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Inspections find fewer Indiana underage alcohol sales

July 25, 2011

State inspections have found fewer of Indiana's bars, restaurants and liquor stores selling alcohol to underage Hoosiers.

That improvement followed adoption of a much-ridiculed law requiring all carry-out alcohol customers — regardless of age — to show identification that has since been loosened up by state legislators.

State Excise Police reported that officers conducted more than 5,000 inspections from Jan. 1 through June 30 during which people ages 18 to 20 accompany officers and try to buy alcohol. The agency found violations by 8.8 percent of bars and restaurants and 4.3 percent of liquor stores — down from more than 40 percent in 2009.

Excise Police Officer Travis Thickstun said that the tougher ID requirements and a law mandating certified serving training helped improve compliance.

"I think we've got a couple things going on here at the same time," Thickstun told The Journal Gazette.

The inspection program began in 2007 and in the second half of 2009, and establishments that served to the minors with the officers began receiving fines and citations.

Thickstun said business owners are getting the message about not serving to minors after being hit with citations and fines. He also credited a 2010 law requiring the server classes, which last about two hours and cover not giving more drinks to someone who is intoxicated, how to spot fake IDs and the basic alcohol laws in the state.

Thickstun said the law requiring IDs from all carry-out customers probably also helped with the decline in citations.

Legislators this spring overwhelmingly approved revising the law to no longer require store clerks to card customers who reasonably appear older than 40. That law took effect July 1.

The previous law came into effect in July 2010 and drew complaints from senior citizens and others who said it made no sense.

Liquor store owners supported the stricter ID law, saying it wasn't that inconvenient and that it had led to a drastic drop in attempts by minors to buy alcohol because they knew clerks had to card all customers.

This year's state inspections have found violations at 2 percent of grocery stores, down from 22.6 percent in 2009. Violations this year have been 2.6 percent of private clubs, down from 11.5 percent.

The only category of establishment to see an increase was hotels: 27 percent failed inspections in 2011, compared with 26 percent two years ago.

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