Wednesday, June 19, 2013
PORTLAND – Five Portland businesses were cited for selling alcohol to underage buyers during a sting operation by police Friday.
Portland Police said college students under the age of 21 volunteered to go into 40 stores and restaurants in the city to attempt to buy alcohol. Five of the businesses – Bonobo on Pine Street; the Express Mart on Congress Street; The Front Room on Congress Street; Bayside Variety on Cumberland Avenue; and Parker's restaurant on Washington Avenue – sold liquor to the underage buyers, police said.
A business can be fined up to $1,500 for a first violation for selling alcohol to underage buyers.
The 40 businesses checked were chosen at random, police said.
"Our pizzas are kind of expensive, so we don't have a college crowd," said Denise Compton, the owner of Bonobo, a local pizzeria. "(But) we have a clear alcohol policy and carding policy."
Although she wasn't at the restaurant when the sale was made, Compton said her employees told her the buyer looked like he was 30 years old.
"It was kind of a set-up," she said.
Compton said she's never had a liquor law violation before and said her employees will now be very strict about carding customers who buy liquor.
"We're just going to increase our awareness and card all of our older citizens and be very annoying," she joked.
Jeff MacDonald, the owner of Parker's, said he heard about the citation but didn't know details because he came in after the employees who were working when the alleged violation occurred had left for the day.
"If somebody looks under 45, we card them," he said, unless it's a regular customer the employees know is older than 21.
MacDonald said the restaurant has never had a violation before in the 12 years he's owned it.
"Sometime tomorrow, hopefully, we'll begin to sort things out," he said.
"We were absolutely in the wrong," said Harding Lee Smith, owner of The Front Room.
Smith said the server judged the customer to be about 25 and didn't ask for an ID. He said it was the restaurant's first liquor violation.
Calls to the other two businesses cited were not returned Friday.