July 15 2015

Selectmen Discuss Increasing Penalties for Alcohol Sales to Minors

By: Rich Hosford

The Burlington Board of Selectmen debated possible changes to the town’s alcohol compliance policy in a lively discussion Monday night. 


The discussion was spurred by a sense among board members that the penalties the town has in its policy for businesses caught selling to minors in police stings 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. 

 

Currently if a business fails a compliance a check it loses its 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 loses 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 begins on a Monday. 

On Monday night the members of the selectmen subcommittee on alcohol, Selectmen Bog Hogan and Joe Morandi, let the other selectmen in on their discussion over beefing up the penalties for non-compliance. 

 

Hogan said he is in favor of making a first offense a three-day loss of the liquor license and he wants to the penalty to start on a Thursday, meaning the business would lose the right to sell alcohol for a full weekend. 

 

Hogan also said he thinks the penalty should be five days for a second offense, seven days for a third and 10 days for a fourth, all starting on Thursdays. 

 

“It is a privilege for the restaurants and stores to hold these liquor licenses and we need to make sure minors aren’t getting access to alcohol,” he said. “We thought perhaps a Thursday would make them take it more seriously.”

 

Hogan said that businesses that fail their first compliance check would be given an option other than a suspension. He said that in lieu of the suspension they could choose to hire a contractor that specializes in training on alcohol compliance to come in and give the staff training. This training would include period compliance checks by the contractor for a year. The cost of the training would be about $2,000. 

 

Morandi said he agreed with starting the license suspensions on Thursdays but did not think that blocking alcohol sales for three days for a first offense was fair. 

 

“I have a problem with the three day suspension,” he said. I understand how Bob feels but I feel that is a huge impact for a first offense. Nobody got up and said they were going to sell to a minor today. I think it’s an accident. It happens.”

 

Other members of the board agreed something needs to be done but did not land on a solution. 

 

“Based on nine violations in six months I think something stronger than a one day suspension on a Monday is needed,” Selectman Daniel Grattan said. 

 

Selectman Chris Hartling agreed some increase in the penalty was needed but agreed with Morandi that three days for a first offense was too harsh. 

 

“I share the concerns a lot of us have talked about and its disturbing that with the nine failures to see how many were new businesses,” he said. “I don’t want to be dismissive of those concerns but I think the one to three day jump is too big.”

 

The board members agreed to continue the discussion until their August meeting.  


 
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