SLA undercover ops an inspiring idea for employers

Like so many things in life, the excuse “But I had no idea this was happening!” doesn’t hold water with the SLA when you are talking about employees violating ABC rules and regulations. In their eyes, not knowing how your employees are behaving signals that you do not have control of the licensed premises – a big no-no to the SLA.

One of the practices that the SLA carefully monitors is underage alcohol sales. New York retail licensees must be sure their employees strictly enforce ID rules. The SLA’s primary enforcement effort so far in 2013 has been underage sting operations. In the past 10 days, the SLA sent undercover minors as decoys to 201 grocery and liquor stores to purchase alcohol. Almost half these establishments sold to the minors and were charged with underage sales violations.

Fines for first-time offenses are $2,500-$3,000, but they can be as high as $10,000 per violation. If you have been caught before, expect repeat offender treatment to include potential suspension or revocation of your license. Even more embarrassing can be the media release announcing the charges against your business. In this age, the negative press remains plastered across the internet forever.

The concept of using undercover decoys may seem underhanded, but it makes sense. If you have ever watched shows like “Bar Rescue” or “Restaurant Stakeout,” you are aware of how different employees act when the owner or boss are away. These shows use undercover cameras to expose startling behavior of irresponsible employees.

Have you ever wondered how your employees operate the premises when you are away? Perhaps the SLA’s undercover investigations can inspire you to do a bit of your own Special Ops on your crew and operations. The best results are when you use a professional outside consultant to conduct an independent analysis and undercover evaluation. However, if you are on a shoestring budget, consider setting up your own undercover decoy with a friend or family member. Most college students (even high school students) would love the excitement of the assignment and the opportunity to earn a little spending money. I know a few veterans that use their own staff to “visit” the business of another colleague’s establishment. Essentially, they trade services to evaluate one another’s weaknesses. This can be a great and cost-effective plan for a business owner.

Not convinced? Do the math. The ROI is a no-brainer. A typical charge for an SLA violation will cost $4,000-$15,000 in fines and legal fees. It also creates a record that will follow the licensee forever. Hiring an experienced professional to do an undercover investigation for a few hours is likely to cost you $500-$2,000. You also get the benefit of weeding out problem employees and send a message to other employees that you mean business. It’s a good investment no matter how you look at it.

Tracy Jong Law Firm would be pleased to help train your staff or conduct an undercover investigation. Contact our office to protect yourself against potential costly SLA violations.