioned for 60 days.

Underage drinking is costly not only to the business, but the community as well, Ludford said.

&uot;We see a lot of vandalism, outrageous behavior, pregnancy, and all of these things can be related to underage consumption,&uot; Ludford said.

The state and federal governments have provided funding for the compliance checks that will be performed by local law enforcement. Off duty deputies or city officers will go to a business and an underage person employed by the department will go in and attempt to buy alcohol. If the juvenile, usually 18 or 19, is successful, the deputies will return to the business and quietly confront the server.

&uot;No one will be arrested and our intent is not to embarrass anyone,&uot; Ludford said. &uot;The officers have been told to be polite, but to do their jobs and talk to the individual about what occurred and the potential penalty. The matter will then be turned over to a county prosecutor.&uot;

Businesses that pass the compliance tests will be informed by mail in the next 10 to 14 days, Ludford said.

The officers will be paid time and a half for making the checks and juveniles will be paid $8 an hour to work with the deputies.

Randy Drager of the Redwood Falls Credit Bureau attended the meeting and demonstrated technology designed to digitally verify identification cards. The machine is exactly like a credit card machine used by most businesses and the software was written by the Credit Bureau, Drager said. Around 23 business statewide have been testing the machines in the last 60 days without any trouble, Drager said.

Businesses that use the machines would pay an installation fee of $250 and an administrative fee based on the number of verifications made each month.

Before, many businesses have had employees to check each card individually and they then issued special tamper resistant bracelets or ink stamps to indicate that a patron’s I.D. card has been checked.

The new technology gives businesses an added measure to ward off those juveniles attempting to purchase, said Drager. Similar technology has been used in Texas for two years, he said.