2005-12-08 / News

Liquor licenses renewed by council

By Dotti Farrington

Police and town officials last week maintained a tough stance on liquor outlets — short of suspending or denying licenses — that were caught selling beer to underage patrons. The officials also vowed to pursue arrests of underage people who try to buy liquor.

The license renewals were withheld the previous week from the three establishments: Grapes & Gourmet, and Jean Page Liquors, the town’s two liquor stores; and Alexander Enterprises, doing business as the Narragansett Café, a bar and live-music venue.

The reports all cited employees who had responsibility for getting identification (carding) of the purchasers to determine their ages. In accordance with state law, the employees were arrested on the violations. The reports indicated that the employees also were required to take part in a special recertification of their permits to serve alcoholic beverages but would receive no other citations or penalties. Officials suggested that any further offenses would result in license suspensions for the business owners and job termination for employees who violate the law.

Last week, in addition to giving verbal warnings, local officials adopted a four-point penalty plan requiring additional work to avoid further violations. The representatives of the three establishments expressed contrition, embraced the plan, and pledged to work to uphold it. “I have no excuse whatsoever. It should not have happened,” one owner said.

The license renewals were delayed by the Town Council, sitting as the Alcoholic Beverage Licensing Board, which was acting on the recommendation of Interim Town Administrator Thomas Tighe, who said he was awaiting a report from Acting Police Chief William Donovan on incidents of sales or serving to underage customers in recent months.

Last year, the license of another restaurant was held a few weeks, for reports of two instances of serving alcohol to underage customers, but the license was issued subsequently, with a warning about future offenses.

Liquor license renewals for all other applicants in Jamestown were approved by the board last month with little discussion. All existing victualing (food sales) licenses and entertainment licenses were approved by the council, including for the three whose liquor licenses were on hold.

Donovan last week recommended the special four-point plan for the violations this year. The council adopted it with emphasis on their concern about all underage drinking. The violations were found during checks Nov. 11 by local police on purchases at all local liquor outlets. The liquor sales plan’s four requirements are:

• Proof of successful completion of an alcohol server training program by all employees involved in the violations.

• Development and maintenance of an employee rules and regulations manual for all employees with emphasis on state law, as well as penalties, including arrest and job loss, for violations.

• Commitment to be proactive about detection and reporting of attempts of underage people to buy alcoholic beverages, and about handling of altered or fraudulent identification.

• Need to commit no new offenses for at least three years, or face stricter censuring.

Donovan had reported that in one instance, at Narragansett Café, the teen purchaser presented ID that clearly showed the buyer was underage but was sold beer regardless. He said that transaction was of particular concern. In two other instances, at the liquor stores, the purchasers were not carded, Donovan noted.

Council Vice President Julio DiGiando said, “We can’t condone that kind of behavior. Even though it may be inevitable, it is not an excuse, and it cannot happen again.”

“We are prepared to get compliance. We want compliance. We do not want (to have to take) punitive action,” Donovan said.

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