by Eric Hagen
The East Bethel City Council Jan. 18 heard testimony regarding a beer and a pack of cigarettes being sold to minors during compliance checks at two different businesses.
After some debate, the council fined Blue Ribbons Pine Disc Golf Course $250 for the alcohol sales violation and fined Coon Lake Market $150 for the tobacco violation. Blue Ribbons Pine could face another $250 fine if its employees do not complete a servers training course within 90 days.
Liquor sales violation
Anoka County Sheriff’s Office Investigator Mike Wahl oversaw the alcohol compliance checks. According to Wahl, a 17-year-old female working with him purchased a bottle of Coors Light beer from Richard Jordan on Aug. 31, 2011 at Blue Ribbons Pines.
Jordan’s son Ray Jordan, who owns the Blue Ribbons Pines business, said the family has been running a landscape business and the disc golf course for some time. He said his father has been nice enough to help out.
“We haven’t really talked to him about not serving any underage people or anything like that because he never really was set up to be working behind the counter in the first place. He just kind of stepped in and saw a void, and I saw him filling that void and so it was going just fine,” Ray Jordan said.
Ray Jordan said a positive aspect of this incident is they have a heightened awareness. He said they would be more than willing for their employees to complete the Responsible Beverage Service certification process.
As the person who sold the beer, Richard Jordan was prosecuted by the city’s contracted attorney firm at the Anoka County District Court. Richard Jordan paid a $500 fine and did eight hours of community service.
The council’s role was to decide if the license holder should also be punished with an administrative fine. Because this was a first-time violation, the possible fine could be no more than $500 to the licensee and $250 to the clerk that sold the beer.
Councilmember Heidi Moegerle made a motion that the $500 administrative penalty against Blue Ribbons Pines be waived if it provided proof within 90 days that all staff members have completed the Responsible Beverage Service certification process. In addition, she said no more community service was necessary seeing how eight hours had already been completed. The $250 fine against Richard Jordan would also be waived.
Councilmember Steve Voss said he appreciates that Richard Jordan went through the process with the county, but he said license holders must be responsible for their employees’ actions.
“It’s their responsibility to train, their responsibility in terms of sales that the laws are followed,” Voss said. “At least in past councils, the emphasis has been of not selling liquor to kids. This is a 17-year-old person. It’s not like the law changed recently. It’s not like the emphasis hasn’t been there for quite a long time with youth and alcohol and cigarettes.”
Councilmember Robert DeRoche Jr. wanted it put on the record that it is not council’s intent to allow businesses to sell alcohol or cigarettes to minors.
“I think everybody makes a mistake once. I don’t think this gentleman has done this before, and I have reason to believe that Ray is going to be pretty diligent on making sure it doesn’t happen again,” DeRoche said. “I think every case is different. I just don’t see where this was done with malice or intent… I don’t think slapping someone with a $500 fine takes care of the problem.”
Voss said if the council’s intent was to not fine a first-time offender, the ordinance should be changed to reflect this.
Moegerle said the ordinance doesn’t say there has to be zero tolerance. She noted that Richard Jordan immediately took responsibility for his actions. She said if someone tried to cover-up or make excuses for what they did, that would be different.
Mayor Richard Lawrence recommended amending the motion to fine Blue Ribbons Pines $250 immediately and stay the remaining $250 unless the employee training is not completed within 90 days.
“I think we need to have some type of financial impact on this issue because it’s a violation,” Lawrence said.
The rest of the council accepted the amendment, although DeRoche questioned the rationale and whether they were just doing it for the money.
Tobacco sales violation
According to a police report from the sheriff’s office, Julie Ann Schumacher sold a pack of Camel Light cigarettes to a 16-year-old male on Aug. 26 during a compliance check.
The minor reported that Schumacher asked for his identification and he provided it, but she still sold him the cigarettes.
The officer who worked on this case, Chris Fahey, said Schumacher was remorseful. It was a case of her doing the math wrong. A Minnesota driver’s license for a person under 18 years old age does note when the license holder’s 18th birthday is.
DeRoche made a motion to fine the license holder Coon Lake Market $150, which is the city’s standard administrative fee for a first-time violator of the tobacco sales ordinance. Schumacher had already paid a $150 fine after going through the district court criminal proceedings.
DeRoche did not require any community service and did not add any license suspension penalty. The ordinance states that the license could have been suspended up to 20 days for a first-time violator. Up to 10 days could be waived at a rate of two days for each eight hours of community service done for the city.
Eric Hagen is at firstname.lastname@example.org