ABC crackdown

39 businesses cited for alcohol sales to minors

(Published August 25, 2003)

By GINA PONCE

Staff Writer

In an attempt to decrease the number of alcoholic beverage sales to minors in the District, the D.C. Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration began holding one-week merchant training classes in June for businesses operating with a liquor license.

"Our goal was to train every merchant in this city on how to sell alcoholic beverages responsibly and help them be able to spot and check identifications of individuals that appear to be under the age of 21," said Cynthia Simms, community resource officer for ABRA.

The Office of Juvenile Justice Delinquency Prevention, which awards grants toward enforcement of underage drinking laws, this year gave more than $1 million to ABRA to help ensure compliance during the next three years. ABRA is using the grant money to work with the Metropolitan Police Department and the National Capital Coalition to Prevent Underage Drinking on enforcement programs.

Simms said 39 businesses with ABC licenses sold alcohol to minors during compliance checks conducted in July.

ABRA Director Maria Delaney said she hopes the training sessions will help businesses to improve their procedures for checking customers’ identification to ensure they are at least 21 years old when they attempt to purchase alcoholic beverages.

The July compliance checks were a joint effort of ABRA, MPD and trained youth from NCCPUD, who served as the underage buyers. Delaney said the minors who participated in the compliance checks did not use fake identification or lie about their age. She said no one was used who looked over the age of 21 and the young people were not accompanied by adults when they entered the establishments.

In some cases, Delaney said, the minors may not have had any identification document with them and, if they did, information on D.C. licenses and permits is printed vertically if the holder of that identification is under 21.

Delaney said that during the two-hour training session, merchants learned "how to use their senses." She said they were taught how to feel a license to make sure there is no overlay on it, how to look at an identification to make sure there are no alterations, how to look at the person to make sure they are one in the same with the identification and how to make sure it is a valid identification document.

Simms said compliance checks will continue to be conducted for two or three days of every week. Businesses that sold to minors in July will be required to meet with ABRA officials and may be required to appear before the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board, which would decide the amount of their fine and whether to suspend their liquor license, if multiple infractions were involved.

"There will be at least a fine" for all 39 businesses that sold to minors during the compliance checks, Delaney said. She said when businesses were caught not in compliance with the law, some of them denied the sale until an MPD officer indicated that the sale to a minor was observed. Some cashiers say they did the math incorrectly when checking an ID card, Delaney said, while others do not seem to care.

Simms said other training sessions are being planned in hopes of reaching the more than 1,500 businesses in the District that operate with a license to sell alcoholic beverages.

These are the businesses that sold to minors during the July compliance checks:

Copyright 2003, The Common Denominator