News 12 at 6, November 2, 2007
RICHMOND COUNTY, GA - When's the last time you were carded when buying alcohol? If you're older, you might find it flattering. But if you're the clerk or store owner, it's not about flattery, it’s about finances.
12 On Your Side spent a recent night with the Alcohol and Tobacco Division of the Georgia Department of Revenue on an undercover sting.
Don't card and it's just a matter of time before you can make a costly mistake if you think someone is 21 and you're wrong. Selling alcohol to minors means losing money, your liquor license and your livelihood.
Night after night, store after store, chances are teens somewhere are buying alcohol.
It's a trend the ATD works hard to stop. They go undercover trying to bust stores that are breaking the law.
But they've never had to bust Steven's Creek Wine and Spirits owner Greg Kent.
"We have signs posted all over. All employees much check ids." Greg said.
Greg is a rarity. He's never been cited by the Department of Revenue for selling to a minor.
It's a line of work that keeps a roof over his family's head and food on the plates.
"I have 2 small kids." he said.
It's a line of work he can't jeopardize by selling to minors.
But not too long ago, undercover ATD agents busted several businesses that weren't taking things as seriously as Greg.
During a recent sting, 21 businesses were tested, 7 failed. That means the clerk who sold the beer and the business are cited. First offenses carry a $500 fine. After that many have their liquor license suspended and could then lose the license altogether.
Of the 7 business that were cited, for 6 of them it was their first offense. So they paid a 500-dollar fine and had their license put on probation for a year.
Those six are:
First Stop on Gordon Highway
One Stop Convenience Store on Barton Chapel Rd.
Somewhere in Augusta
Teresa's Mexican Restaurant (Walton Way)
Walton Way Wine & Spirits
The K's Mart on Gordon Highway has been cited before. ATD agents say there's a good chance its owners will pay a $1,000 fine and then possibly have their liquor license suspended.
For the 7 clerks cited, many are still going through the legal process.
Pleaded No Contest:
Which agents say will all bring the same punishment, a $500 fine.
These 4 have requested jury trials or a continuance. Meaning it could be a while before it's known if they will face any punishment.
*Chang Park--Requested Continuance
Those are situations Greg can't afford to get into and he's had to learn to spot the fake ids.
"We keep the photo id photo guide book here. And we take 'em! We take 'em if we can catch 'em." Greg said emphatically.
And it's something his clerks take seriously too.
"We really put the fear of god into 'em. Most of the kids who work here are going to college and can't afford it." he said.
Greg can't either.
"This is our livelihood here. My family depends on this. If lose the liquor license. We're down. We're not eating," Greg said.
Most of the businesses cited in that recent ATD sting will be in court next week to find out their punishments.
Just in the past year, in Richmond County, one of the ATD agents we talked to said he checked 118 businesses last year. He said 35 of them sold to a minor, which comes out to 33 percent, which is the same percentage we found on the sting we went on.