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Town cites four stores for alcohol sales to minors

Four convenience stores were cited for selling alcohol to persons underage during a series of show cause hearings at a town of Erwin Beverage Board meeting Nov. 21.
The four citations were the result of a series of undercover investigations performed by the Erwin Police Department on Halloween night.
“We do intend to do those at least once a year,” Erwin Police Chief Regan Tilson said. “We see other crimes as a result of underage procurement of alcohol. It is part of the beer permit that [retail stores] understand that we will be doing these type of investigations. The investigations are to make sure we are inspecting what we expect from the merchants.”
Erwin City Recorder Randy Trivette said the Erwin Beverage Board partners with the Erwin Police Department and takes the sale of alcohol to minors violations very seriously.
“We do have a very aggressive police department,” Trivette said. “We encourage them to do these undercover operations and undercover stings because we want to make sure our children are safe and no alcohol is being sold to minors.”
Stacy Chandler, manager of Quick Stop Market No. 18 located at 1107 Jackson Love Highway, admitted to the violation against her store during the meeting.
“I watched my video and I really believe that it actually took place,” Chandler said.
Trivette said the Quick Stop is on its second violation and have not completed a state program provided through the 2006 Responsible Vendor Act. Chandler said she has plans for her store to be certified through that program.
“Based on that state law, it will benefit you because there are training programs that are involved for all of your cashiers,” Trivette said.
Trivette said the program reduces the penalty if a store is found to be in violation of the town’s alcoholic beverage ordinance, which prohibits the sale of alcohol to persons underage.
Trivette also inquired about the store’s initiatives to ensure the violation will not occur again.
Chandler said the employee turnover rate is high, but she implements regular training programs regarding the sale of alcohol.
“We have meetings regularly,” Chandler said. “We go over the Tennessee state laws regularly. This is every six weeks. We have signs posted and we go through journals on a daily basis to make sure someone hasn’t entered the same ID in there.”
Chandler requested the board increase the punishment of the individuals who are selling to underage persons. Chandler said the employee who was found in violation of the law was fired immediately based upon store policy.
“We have to go by state law,” Trivette said. “They are cited into sessions court for a violation of selling to an underage person. They have to go before a judge.”
The board motioned to accept a $3,000 civil fine paid in full by seven days of the hearing or the store would have the beer license revoked for 180 days.
Trivette also warned Chandler about the potential of the store’s beer license being completely revoked if a third offense occurs.
Owner Carolyn Hampton answered for and admitted to the case against Tri-City Wholesale and Tobacco located at 224 North Main Ave., which was the store’s first offense.
“I have training that we do for alcohol as well as tobacco,” Hampton said. “I was with the gentleman that was caught that night and went over all of the state laws with him. He took a test and passed it and hopefully it will not happen again.”
Hampton said she made the employee who violated the law attend the show cause hearing.
The town of Erwin does not include a clause in their ordinance that the employee in violation has to be fired.
“That is usually store policy,” Trivette said. “He was cited into sessions court, I’m sure.”
Trivette said the board’s main concern is that the situation doesn’t happen again and would like to see documentation of employee training. “We would like to see that continue because of turnover rates and new employees and it’s good to have them sign off that they have received that training for you to keep a record of,” Trivette said. “If it comes down to another violation, we can review those files to see that people are being trained.”
Hampton also said she is interested in enrolling her business in the state’s Responsible Vendors Act program. The board motioned for the business to pay a $1,500 civil penalty within seven days or the beer license would be suspended for 90 days in accordance with the town’s ordinance for first offenses.
Also on first offense, Dollar General District Manager Timothy Smith admitted to the sale of alcohol to underage persons occurring at store No. 235 located at 1256 North Main Ave.
Trivette asked Smith to explain any changes made in policy to prevent the situation from happening again.
“We of course conducted an investigation at the store and discovered that the employee entered the date of birth incorrectly,” Smith said. “The employee has been terminated.”
Smith said the store also conducts a computer-based training program when each employee is hired. “Each employee is required to complete that,” Smith said. “We’ve also asked that each employee retake the [company’s] training program to be recertified.”
Trivette urged the business to enroll in the state’s Responsible Vendor Act program as well. “It makes a huge difference in the fine,” Trivette said. “It nearly cuts it in half and the suspension is taken off the table the first time you’re caught.”
Smith said he would take the information to corporate headquarters for consideration.
In this case, a civil penalty of $1,500 to be paid in seven days or suspension of the beer license for 90 days was approved by the board.
President of Roadrunner Markets Ryan Broyles admitted to the alcoholic beverage ordinance violation occurring at store No. 149 located at 1415 North Main Ave.
“This particular instance, to my understanding, the clerk looked at the ID and entered the birth date and [the computer] rejected it,” Broyles said. “I think the undercover person put her ID back and the clerk asked for the birth date verbally and tried it again. It still declined it.”
Broyles said the clerk entered the date into the computer a third time and it was approved for the sale of alcohol to the person undercover.
“She altered the date,” Broyles said. “She totally disregarded our policies and was terminated shortly after. In this instance, I don’t know what else we could have done to keep her from doing this.”
Broyles said the store is looking into purchasing ID scanners to eliminate the manual entry of birth dates.
Since Roadrunner Market has participated in the state’s Responsible Vendors Act program and the situation was a first offense, the board motioned for the payment of a $750 civil penalty.
“Being a Responsible Vendor and having all of the additional training and doing all of the things you guys are implementing really does pay off as far as the penalty,” Trivette said. “We really hope it pays off as far as training, but we know and realize that we are dealing with humans. We can put as much technology and training in place, but there will still be the opportunity for someone to try to circumvent that.”
Board member Glenn Tilson said if the store receives another violation within 12 months of the first offense then their beer license for the Erwin location would be revoked for three years.

By Kayla Carter
Staff Writer
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