Isla Vista Market and a 7-Eleven in Goleta were busted for selling alcohol to minors earlier this month in a sting operation.
Conducted by the California Dept. of Alcoholic Beverage Control, sting operations rely on a decoy minor — a volunteer who is usually an underage police cadet, a student majoring in criminal justice or the child of an officer — to carry out their investigations. Decoys are not allowed to lie about their age and are required to have some form of California identification to give to the sales clerk.
Of the six local businesses that were randomly selected earlier this month, I.V. Market and the 7-Eleven were the only ones that sold alcohol to the decoy minor.
According to John Carr, public information officer of ABC, these operations are a routine procedure.
“We have a responsibility to visit all locations that sell and serve alcohol,” Carr said. “We choose at random to work out our logistics and run what we call compliance checks to make sure alcohol is not being sold or served to minors. We work out a way through the community and try to check all businesses over the course of a year.”
I.V. Market owner Lee Johnson, whose family has owned the store for 45 years, expressed his frustration with sting operations.
“I wish that they would just watch regular transactions on a normal day instead of hiring people to do a sting operation,” Johnson said.
Johnson said that he trains his employees to check the birth date, description and expiration date of ID cards, but sometimes precautions are not enough.
“We [the owners] can’t do anything more than what we do,” Johnson said. “We can’t run all the transactions ourselves. The employees are trained to ID every time and take their time to do it properly.”
According to Johnson, there was a ban on selling alcohol in Isla Vista about 30 years ago. Ever since then, I.V. Market has had their liquor license without any incidents with the ABC.
“We’ve never had this happen and never paid a fine,” Johnson said. “We’re the only store that’s never been fined in Isla Vista.”
The sting operation was also carried out at Keg-N-Bottle, but the decoy was denied alcohol.
“The decoy came in and the cashier asked for ID,” manager Samer Ballo said. “[The employee] saw that she was underage, handed the ID to her manager and the manager told her she could not purchase the alcohol.”
ABC takes administrative action against the alcoholic beverage license of the locations where the violations occurred, including fines, a suspension of a license or the permanent revocation of a license.
“If a business has a good clean track record, the department definitely takes that into consideration and decides a reasonable punishment,” Carr said.
Clerks who sell to the decoy face a minimum fine of $250 and/or 24 to 32 hours of community service and the possibility of dismissal from their workplace.