A 15-year-old girl found it entirely too easy to buy alcohol in Juneau earlier this month, a Juneau-based investigator for the Alaska Alcoholic Beverage Control Board said Tuesday.
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Ed Kalwara said he found it "disturbing" that six businesses in the capital were cited among the 21 checked during an undercover operation that ran between July 7 and July 13 in Southeast Alaska, in conjunction with tobacco enforcement officers.
"That is not a very good ratio," Kalwara said.
A sweep in November 2005 found a smaller number of violations with a 12 percent failure rate among 45 Juneau liquor stores, bars and restaurants licensed to serve alcohol. The recent sweep had a failure rate exceeding 28 percent.
Haines and Skagway did better than Juneau this month, Kalwara said. No violations were found in visits to seven establishments in Skagway and four businesses in Haines. Hoonah Liquor Store was the only business cited when all four liquor licensees were checked in that town. The state ferry Fairweather, en route from Juneau during the compliance checks, also refused to sell alcohol to a teenager working undercover for the ABC, Kalwara said.
The checks involved an 18-year-old boy and a 15-year-old girl, but all of the Juneau checks were done with the girl, he said.
"We're all human and all humans have made mistakes," said Rob Harris, owner of Henry's Food and Spirits in the Mendenhall Mall, which was cited on a charge of furnishing alcohol to someone under 21 and allowing someone under 21 to be at the restaurant for the purpose of drinking.
He said the employee made a careless mistake.
"I don't agree with them being allowed to send a minor into this place," he added. "It's the law and there's not much we can do."
In each case individuals were charged with alleged crimes and the owners were cited with civil violations for which they will have to answer to the ABC Board.
DeHart's in Auke Bay was cited on a charge of furnishing alcohol to a person under 21, he said. Bullwinkle's in the Mendenhall Mall was cited on charges of furnishing to someone under 21, allowing a 15-year-old on the premises for the purpose of buying alcohol and having a server with no alcohol-server education certification.
The Rendezvous Lounge downtown was charged with furnishing and allowing a person under 21 inside, Kalwara said. Pizza Verona downtown was charged with furnishing, allowing a person under 21 inside to purchase alcohol, and two counts of having no alcohol server's certification.
Kenny's Liquor Market was charged with furnishing and having no proof of training for an alcohol server, Kalwara said. The server apparently was certified but could not produce proof, he added.
The classes for servers are readily available, he said. They are usually offered at least twice a month. But the biggest problem isn't that people don't know to ask for identification, he added.
"We have proved this over and over again - 50 percent of servers that ask for ID will not read it," Kalwara said.
The 15-year-old girl who worked with investigators in July displayed her state ID when asked. The state has two styles of the identification with the type running in a different direction for people under 21, Kalwara noted.
"I don't know if they are too busy or if they are careless or if they forget," said Joycelyn Ward, coordinator for Teens in Action, which discourages teen drinking.