Three local businesses could find themselves fighting to keep their liquor licenses following a recent undercover operation conducted by the California Dept. of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) and the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Dept.
On March 19, deputies from the Sheriff’s Dept. and an underage decoy employed by ABC visited 19 stores licensed to sell liquor in Isla Vista and the eastern part of Goleta, according to a press release on the Sheriff’s Dept. website. The press release stated that clerks at two businesses in I.V. and one establishment in Goleta sold alcohol to the decoy and were immediately issued citations by ABC. The owners of all three establishments were notified by mail of the citations, and, according to the press release, the ABC is now responsible for deciding whether to suspend or revoke the businesses’ liquor licenses.
As of Friday evening, ABC spokesman John Carr said he could not confirm the names of the three cited businesses, and said he does not know the specific penalties each establishment will face. He ABC will decide how to handle the citations on an individual basis.
The first time a business is cited for selling alcohol to minors, the establishment’s owner may receive a fine or license suspension from the ABC, according to the agency’s website. The ABC will automatically suspend the owner’s liquor license if the business is cited again within three years of the first citation. A third citation can cause the owner to lose his or her liquor license permanently.
I.V. Foot Patrol (IVFP) Lt. Sol Linver said he thinks it is important for the ABC to monitor local businesses that sell alcohol, and said he wants the agency to continue conducting undercover operations on a regular basis.
“[Decoy programs] are a method of enforcing and conducting maintenance with the businesses to ensure they’re training their people and their people are acting appropriately,” Linver said. “I would like to see it done twice a year.”
Linver said he thinks ABC’s Minor Decoy Program, which started in 2004, is responsible for reducing the amount of liquor license violations in I.V. He said ABC and the IVFP are currently focused on keeping the number of violations in I.V. low.
“As compared to what it was, like, a year and a half ago or two years ago, when we had a lot of violations, it’s better now,” Linver said. “Right now we’re in the maintenance stage, so we’re reminding business owners that we’re there.”
Alex, a cashier at the Six-Pak Shop in I.V. who declined to give his last name, said he thinks most of I.V.’s liquor stores have been caught selling alcohol to minors at least once during the ABC’s undercover operations. He said the Six-Pak Shop currently takes many precautions to ensure it does not sell alcohol to customers under the age of 21 or tobacco to anyone under 18.
“Pretty much anyone that looks under the age of 25 or so gets targeted for tobacco and alcohol and we have a scanner and black lights to check for fake IDs,” Alex said. “There’s some things we look for on the IDs, that we have to check. Everyone has to take IDs out of their wallet and we have to look at each single one.”
Alex said cashiers at the liquor store receive special training to spot fake IDs before they are allowed to sell alcohol.
“We have seminars and stuff that they hold at churches in I.V., and before you’re allowed to work here we have stuff to sign and things we have to do for the county,” Alex said.
Alex said he thinks it is sometimes difficult to monitor the age of every customer trying to buy liquor, but he said he does it anyway.
“[The ABC’s regulations] make it so you have to ask everybody their age and, with a lot of people you can obviously tell they’re over 18 or over 21, but you still have to card them and they give you a hard time,” Alex said. “But it’s part of my job and you have to do it.”