News

Servers fare poorly in ID checks

By ERICA JAHN

Staff writer

Last month, underaged buyers working with a team of state Liquor Control Board agents entered six Federal Way establishments that serve alcohol and attempted to buy a drink.

All six businesses served them.

Agents issued written warnings to Azteca, Red Lobster, Vince’s Italian Restaurant, Cafe Arizona, Player’s Sports Club and Billy McHale’s for selling alcohol to minors on Feb. 21.

The same day, another liquor board team busted two more locations — Torero’s and Applebee’s, both at the SeaTac Mall — for serving alcohol to minors.

And eight out of 14 off-premise locations — where alcohol is sold but consumed elsewhere, like groceries or convenience stores — sold alcohol to underage buyers during a compliance check March 7.

The liquor board conducts compliance checks throughout the state all the time, but agents have been focusing on Federal Way recently “because of the high failure rate that we’re noticing at on-premise locations,” spokeswoman Gigi Zenk said.

All of the restaurants in Federal Way received written warnings because none had violations within the past two years, liquor board spokeswoman Tricia Currier said. If any of the establishments was to get another violation in the next two years, it’d get a five-day liquor license suspension or a $500 fine.

Restaurant managers at some of the establishments recently busted by the liquor board said their employees all have taken state-required certification classes that license them to serve alcohol and teach them to recognize fake IDs.

Troy Gamble, owner of Billy McHale’s restaurant, said the liquor board is doing a good job of making sure businesses aren’t selling alcohol to minors.

“They’re really fair and diligent in how they do their work,” he said, adding agents don’t set up stings or try to entrap employees by using fake identification.

In the compliance checks conducted by the state agents last month, all the underage buyers used their own current, valid drivers licenses, Zenk said.

Billy McHale’s has on several occasions passed inspections. This time, it got the warning because the server misread the underage buyer’s ID, Gamble said.

Managers from the other establishments issued warnings Feb. 21 either declined to comment or were unavailable to talk.

All the employees who served the minors alcohol during the Feb. 21 compliance checks were given criminal citations, which is a gross misdemeanor in Washington. The violation results in a five-day permit suspension or a $100 fine.

Businesses where alcohol is served to minors get either a written warning or an administrative violation notice and an associated fine and suspension. A first-time violation results in a five-day liquor license suspension or a $500 fine. A second offense gets a seven-day suspension, a third violation a 30-day suspension and a fourth violation results in revocation of a liquor license.

“If anything, it was a lesson to be more diligent,” Gamble said. “It’s still a tough message (to servers). They need to do due diligence each time.”

It’s a serious offense and the state cracks down on servers who fail to check licenses or are stumped by fake ones, but Gamble said his employees –– from servers to busers –– need to understand the consequences of serving alcohol to minors.

Zenk echoed the sentiment.

“When you hear stories of kids getting served because they used fake IDs or servers weren’t checking IDs and then going out and getting in a fatal crash, there’s tragic circumstances around that,” she said.

Staff writer Erica Jahn: 925-5565 and ejahn@fedwaymirror.com

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