Underage drinking sting catches 8 businesses in Sammamish area
June 7, 2013
By Ari Cetron
New: June 7, 2:53 p.m.
Police say eight Sammamish-area businesses were caught selling alcohol to minors.
The Washington State Liquor Control Board, in conjunction with Sammamish Police, conducted a sting operation to see which businesses would sell alcohol to a minor. A 19-year-old woman, along with two officers from the liquor control board and a Sammamish police officer spent the afternoon from 2 to 9 p.m. June 1 going to the 21 Sammamish-area businesses that hold liquor licenses. Of those, 17 are in Sammamish while four are in Klahanie.
Seven of the alleged violators were in Sammamish; meaning 41 percent of the city’s businesses with a liquor license seem to have sold to a minor.
The enforcement action was, in part, a result of Sammamish’s efforts to curb teen drinking and driving, the Impaired Driving Education and Action project, said Sammamish Police Sgt. Jessica Sullivan. The project began when police officials realized that about 40 percent of driving under the influence cases in Sammamish involve minors.
While the liquor control board conducts such checks routinely around the state, Sammamish officials invited them to come to the city as part of the project, Sullivan said.
In the wake of the checks, six locations drew special attention from the liquor control board because of repeat offences: Mongolian Grill, Ristorante Simone, Lamponi Tai, August Moon, Rite Aid and Chan’s in Klahanie.
Each of these locations had been cited in an August 15, 2011 check, according to Capt. Jennifer Dzubay of the Washington State Liquor Control Board.
Since it’s a second violation in two years, each could face a suspension of their liquor license for up to seven days. In the case of Rite Aid, the suspension could be up to 14 days because the sale involved hard liquor. At this point, none of the businesses are in danger of losing their licenses altogether, Dzubay said.
Businesses cited can ask for an informal hearing with an attorney from the board to present their side of the story and offer mitigating evidence. If they present compelling evidence, they may have the penalty reduced. Alternatively, they could ask for a formal hearing before the Office of Administrative Hearings.
Businesses have 20 days from the date of formally receiving the violation to request a hearing. None had done so as of June 7, Dzubay said.
Two others businesses had an employee who sold alcohol to a minor as a first offense: 7-Eleven, and Safeway.
In all cases, police arrested the employee for furnishing alcohol to a minor. The people were not handcuffed, and officers tried to minimize the impact to normal business. according to the police report.
Officers from the liquor control board perform such compliance checks routinely across the state, said Brian Smith, spokesman for the liquor control board.
“We’re all over the state year-round,” Smith said.
Statewide, the compliance rate is high. Smith pointed to recent statistics showing the liquor retailers – stores that sell only hard liquor – had a compliance rate of 90.4 percent in April 2013. All retailers (including stores which sell beer and wine, bars and restaurants) had a rate of 86.5 percent that same month. Although the rates vary slightly from month to month, those results are typical.
Police congratulate businesses
Sammamish Police recognized the 10 city businesses that refused to sell alcohol to a minor. Police said these businesses are important partners in efforts to curb teen drinking and congratulated them for their efforts.
The businesses are 76 gas station, MOD Pizza, Bartell Drug, Spirit & Wine, Pine Lake Ale House, Plateau Shell, Jackson Shell, Pine Lake QFC, Chevron Brown Bear and La Casita.
Penalties for serving minors
State law calls for increasing penalties to be levied on businesses found to be serving alcohol to minors, or permitting minors to enter a tavern lounge or restricted area. Penalties are doubled if the offense involves serving a minor hard liquor. Violations stay on the businesses record for two years.
- First offense: $500 fine or five day suspension of liquor license
- Second 0ffense: Seven-day suspension
- Third offense: 30-day suspension
- Fourth offense: Cancellation of license