Burlington Ma, Burlington News, Alcohol Policy, Board of Selectmen

 August 19 2015

Selectmen Strengthen Penalties on Businesses That Fail Alcohol Compliance Checks

By: Rich Hosford

The Burlington Board of Selectmen voted to accept changes to the town’s alcohol policy that makes penalties for businesses that fail compliance checks and sell to minors more severe, but not as severe as was previously discussed. 

The discussion was spurred by a sense among board members that the penalties the town had in its policy for businesses caught selling to minors were not strong enough to be a proper incentive for them to comply. This conclusion was reached after nine different restaurants and liquor stores failed compliance checks within a six month period last year. 

Before the vote on Monday, if a business failed a compliance check it lost the right to sell alcohol for one day on the Monday following a hearing before the Board of Selectmen. If that same business fails again within a certain timeframe it lost its license for three days for a second offense, five days for a third offense and seven days for a fourth offense. Each of those penalties began on a Monday. 


The new penalties for getting caught selling to minors are a bit stiffer. The penalty stays the same for the first offense but if a business fails a second time it will be subject to a 5-day suspension. Increasing penalties include 10 days for a third offense and 15 days for a fourth offense. 


There is some reprieve, however. If a company fails a second check it can opt to lieu hire a contractor that specializes in training on alcohol compliance to come in and give the staff training in lieu of the suspension. This training would include period compliance checks by the contractor for a year. The cost of the training would be about $2,000. 


One other change is that while before if a business went three years without a violation its record of previous infractions would be cleared, now any compliance failure remains on the record indefinitely. 


While the new language does toughen the penalties for restaurants and liquor stores who sell to minors, they are short of what was proposed during the Selectmen meeting in July. 


At that time Selectman Bob Hogan, who is on the alcohol sub-committee with Selectman Joe Morandi, suggested that the first offense be a three-day suspension, with each subsequent offense being longer, and that they all start on Thursdays. This would mean the business in questions would lose the right to sell alcohol over a full weekend at least. 


When asked about the discrepancy between what he originally proposed and what was decided upon, Hogan said he was satisfied with the results and thinks it is a fair rule. 


“I’m happy with it. When we first started talking about it a couple of months ago we had come off a bad number of places that had failed after we had gone several years without any problems,” he said. “We were concerned the newer restaurants were not taking us seriously but hopefully they got the message.” 


He did say he thought that the penalty for a first violation was a “slap on the wrist” but pointed out they got harsher after that. He also said the point of the policy is not to punish mistakes too severely. 


“We don’t want to cripple a business but we want them to take this seriously,” he said. 

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