SLA sends warning for selling alcohol to minors

In June, the New York State Liquor Authority (“SLA”) conducted an underage decoy detail in western New York, targeting 124 licensed convenience stores and charged 41 of those stores, located in Buffalo, Niagara Falls and Rochester, with selling alcohol to minors. This sting marks the largest underage operation ever conducted by the SLA.

The underage decoys entered the premises and attempted to purchase alcoholic beverages. At some of the locations, the decoys were never even asked to show proof of identification. At all locations, though, the decoys gave their real birth dates, indicating that they are under 21years old.

Of the 124 targeted locations, 83 convenience store clerks refused to sell to the decoys. The 41 stores that sold to the decoys face serious penalties, such as fines of up to $10,000 per violation. First time offenders face fines of at least $2,500, and repeat offenders may face license suspension or revocation. Even more, employees or licensees can be arrested and charged with a misdemeanor for selling alcohol to a minor.

Once an alcoholic beverage license is approved, the licensee assumes the responsibility of adhering to New York State liquor law. License holders should beware that it is the licensee who is responsible for civil penalties given for non-compliance, even if an employee of the premises was directly at fault. Moreover, the SLA is stepping up its regulations measures, making it even more important that licensees stay in compliance. SLA Chairman Dennis Rosen confirmed this in a statement saying that “The State Liquor Authority is committed to cracking down on underage sales.”

The crackdown is not limited to convenience stores. Licensees of any type of alcohol beverage license should be aware that the SLA is sweeping through all types of establishments. In order to avoid charges and face SLA disciplinary proceedings, licensees should stay informed of SLA regulations and State liquor law and educate employees to ensure compliance. Should a licensee face SLA proceedings, hiring an attorney who is knowledgeable in the area can be a valuable tool to resolving the situation with overall less cost than attempting to go at it alone.