AN INSIDE LOOK - Commentary and opinions on local politics and life in general in Southeastern Massachusetts! Featuring the writings of Bill Gouveia, newspaper columnist for the Sun Chronicle and local cable TV talk show host. Feel free to read, comment and enjoy!
Thursday, October 23, 2014
Time To Get Tough With Liquor Violators
This column originally appeared in The Sun Chronicle on October 17, 2014.
AN INSIDE LOOK
By Bill Gouveia
If local officials want both license
holders and the public to consider the sale of alcoholic beverages to minors a
really big deal, they had better start treating it as such.
Despite the growing emphasis on
preventing the sale of such products to those under the legal age of 21, it
continues to happen with alarming regularity throughout this area.There is simply no excuse for it, and neither
the licensing authorities nor the general public should tolerate it.
No one is disputing the difficulty
bars, restaurants and liquor/package stores face in preventing increasingly
sophisticated attempts by those underage to obtain alcohol.With the ability to create realistic-looking
IDs with nothing more than a laptop and printer, the job of those holding these
licenses is tougher than ever.
But failure to even attempt to check
and verify the age of patrons is something that must be treated harshly and
severely.For the most part, area
licensing authorities have been far too lenient and forgiving when it comes to
this serious issue.That needs to stop
How many times have you read about
local establishments being caught selling to minors during routine compliance
checks?These "sting" operations
are hardly unusual or unexpected.They
are conducted on a regular basis, and establishment owners usually receive
letters warning them they may be visited in such a manner.
The latest incidents occurred in
Foxboro, where the police department sent a 19-year-old into 29 different
establishments on a Thursday night.The
youth was allegedly served at nine of those businesses without an ID check,
despite the avoidance of the busy weekend crowds.If the violations are confirmed, that is an
More than that, it is a slap in the
face to both Foxboro police and selectmen.It clearly and without doubt says license holders are not taking either
the punishments or the problem seriously.It is disrespectful in every way.
This is not unique to Foxboro.We have seen the same situations in many
other communities.But when Foxboro police conducted a
similar operation last fall, three establishments were found to have served a
minor.They all agreed to accept
punishments for their violations.
All three were issued letters of
reprimand.One was given a one-day suspension.That establishment was allowed to pick the
day of their punishment.
Here's hoping these businesses all
managed to recover from that harsh treatment.No doubt they learned a valuable lesson after being made to pay such a
high price.That is sarcasm, in case
anyone is wondering.
To be fair, selectmen do not have
complete control over handing out punishments to liquor law violators.Their actions are subject to appeal to the
ABCC (Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission) and must meet standards that
state board considers fair and reasonable.
But if local officials don't start
getting tough on those placing alcohol in the hands of minors, then why should
the ABCC?The punishments have to start
fitting the seriousness of the act.
There is no reason why any liquor
establishment found guilty of serving a minor without checking for ID should
not lose their license for at least three days on a first offense.And those days should be served at the
direction of the licensing authority, not hand-picked by the violators.
Everyone understands these are trying
economic times.No one wants to hurt
local businesses.It is difficult for
owners to be totally responsible for every action of every employee.Being unable to serve or sell alcohol for
three days can be an awful economic hardship.After all, mistakes do happen.
But when your mistake is serving a
minor, the result is often dead kids.That trumps worries about keeping local businesses afloat.
The strategy of telling licensees
"If you do that again, you are in big trouble" is no more effective
than when parents use it.If you want to
be taken seriously, you have to act seriously.
If found guilty, there should be no
sympathy for any of these nine establishments.
Here's hoping Foxboro selectmen set a
firm example for their own town and neighboring communities by treating this
situation properly.If they don't, then there is no reason to run those compliance checks
again next year.
Bill Gouveia is a local columnist and
longtime area town official.He can be
emailed at email@example.com and followed on Twitter at @Billinsidelook.
This column originally appeared in The Sun Chronicle op