Class helps alcohol servers avoid selling to underage individuals

Class helps alcohol servers avoid selling to underage individuals by M. Jill Karolevitz Alcohol sales people � from bartenders to convenience store clerks � are learning a new skill and it has nothing to do with making a bloody mary or counting out change.

Instead, they�re learning how to card potential buyers of alcohol products.

Certified as Techniques of Alcohol Management (TAM) instructors, Clay County Sheriff�s Department Deputies Andy Howe and Jerami West are teaching alcohol establishment employees how to identify underage buyers � before a sale is made. TAMS is sponsored by the South Dakota Retail Liquor Dealer�s Association and the South Dakota Retailers Association. It is also approved by the South Dakota Department of Revenue. The first class was conducted Oct. 2 for 35 people from five businesses that sell alcohol around the area. Subsequent classes were held Oct. 17 and 22.

Last summer, South Dakota began cracking down on businesses which failed alcohol sting operations. If a clerk or bartender was caught selling alcohol to an underage person, the state revoked the business's alcohol license for two weeks, even for a first offense.

A law adopted by the 2000 State Legislature gives business owners a defense against having their license yanked when a clerk sells to a minor. The new law says the state cannot revoke or suspend an alcoholic beverage license for selling alcohol to a minor if the violation was committed by an employee or agent of the licensee, and the licensee meets these criteria:

? The licensee did not witness the violation;

? The employee has been certified by a nationally recognized training program approved by the Department of Revenue that provides instruction on techniques to prevent persons under the age of 21 from purchasing or consuming alcoholic beverages;

? The licensee has a written policy in place requiring employees to check the ID of customers who appear to be under the age of 21 before selling or serving any alcoholic beverage to that person, and the employee has signed the policy;

? The employee has not been convicted of a similar violation within the past 12 months; and

? The licensee has not had any prior violation of any statute, ordinance, rule, or regulation prohibiting the sale or service of an alcoholic beverage to a person under the age of 21 years on the premises where the violation occurred within the previous 12 months.

TAM falls under criterion number two, according to Howe.

�When a licensee sends an employee to TAM, the business won�t lose its license if that employee sells to an underage person,� he said. �The employee can be charged if he or she sells to a person under 18 � that�s a Class 1 misdemeanor that carries a maximum penalty of one year in jail, a $1,000 fine and the mandatory revocation of a drivers license for a maximum of 100 days or a minimum of 30 days. Or if they sell to someone between 18 and 21, that�s a Class 2 misdemeanor, which carries the maximum penalty of a $200 fine, 30 days in jail and the same mandatory drivers license revocation. But sending employees to TAM allows licensees a second chance. It helps them keep their license if their employee makes a mistake.�

TAM teaches employees the proper methods to use in identifying persons under 21.

�It also points out areas in which they can get into trouble, such as selling to an already intoxicated person, fake IDs, and second party sales, that is, an older person buying for someone too young,� Howe said. �It stresses the need to card because so much is at stake if there�s a problem � like fines, jail time, losing their license and possibly their job.�

The sheriff�s department sent letters to each alcohol licensee in the area to let them know about the program.

�We�ll continue to make TAM instruction available to everyone,� Howe said. �They aren�t required to send their employees, but it�s a good idea. Any business who wants to send their employees to a class can call us and we�ll set something up. The classes are one and a half hours long and include lectures and video tapes.�

The South Dakota Retailers Association maintains a record of employees who have attended TAM classes. The instruction costs $5, which is used for record keeping of participants who are certified upon completion of TAM.

�I sent seven people, including myself,� said Bob Vacek, manager of Freedom Valu Center. �The alcohol license isn�t in our name � it�s in the name of the main office and we didn�t want to have a problem with losing it for two weeks if we had someone sell to an underage person. It also shows we want to abide by the law and it�s good to be more aware of the process.�

Jere Chapman, owner of the Silver Dollar Restaurant, Texas Bar-B-Que and Cherry Street Grille, sent 15 full-time employees.

�This isn�t the first time I�ve sent them to something like this,� Chapman said. �The Vermillion Police Department has held classes on how to spot fake IDs and I�ve always sent my employees to them, but this (TAM) is more involved.

�We�re very concerned about serving to minors,� he continued. �We don�t want that to happen and sending people to this formal training helps us avoid it. I�m very much in favor of it.

�The biggest thing anyone can do is make young people aware of what the law can do to them if they make a mistake as servers,� Chapman added. �You also have to factor in the punishment that can occur to the license holder. Sending an employee to these classes lessens the license holder�s punishment if a sale is made to an underage person.�

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