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Statesboros alcohol crackdown continues
Underage sales: 2 more suspensions; 3 more warnings
City of Statesboro seal

Two businesses who admitted second-time instances of employees selling beer or wine to customers under age 21 received three-day alcohol license suspensions Tuesday from Statesboro City Council.

The council issued warnings to three other businesses, which admitted first-time violations. All five violations were from compliance checks performed Dec. 3 by the Statesboro Police Department.

One of the second-time violators, the Fast & Easy convenience store, at 118 Lanier Drive, was the only business for whom an attorney did the talking. Lawyer Scott Brannen asked for leniency on behalf of license holder Mabrook Hallat.

"We would point out that the person that made this error was the second day on his job at the time," Brannen said. "All employees are required to sign a form agreeing not to sell to minors and to follow protocols. They are trained."

Fast & Easy has a training program to prevent alcohol sales to underage youth, he said. A computerized display also constantly reminds the cash register operators of the current latest birth date for legal purchasers.

But Brannen stipulated that a violation had occurred and acknowledged that, under its Alcoholic Beverages Ordinance, the city could impose a suspension of up to three days for a second-time violation. If the council chose to impose a suspension, he asked that it begin Wednesday.

Brannen also observed that several other compliance checks at the store had not resulted in violations. Lt. Rob Bryan, head of the Statesboro Police Department's investigations bureau, said police had done four or five checks on the store in six months. One, on Oct. 11, produced the first violation, which resulted in a Nov. 4 warning from City Council.

In these compliance checks, an officer or informant under age 21, with properly marked identification, attempts to buy a beverage.

"My concern would be that we were just up here two months ago ... with the same issue," Mayor Jan Moore told Brannen. "All I can say is, they need to be a lot more careful."

On a motion from Councilman Phil Boyum seconded by Councilman John Riggs, the council found that a violation had occurred. On a motion by Councilman Gary Lewis seconded by Riggs, the council voted that the three-day suspension of Fast & Easy's license would begin at midnight today and run Wednesday through Friday. The vote, like all other votes Tuesday, was 4-0, with Councilman Travis Chance absent.

Also acknowledging a second-time violation, Pallavi Patel spoke for Sparkers, the convenience store at 799 Northside Drive W., with an alcoholic beverage license in her name.

"We are trying our best to, like, remind (employees) every day," Patel said when council members asked about steps to prevent further violations.

She noted that she has a sign posted near the register with the latest legal birthdate for purchasers of alcohol and tobacco.

In answer to questions from council, Patel said that the employee who made the sale Dec. 3 was the same employee who had been involved in the previous violation for which the store received a warning Nov. 4.

The business owners or managers called to City Council hearings like those Tuesday are not charged with a crime, but face sanctions against their alcohol licenses. However, police also file a misdemeanor criminal charge against the employee alleged to have made the sale. These charges are tried in Municipal Court, separate from the license hearings.

Chosen dates

Unlike Fast & Easy's request that its suspension be immediate, Patel asked that Sparker's suspension run Saturday through Monday.

After Lewis made the motion for the suspension to start Saturday, Riggs said he respectfully disagreed and saw it as treating the two businesses facing suspensions differently.

But Lewis observed that with the weekend suspension, "it seems like she wants to take her busiest days, Saturday, Sunday and Monday."

Patel explained that she wanted this because of the timing of a delivery truck.

"They don't deliver when you're suspended," she said.
Moore said she was bothered by the idea of letting businesses choose their suspension dates. But City Attorney Alvin Leaphart said that the city would be treating both businesses the same because both would get the timing they requested and that the timing of suspensions would remain at the council's discretion.

By the council's motion and vote, Sparkers' license is suspended Saturday through Monday.

The council also issued warnings to license holders of Flash Foods No. 251, located at 12440 U.S. Highway 301 S.; Sunny Food Mart at 725 S. Main St.; and Tobacco and More at 420 S. Main St. for first-time violations.

With these, the council has issued 19 warnings and four three-day suspensions since resuming compliance hearings in October after a more than two-year lapse. All have been for underage sales.

The current ordinance, for which the council has been considering a replacement, allows a warning or one-day suspension for a first violation. Three days is the maximum suspension for a second violation in 12 months.

The ordinance allows a 10-day suspension for a third violation and a 30-day suspension for a fourth violation in 12 months. Only after five or more violations within a year may the council consider revoking a license.

Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9454.


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