Stores preventing more underage liquor sales | News
In the past stores selling alcohol in the private sector had a dismal track record of selling to minors. Now that there are five times as many stores are selling alcohol after I-1183 went into effect, how well are stores doing to prevent minors from buying booze?
When Initiative 1183 went into effect on June 1 the number of stores selling hard alcohol grew from about 330 stores statewide to nearly 1,500. Our state has had a dismal track record when it comes to stores in the private sector selling alcohol to minors; one in four were caught in the most recent sting operations. State-run liquor stores had among the highest compliance rate at 94 percent.
But now that there are roughly five times more stores how are we faring?
It's been two years since the liquor control board has come down hard on stores selling alcohol. They found their undercover stings were doing little if anything to improve that 75 percent compliance rate in the private sector.
"We get excuses all the time, you know, generally speaking it's, you know they read the ID wrong," Lieutenant Rob Reynolds with the Washington State Liquor Control Board said.
One in four stores were selling to minors, so when I-1183 gave birth to 1,200 additional alcohol retailers across the state, Reynolds called in his ace: An 18-year-old who goes undercover to spot people selling liquor to minors like him.
"I actually feel really bad cause I've seen people fired on the spot," the teen said. But quickly followed up that what he does is a good thing.
The teen hides his identity for more than one reason.
"You don't go around your college friends and say you are trying to get people to not sell beer to minors," he explained.
The teen has gone in over 50 times and he's only been sold alcohol on four occasions.
On Monday he was out testing 10 different locations, including the Browne's Addition Rosauers, the Rite Aid downtown on Howard and the former state liquor store on 3rd Avenue.
"I just kinda walk in there being normal, go in there trying to buy as if I'm 21, go up there and say 'Hey how are you' or 'How's your day'," the teen said.
Did he get away with alcohol? At all 10 stores he tried to buy alcohol he failed, which is both good news and a growing trend. Since June 1 the liquor control board conducted 149 checks in Spokane alone; 25 retailers sold to the minor.
What used to be a 75 percent compliance rate is now an improved 82.6 percent.
"For the most part we find that people aren't intentionally out there trying to sell to kids just 'cause they want to it's just that they, they get lax," Reynolds said.
That's why, Reynolds said, education is the most important tool the liquor control board can use.
"We're trying to keep alcohol out of the hands of kids by holding the retailers responsible by checking them, keeping them on guard," he said.
If stores are caught selling to the undercover teen, Reynolds can issue a criminal citation with up to $5,000 in fines and a year in jail and the store's liquor license can be suspended or taken away. They also must go through an education course called the Responsible Vendor program.