Liquor establishments will face 3-day closure for selling to minor

Published 7:14 am Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Two area liquor establishments will close for three days sometime in the next month for selling to a minor, but the city council might consider changes to an ordinance that could alter how punishment is doled out in the future.

Bell Liquor on Main Street and Mickey’s Place on Second Avenue Northeast both failed liquor compliance checks in June and are facing $750 fines and three-day forced closures because the violations are their second.

In the compliance checks, the Austin Police Department used a 19-year-old Rochester student as a “buyer.” The individual was instructed to provide a valid ID if asked and to not lie about his or her age.

Email newsletter signup

In both circumstances, the individual was never asked by an employee for an ID and never asked to provide an age, Mark Walski, the officer who oversees the checks, told the council Monday.

Det. Brian Krueger of the APD said he believed the two violations discussed in front of the council Monday were the only two to receive public hearings so far this year.

Hearings are required for establishments that fail at least two checks within two years.

Krueger added that checks are done on every business that serves liquor in Austin and that more will be performed by the end of the year.

Robert Kokot, a co-owner of Bell Liquor, told the council that he was embarrassed about the violation and that he does everything he can to not sell to minors.

However, he said he thinks some of the blame — and punishment — should go to the employee who actually sold the liquor.

Kokot said it’s impossible to be at the store all the time to monitor workers, but if they were responsible for some part of a potential fine — a procedure that he said is used in Albert Lea — maybe they’d be more careful.

Some city council members were intrigued by the possibility, so they moved to further discuss the liquor violation ordinance at a future work session.

Currently, a first violation is a $500 fine. A second offense is $750 and a three-day suspension, while a third violation is $1,000 and a week. A fourth violation gets an establishment’s license revoked.

The council will discuss whether these are appropriate sanctions and whether owners, employees or both should be the target.

Mayor Tom Stiehm said he will likely look at ordinances from other cities to find some possibilities the council may want to explore.

Michelle Ely, co-owner of Mickey’s, said she agreed with Kokot and hoped the council would decide to make a change and levy at least some punishment on employees — a move she said would “slow down” sales to minors.