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City of Alamosa penalizes liquor violators

Posted: Tuesday, May 7th, 2013

Courier editor

ALAMOSA — Alamosa city councilors approved penalties this week for four local businesses that failed alcohol compliance checks this spring.

Out of 14 business checks for underage sales, four failed the test on March 16.

In stipulated agreements, the council approved:

• 10 days suspension of its 3.2 percent beer license with seven days stayed for a year and three to be actively served for Safeway plus a fine of 20 percent of sales based on three days or $200, whichever is greater. Safeway has not had a violation in the last year but had underage sales in 2004 and 2008. In this instance, operatives working with the Alamosa Police Department purchased a six-pack of Budweiser without the clerk, Dylan Haslett, asking for an ID.

• Fine in lieu of suspension for Chief’s Liquor, which would otherwise have had to serve five days suspension with an additional 10 days held in abeyance for a year. This is the liquor store’s sixth offense in 12 years, more than any other outlet in town, but the first under the present owners who since the violation have posted prominent signs; prohibited anyone under age 21 from entering the store; corrected a glitch in their software; and sent all their employees through training. In this instance, the operatives bought a six-pack of Budweiser bottles and the clerk, Eugene O’Connell, rang up the sale even after looking at their ID.

• Fine in lieu of suspension for Atencio’s Market, which would otherwise have had to serve 15 days suspension with an additional 10 days held in abeyance for a year. The store has had four violations in nine years with the most recent involving a sales clerk, Brian Marquez, checking the ID, which showed the operative working with the police department was underage, but selling beer to him anyway. Marquez compared the ID date to the date on the cash register, which reads “alcohol 1992,” but apparently did not correctly calculate the age on the ID provided. The store owner has since put in place a program negating an alcohol sale if an underage ID is entered.

• Five days suspension for the most current violation plus seven days suspension that were held in abeyance last year due to an April 2012 violation at Weekend’s Tavern. The bar was not eligible for fine in lieu of suspension but will have to serve the 12 days suspension of its liquor license. The violation this year apparently resulted from a “systems failure” in which those checking ID’s only marked one of the underage operatives and should have marked both. Weekend’s staff Tyler Haney marked one of the operatives “under 21” on his hands but gave the other a wristband indicating he was over 21 when he was not. He was able to buy a Budweiser at the bar.

“All four of the violations appear to have been resolved in satisfactory terms with each of the establishments,” stated City Prosecutor Eugene Farish. “The police department performed its job in completing the compliance checks in a professional manner and none of the owners indicated that they were being treated unfairly.”

The compliance checks were conducted on March 16 by Alamosa Police Officer Tate Kindschuh and Detective Yvonne Gonzales with the cooperation of two underage operatives.

The 10 businesses that passed the compliance checks on March 16 and did not serve alcohol to the underage operatives were: St. Ives, Chili’s, Spuddy’s Cantina, SLV Brewing Co., City Market, The Office, The Bankshot, Beer Keg Depot, Terry’s Liquor and Wal-Mart.

Rural Alamosa resident Leon Moyer told the city council he did not think it was accomplishing anything with the liquor license compliance checks except for making money through fines. The businesses violating the law stay open and continue to fail compliance checks, he said.

Alamosa Councilman Rusty Johnson said he absolutely disagreed that the compliance checks were a moneymaker for the city. He said those businesses with repeat offenses generally were over a long period of time, not back to back, and generally involved employee error.

“We don’t like any violations, but these are business people that trust their business to employees sometimes,” Johnson said. “I am not in favor of shutting people down.”

He added that he believed the police department was doing a good job conducting the compliance checks.

Alamosa Police Chief Craig Dodd said his department tried to resolve problems with community members.

Councilman Josef Lucero said he had an issue with businesses that seem to fail compliance checks over and over.

“For us to make excuses for them doesn’t hold water with me,” he said.

He suggested the city might need to tighten up its regulations and might want to hold a work session regarding the issue.

Lucero voted against the motion to approve the stipulated agreements with the liquor license holders who had experienced violations this spring.

The vote to approve a special events permit for the Kiwanis Club to sell alcohol during the Ride the Rockies event passed unanimously, however.

The council pulled it from its liquor license consent agenda but declined to hold a public hearing on the request. Because Moyer raised an issue with the special events permit, the council had the option of holding a public hearing.

Moyer’s concerns were that children go to the recreation center, where alcohol would be served as part of the Ride the Rockies celebration, and they would be exposed to alcohol consumption, and there could possibly be underage consumption as a result; and he believed the enforcement at other events where alcohol was served in Cole Park was not adequate and there had been violations.

City Attorney Erich Schwiesow told the council if it considered the objections raised serious enough to potentially deny the special events permit, it could hold a public hearing. The council decided not to do that and unanimously approved the special events permit.

Councilor Lucero said alcohol has been served for other events at the recreation center in the past, and Schwiesow said it had been served in connection with Ride the Rockies in Alamosa before as well.

Lucero said he also was unaware of violations connected with other events like this in the past.

“I don’t think there’s any justification for not allowing this to happen.”

The special events permit for Kiwanis will be valid from 12-9 p.m. on June 12. Alcohol will be confined to a designated area in the soccer field by the recreation center.

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