New alcohol rule closes loophole - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

New alcohol rule closes loophole

May 3, 2006

Albany -- Albany commissioners are cracking down on businesses that sell alcohol to underaged customers.

Under proposed changes to the City's alcohol ordinance, if a business owner has his license revoked or suspended, he cannot re-apply for another license for a year. The new rules would also prevent a business owner from changing the name on the alcohol license to get around a revocation.

At Jack's Grill and Bar, bartender Amanda Griffin says she cards anyone who looks younger than 30. And she won't hesitate to kick out an underage customer who tries to order alcohol, because she know the repercussions of breaking the rules.

"I could get fired," she said. "The owner could get fined and get his liquor license taken away."

Stopping underage drinking is also a challenge at Break-time Pub and Billiard where many customers aren't 21.

Owner Sam Shugart says his bartenders are taught to always ask for ID and how to spot fakes. "If I walk in here or anybody else involved and see someone drinking that's underage, not only do we ask them to leave, or call the police, but also the employee would be instantly terminated."

But Shugart still feels some of the proposed changes to the city's alcohol ordinance are unfair. Now, city commissioners have leeway as to how long they will suspend, or if they will revoke the alcohol license of a violating business.

But commissioners want stricter guidelines. The first proposed change would mandate if a business has its alcohol license revoked or suspended, it can not apply for another license for 12 months.

Shugart says for first time violators, that's too harsh. "I think they should probably have some guidelines, maybe three months. Certainly three months worth of sales would get somebody attention."

Commissioners will also not allow repeat offenders, like Bald Eagle Foods on Ledo Road, to simply apply for another alcohol license under a new holder's name.

Shugart agrees with that change. "I do think the fact that you can't reapply under a different name or form a ghost company is a good idea. If someone disregards the law to the point where they get their license suspended, then you shouldn't be able to turn right around a reapply."

Another change would prohibit the license holder, at the time of the violation, from getting another license for a year, even if he changes locations or jobs.

Commissioners know they will face opposition from business owners like Shugart, but some say the stricter rules will stop tragic accidents that can happen when alcohol lands in the hands of a teenager.

Commissioners plan to vote on the proposed changes to the alcohol ordinance May 23rd.

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