Three businesses, employees cited for underage alcohol sales
From Staff Reports
In addition to Blount County Sheriff’s Office, the compliance check involved Alcoa Police Department, Blount County District Attorney General’s Office, the 5th Judicial Drug Task Force and Maryville Police Department. The compliance check of 31 alcohol retailers was carried out in partnership with the Blount County Substance Abuse Prevention Action Team (SAPAT) in an effort to reduce underage drinking.
Those cited with selling alcohol to a person under 21 years old include:
• Texas Roadhouse, 334 Fountain View Circle, Alcoa, employee Clinton Jeffry Lavender, 24, Domar Court, Townsend;
• O’Charley’s Restaurant, 364 Fountain View Circle, Alcoa, employee Justin Martin Brown, 26, Maggie Street, Maryville;
• and Roaming Gnome Pub, 1720 West Broadway Ave., Maryville, employee Taylor Nicole Harris, 18, Madisonville.
All three people are scheduled to appear before the Judge Michael A. Gallegos at 9 a.m. Wednesday in Blount County General Sessions Court.
Letter Sent to Retailers
According to the release from BCSO Public Information Officer Marian O’Briant, the compliance check followed a letter that was sent to all alcohol retailers on March 23 in Blount County, Alcoa and Maryville, warning that a compliance check would be held sometime during the following 90-day period. Law enforcement, the district attorney’s office and SAPAT strategically planned to conduct the compliance operation during this time, due to scheduled proms and graduations in the area.
Alcohol retailers were informed of this 90-day period to give them a chance to educate their employees on proper ID checking and to make sure they are on the lookout during prom and graduation season.
“The goal of this operation was twofold with the hopes of educating the retailers while enforcing the law,” said Blount County Attorney General Mike Flynn. “We also hoped to have alcohol retailers on high alert for teens who may try to purchase alcohol for parties related to prom and graduation. Although we had a few offenders, we are proud that most of the alcohol retailers in our community are acting responsibly and checking IDs.”
Survey Prompted Concern
In the 2011 Tennessee Partnership for Success Student Survey, 76 percent of 10th and 12th graders in Blount County who tried to buy alcohol in the past 30 days were able to purchase it and 56 percent said they were not asked to show proof of age. Also, 22 percent of these students said it would be easy to purchase alcohol at a gas station and 14 percent said it would be easy to purchase alcohol at a store.
“These percentages concern us in law enforcement and we know it concerns our alcohol retailers, too,” said Blount County Sheriff James Berrong. “By working together to prevent the sales to minors, we hope to eliminate this problem and the danger to our kids and community members.”
Maryville Police Chief Tony Crisp added that underage drinking affects our community in several ways. “Not only can underage drinking have an adverse affects on the child’s health, but it also can lead to addiction, crimes, and accidents that can harm other people.”
The Blount County Substance Abuse Prevention Action Team has provided two opportunities for free underage alcohol sale prevention training for off-premise retailers. For those who were unable to attend one of these free training sessions, the team offered to take training kits, ID coders and state ID manuals to them at their businesses, so that they could educate their employees.
The team again notified both on- and off-premise retailers of these free materials and training in the compliance notification letter, giving them another opportunity for free education.
“We have had several of our retailers attend these training and call the team seeking extra education for underage alcohol sales, which tells us that retailers really want to be a part of the solution to the underage drinking problem,” said Jessica Stith, SAPAT representative. “And, we are extremely grateful to have all of our local law enforcement agencies fighting this problem on a daily basis, along with their partnership on this countywide compliance check.”
“I think that all of us working together stresses to our community that we are taking a united stand against this problem,” said Alcoa Police Chief Ken Burge. “I think that retailers, law enforcement, the Substance Abuse Prevention Action Team and the district attorney all want to see some improvements in the numbers here and the reduction of underage drinking.”