The Chapel Hill Police Department conducted an operation over the weekend to identify and cite local businesses with the propensity to sell alcoholic beverages to minors.
According to Capt. Joshua Mecimore, the public information officer of the department, actual minors were used in the operation to see if spirits could be purchased illegally.
“What we do in those compliance checks is that we have underage buyers that are going into stores to try to purchase alcohol for us,” he stated.
Out of 41 businesses surveyed in the operation, five had employees that agreed to sell alcoholic beverages to the minors working under the supervision of law enforcement officers.
“We’re using [minors] to see what the business will do — if they are checking ID, and if they are checking ID, whether they’re going to, in fact, turn you away and not sell you alcohol because you’re not 21,” he explained.
Citations notwithstanding, Mecimore noted that similar operations in previous years netted more violators, with 50 percent of surveyed businesses found delinquent in 2014 and 21 percent found delinquent in 2015.
“From the spring semester to the fall semester of 2016, we saw a five-percent reduction in businesses selling to underage buyers,” he cited. “We’ve seen an even larger reduction over the course of the last three years.”
Businesses that fail compliance checks are referred to the Orange County ABC Board, but Mecimore explained that the department places as much of an emphasis on education as it does on punitive action.
“We offer a monthly class called BARS, which is Be a Responsible Server, or Be a Responsible Seller training, and we’re teaching people what the law expects of them,” he noted.
Mecimore also cited work that the department has done with organizations like the Campus and Community Coalition to Reduce the Negative Impacts of High Risk Drinking
“We’re starting to see those partnerships pay off,” he claimed. “We keep working toward improving and building those relationships.”
Though the department has been successful in delivering its message on underage drinking to students, Mecimore brought attention to the fact that the target audience is replaced every year due to the graduation cycle.
“You’re losing this group that you’ve spent four years trying to get this message across to, and you’re getting this brand new group that you have to start over with,” he admitted. “You won’t see our work stop or change, ever.”
The department will host the next BARS class on March 6.
Photo from downtownchapelhill.com.