State Briefs

Posted: Wednesday, February 12, 2003

MADD tests local liquor stores

JUNEAU - More than half of Juneau's liquor stores were willing to sell alcohol without asking a young buyer for ID, according to an informal study conducted by a local alcohol awareness group.

Youth in Action, a division of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, recently conducted an experiment to see which Juneau liquor stores would ask for ID from a young person buying alcohol. The project, said Program Coordinator Jessica Paris, was a statistics-gathering mission to bolster the groups' stance that Alaska needs tougher laws to keep minors from drinking.

Over the course of eight weeks the group sent a boy and a girl, both 21, into 14 of the 15 liquor stores in Juneau, twice. Of the 14 stores, only six consistently refused to sell alcohol unless the person produced ID. At the remaining stores, some sold without ID on one visit but not the other, and others never carded. The names of the stores that sold alcohol without ID weren't released.

Police Lt. Walt Boman said the stores broke no law because clerks and proprietors don't have to check the ID of anyone who looks older than 16. But Boman said he was disappointed so many of the stores were willing to sell alcohol to young people without ID and commended the group for taking the initiative to conduct the operation.

Kac'e McDowell, executive director for the Cabaret, Hotel, and Restaurant Retailers Association, said clerks may have shown bad judgment. She said CHARR, which represents the interests of businesses that sell or serve alcohol, encourages diligent ID checking of everyone, no matter how old he or she looks. McDowell said she would discuss the sting's results with CHARR's Juneau chapter to see if more training is needed for store clerks.

Ill senator returns to work

JUNEAU - Sen. Ralph Seekins, a Fairbanks Republican who passed out during a committee hearing Tuesday, is back on the job.

Seekins, 57, returned to work Tuesday afternoon and said doctors at Bartlett Regional Hospital have not been able to determine why he had a fainting spell. Seekins appeared to slump to one side during the Senate Finance Committee on Tuesday morning.

Seekins said he has been suffering from the flu recently but was not taking medication for it. He had not eaten breakfast that morning and had walked up several flights of stairs immediately before the meeting. Doctors said this may have contributed to the fainting spell, Seekins said.

Tests checking for heart problems came back negative. Seekins suffered a head injury in January when he was hit by a hockey puck, but he said tests revealed no lasting damage.

Homer says 'no' to big box stores

ANCHORAGE - Faced with the prospect of a Fred Meyer store opening in town, the Homer City Council voted Monday to ban, at least temporarily, construction of stores larger than 40,000 square feet.

The measure passed on a 4-3 vote. The council also created a task force to draw up standards for large stores.

Fred Meyer is in negotiations to buy undeveloped land in Homer for a 70,000-square-foot store. The town's largest stores are about 20,000 square feet.

Large-store critics say the city should follow the lead of towns in the Lower 48 that have taken steps to protect existing small businesses and civic character. The land sought by Fred Meyer is part of an area that has been eyed as a potential town center.

Opponents of the size limit said a big store would draw more business to Homer. They warned a big store might be built outside city limits, thereby underselling Homer businesses without providing sales tax revenue to the city.

The council will revisit the store-size question after the task force completes its work in the coming months, said Planning Commissioner Bill Smith.

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