The Wal-Mart Supercenter and the Walgreens on Northside Drive East are both serving suspensions of their Statesboro alcoholic beverage licenses, while two restaurants have completed shorter suspensions. The four businesses agreed to consent orders approved by Administrative Judge Tom A. Peterson IV last week.
Wednesday, April 26, was the first time Peterson has convened hearings on alcoholic beverage license violations in place of the Statesboro City Council. The council amended the alcohol ordinance in March to call for an administrative judge and then contracted Peterson, an attorney from Vidalia, to conduct the hearings.
But in all of last week’s cases, the license holders agreed to settlements with the Statesboro Police Department, put in force by the consent orders. By accepting the consent orders, the businesses waived their right to a full hearing.
Walgreens’ 25 days
The Walgreens drug store’s 25-day suspension from selling beer and wine began at 8 a.m. Thursday, April 27, and will end at 8 a.m. on May 22. Then the store will remain on probation requiring “full and strict compliance” with the alcohol ordinance for 12 months.
The specific violation was a Walgreens employee selling an alcoholic beverage to someone under age 21 on April 11. It counted as the store’s second violation in 36 months under the city’s ordinance.
Any additional violations during the probationary period would automatically result in an added 25-day suspension, the order states.
Wal-Mart’s 15 days
The Wal-Mart Supercenter’s 15-day suspension began at 8 a.m. Thursday, April 27, and will end at 8 a.m. on May 12. In addition, the store will be on probation for an additional six months. Any further violations during that time would result in an added 15-day suspension, the order states.
The specific violation was a Wal-Mart employee selling an alcoholic beverage to someone under age 21 on April 12. This counted as the store’s second violation in 36 months. The consent order also notes that “the violation occurred while on active probation for a previous violation.”
Georgia Department of Revenue agents were on hand for the city’s hearings, and previous violations investigated by the state agency reportedly factored in Walgreens’ longer suspension. The Walgreens had one more violation on its record than the Wal-Mart Supercenter, Ron Huckaby, special agent in charge with the GDOR’s Alcohol and Tobacco Enforcement Division, said this week.
Selling alcoholic beverages within the city limits requires both a state license and a city license, and the Statesboro Police Department and Georgia Department of Revenue conduct separate compliance checks. Both the city and state now use a three-year lookback for previous violations.
Both Wal-Mart and Walgreens are slated for state administrative hearings Thursday in Savannah, Huckaby said.
Emma’s 4 days done
Emma’s, the restaurant in the Holiday Inn on Commerce Drive, served a four-day alcoholic beverage license suspension, 8 a.m. April 27 until 8 a.m. May 1, under the consent order signed by a company representative. Police Chief Mike Broadhead, Peterson and City Clerk Sue Starling also signed each of the orders.
In Emma’s case, a first and second violation occurred two days apart. But the first, on April 10, consisted of not having a valid completion certificate in the Training for Intervention Procedures, or TIPS, alcohol course for each employee. TIPS or a similar course approved by the city is required for all employees who handle or sell alcohol.
The second violation was one employee’s serving alcoholic beverages to two customers under age 21 on April 12.
Emma’s also faces a six-month probation, during which any further violation would bring an automatic four-day suspension, the order states.
40 East’s day served
Meanwhile, 40 East Grill, on East Main Street, served a one-day suspension, 8 a.m. April 27 to 8 a.m. April 28. It also faces a six-month probation during which any further violation could result in an added three-day suspension.
One condition of the probation is to ensure that all employees who handle, serve or mix alcoholic beverages complete TIPS or similar city-approved training within 30 days of hiring and that the restaurant has certification and photo ID packages on hand for these employees.
All of the consent orders refer to the training requirement. But in 40 East’s case, the only violation was that around 1:05 p.m. April 10, the restaurant did not have evidence on hand of valid training certification for each employee.
The city is paying Peterson $850 for each court day lasting up to five hours, including two hours of expected round-trip travel time. For any time spent on the work outside the five-hour limit, such as drafting orders or responses to appeals, he can bill the city $185 per hour. Any appeals would be in writing for review by City Council.
One hearing day is expected every two months.
The Statesboro Herald did not attend the April 26 hearings but obtained the consent orders with an open records request this week.
Herald reporter Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9458.