Compliance checks aim for safety

The Madison County Sheriff’s Office recently completed countywide compliance checks of 19 businesses that serve and sell alcohol and liquor. Eight of the 19 sold to underage individuals.

The checks, which happen once a year, were completed in about two days, followed by documentation and calls or visits to the businesses to review their performance.

“We try to do them all at once and not single anyone out,” Madison County Undersheriff Roger Thompson said. “The purpose is to reduce underage drinking. We realize this is not the only way underage persons obtain alcohol, but it gives us some ability to monitor what is going on.”

The checks are done with underage operatives willing to help the Sheriff’s Office. They enter the establishment and attempt to buy alcohol with their real Montana ID, according to Thompson. Letters about the checks are sent out prior to the actual check. The Sheriff’s Office also distributes information about available alcohol server trainings. All licensed establishments are required to have each employee authorized to sell or serve alcoholic beverages to successfully complete training to ensure compliance with state law. Many establishments also have the ‘We ID’ date checker tool, which helps the server easily identify if the person trying to buy alcohol is of legal age or not. The checker states that a person must be born on or before a certain date in order to be served, so no math is needed.

A meeting with the business owner and Sheriff’s Office follows a business’ first offense. No administrative action is taken and no citation issued. If out of compliance, the business is fined $50 for a first offense, $200 for a second offense, and $350 for a third offense in a three-year period. Three of the eight who sold to minors were repeats.

“More or less, it’s a wakeup call. If it continues, the information is forwarded to the Department of Revenue and a citation is issued,” Thompson said.

Thompson went on to say that the Sheriff’s Office respects that these businesses are there for a reason and that the office does not want to mess with their business, but that they have a responsibility to those they are serving.

“Many deaths of youth and others are needless and can be avoided if there is one more adult who takes underage alcohol consumption seriously,” Thompson said.

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