The rows of empty shelves in Hollister Avenue’s Rite Aid bear testament to the sobering powers of the Alcoholic Beverage Control.
In the wake of its third “sale of alcohol to a minor” violation, Isla Vista’s closest Rite Aid is temporarily stripped of its alcohol license thanks to a report of Legal Actions filed by the ABC in February 2007.
ABC spokesman and officer John Carr said his department was able to take action against Rite Aid because the store violated the California Business and Professions Code. According to the code, the ABC can revoke a liquor license when a business is caught selling alcohol to minors three times within a three-year period.
“[The first incident] occurred in October of 2004, then March 2005, then October 2006 – three times in a 36 month period,” Carr said. “As a result, their license will be suspended indefinitely. We haven’t determined a date.”
According to Carr, law enforcement used several different tactics to discover Rite Aid’s three-time infringement of the law, including sending an underage individual into the store as a decoy to try and purchase alcohol.
“We have a responsibility to conduct a compliance check operation to help keep alcohol out of the hands of minors,” Carr said. “At least one was a decoy operation. There are a couple different ways to check. But nonetheless, three times the store sold alcoholic beverages to minors, and law enforcements were able to determine that sales to minors occurred, and therefore we filed accusations against the premises.”
Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Dept. spokesman Alex Tipolt said the business’ breach of code is an indicator of prevalent issues within and outside the I.V. community.
“In the I.V. area, it is problematic with many outlying areas,” Tipolt said. “If you go outside to the Rite Aid area, we encounter many minors with fake IDs or propositional people to purchase [alcohol] for them.”
Rite Aid employees refused to comment on the matter.
Additionally, it is possible that Rite Aid may never get its license back. According to Carr, suspended licenses are often resold to other business deemed more responsible after a lengthy licensing process.
“The people who own the store had the license through the state of California,” Carr said. “Once the indefinite suspension kicks in, they cannot sell alcohol. There will be a period where they can transfer their license to another party.”
Alcohol licenses are not casually distributed, Carr said, noting that many different local entities must approve the license as well as the ABC.
“ABC, by law, has to notify the local community that someone is applying for an alcohol license,” Carr said. “That way they can give their input. We forward applications to the police chief, city council [and] planning department.”
Although ABC files accusations against licensed businesses for several different types of alcohol related violations, Carr said that the sale of alcohol to minors is one of ABC’s greatest concerns.
“In the state of California between 2006 and 2007 there were over 2,800 cases involving sales of alcoholic beverages to minors,” Carr said. “Considering over 200 people under the age of 21 died in alcohol related crashes last year in California, that’s too many tragedies and too much pain and grief for communities, schools and families, and anything we can do to prevent the selling of alcohol to minors or the furnishing of alcohol to minors, anything we can do to prevent that may help reduce the number of these tragedies from happening.”