More ABC sting info released

Written by Christina O'Haver, The Union Democrat March 14, 2013 08:31 am

The Tuolumne County Sheriff’s Office on Wednesday released the names of nine businesses where clerks allegedly sold alcohol to minors during a Saturday sting operation.

Six minors attempted to buy alcohol from 47 businesses in the county that are licensed by the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control.

The Sheriff’s Office cited clerks at 7-Eleven, Twain Harte Golf Club and Confidence Inn in Twain Harte; Corner Gas and Zane’s Iron Horse Lounge in Sonora; C & C Mini Mart and Sierra Energy in Jamestown; and Miner’s Mart and Pizza Factory in Groveland.

The clerks either didn’t ask the decoys for identification or didn’t read the IDs closely, the Sheriff’s Office said. 

They have been reported to the District Attorney’s Office and could face misdemeanor charges, Sheriff’s Sgt. James Oliver said.

ABC will review the businesses and could take disciplinary action.

A first-time sale of alcohol to a minor by an ABC licensed business may result in a fine or license suspension for the business. A second sale within a three-year period is an automatic license suspension. A third sale within a three-year period can result in license revocation.

“We definitely don’t make a practice of selling to minors; all of our local patrons know that,” Miner’s Mart owner Terri Wemmer said in a telephone interview Wednesday. “It was a mistake and hopefully it doesn’t have any long-term effects on the clerk.”

Wemmer said she hires an outside company to conduct stings on her store twice a month.

She attributed Saturday’s incident to a miscalculation by the clerk and said she has ordered an ID-scanning device that computes ages.

Wemmer said she will wait to see what happens in court before deciding whether to penalize the clerk.  

“None of them would do this intentionally,” she said of her employees. “I’m not trying to make it less than it is, but anybody can make a mistake.”

Pat Clement, longtime owner of Confidence Inn, said her bartender also miscalculated the date when she carded the decoy.

Clement doesn’t intend to punish the bartender, who has worked in food and beverage service about 30 years without being cited for selling to minors, she said. 

“This is the last thing any of us ever dreamed would happen,” she said in a telephone interview. “We were shocked.”

Another Twain Harte business, a 7-Eleven franchise, could be penalized by the corporation for allegedly failing the sting.

“We wait until after the franchisee defends his store and to see what the final disposition is from ABC before we take action — which could be a notice of breach of the 7-Eleven agreement,” corporate spokeswoman Margaret Chabris said in an email. 

Chabris said 7-Eleven cracked down on the selling of alcohol to minors in 1984, when it implemented its “Come of Age” program.

The program expanded a decade later to include all age-restricted products such as tobacco, lottery tickets and potential inhalants. 

The program includes computer-based training for stores, quizzes, simulations and in-store signs reminding personnel to ID customers who look under age 30.

About a year ago, the company spent roughly $1 million to add ID scanners in 1,600 California stores. 

Representatives of the local 7-Eleven declined to comment, as did representatives of Twain Harte Golf Club, Sierra Energy and Corner Gas. 

The owners of C & C Mini Mart, Pizza Factory and Zane’s did not return requests for comment Wednesday.

The Sheriff’s Office occasionally conducts minor decoy programs, but last weekend’s sting was orchestrated by a local high school student for a mandatory senior project.

The student, whose name and school are not being released, contacted Sheriff Jim Mele several months ago to ask for his approval in organizing the program.

“I think the program was wonderful,” Clement said. “I think it should continue … I don’t believe in serving minors, I just don’t.”