Alcohol sales to minors could mean license loss

Alcohol sales to minors could mean license loss The message is simple: Get caught selling alcohol to minors and it could mean the temporary loss of your business' alcohol beverage license.

Governor Bill Janklow is calling for alcohol beverage licensees in the state to take a more active role in helping to prevent underage drinking and the problems it can cause. Effective immediately, those licensees convicted of selling alcohol to minors will undergo a license suspension hearing with the South Dakota Department of Revenue.

Depending on the result of the individual hearings, the licensee could have their license suspended for as much as two weeks for a first-time offense. Notice of license suspension will also be sent to the South Dakota Lottery.

Secretary of Revenue Gary Viken says although most South Dakota businesses with alcohol beverage licenses do not sell to minors, the new policy will make clear to those who are selling alcohol to minors that the state means business.

"Underage drinking is becoming a big problem in our state, not only in the larger cities but also in smaller communities and rural areas," Viken said. "It affects virtually everyone … the minor who is drinking, their parents, schools, their community. It's against the law to sell alcohol to minors and if your business gets caught doing it, you will suffer the consequences. And the most effective way to get the point across may be to hit the business where they'll feel it the most … at the cash register."

A 1997 survey conducted by the South Dakota Department of Education and Cultural Affairs showed 83 percent of students polled said they have consumed alcohol during their lifetime with 60 percent admitting to having at least one drink within 30 days prior to the time when the survey was taken. That compared to a national average of 79 percent of students who said they drank alcohol during their lifetime and 51 percent within the last 30 days before the survey. The survey polled just over 1,600 students in 21 schools.

In South Dakota, furnishing alcohol to a minor is already a crime punishable by 30 days in jail and/or a $200 fine. There are nearly 3,600 businesses in the state licensed to sell alcohol. Those licensees will receive a letter from the Department of Revenue notifying them of the new license suspension policy.

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