Compliance checks questioned

Published 8:05 am Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The owner of Austin Liquor expressed his concerns Monday evening with the Austin Police Department’s alcohol compliance checks.

Stephen Francis Echert was found guilty at Monday’s city council meeting of selling liquor to a minor. But before the council voted unanimously to pursue the violation, Echert had a few words to say.

“I wouldn’t be here if I thought I was guilty,” Echert said as he first approached the podium Monday.

Email newsletter signup

Echert was first cited for the violation on the afternoon of Nov. 15., when a 19-year-old law enforcement student, under the direction of Officer Mark Walski, entered Austin Liquor and purchased a six-pack of Michelob Golden Light beer.

During Echert’s violation hearing at Monday’s council meeting, Walski said the student was directed to enter the store to purchase the item. However, Walski said the buyer was never asked to show fake identification or lie about his age — on the contrary. Walski said he tells all his buyers to tell their correct age and identification if the person selling the alcohol requests.

According to Echert, this procedure was not carried out by the buyer.

Echert said “red flags went off” when the buyer first entered the store. He then said the buyer put his head down near the counter, making it difficult for Echert to see what the young man looked like. While Echert never said he asked for the buyer’s I.D., he did say he asked for his age. Upon asking, he said the buyer groaned. In the end, Echert said he sold the beer to the underage buyer.

After hearing arguments from both Walsky and Echert, the council voted unanimously to find Echert guilty of the violation, but not before some discussion.

Council member Dick Pacholl, who was serving his last day on the council, said this case was a tough one for him, as he understood Echert’s concern.

The case wasn’t so gray for other council members, who all stated that, because Echert did not ask for I.D., the case was black and white.

Echert has been issued a $500 fine for the violation.