Fines Issued For Underage Alcohol Sales
SNOW HILL -- Businesses found in violation of alcohol sales to minors were able to escape Wednesday’s Board of License Commissioners meeting (BLC) with minimal fines. However, board President William Esham warned two of the three violators that they were walking on thin ice.
“It just can’t continue to happen,” Esham told Robert Jester, owner of Trader Lee’s in West Ocean City.
Esham noted 12 checks on the establishment’s record, eight of which had been passed. Attorney Joe Moore, who represented Jester, stressed four failures were not too excessive. “It is not a recurring circumstance,” he said.
Moore also asked for mitigation for the last violation, since it was not a lack of training of staff that was responsible for the infraction. Instead, Moore pointed out that the cashier who made the actual sale had asked the cadet for an ID, but had mixed up the date, mistakenly believing the underage cadet was 21.
Jester was fined $1,000 for the violation and Esham added that he was getting off lightly. Besides the fine, Esham also asked Jester to apologize to Sheriff’s Deputy Chris Larmore, the officer whose cadet had made the purchase.
After the incident, explained Larmore, Jester had followed the cadet out of the store and complained to the deputy that his store was being unfairly targeted, as it had gone through several compliance checks in a relatively short period of time. Larmore informed the BLC that it was police policy to check on businesses that have prior violations more often than those with no infractions.
“The more you berate them [the police] the more they’re going to come,” Esham told Jester. “You cannot and you will not do that again.”
Another business that received a fine at the meeting was the 7-Eleven in Ocean Pines. The location has more than one violation on record. Of five compliance checks by the sheriff’s department, three resulted in an illegal sale to an underage cadet.
However, Moore, who also represented the 7-Eleven, explained the 7-Eleven franchise offers an in-house watchdog program called “secret shopper” where underage employees will visit store locations and attempt to purchase alcohol illegally. Moore added owner Jim Hughes pays to have shoppers come in monthly as an added measure to train employees.
The BLC also decided to fine Hughes $1,000.
The third business to come before the board for a failed compliance check was Barley Hops and Grapes. Unlike the other two cases, it had no prior violations on record and a warning was issued.