Compliance Checks Test ID Policies

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Result Show Strong Improvement for Gas and Convenience Stores

By: Jeffrey Meyers, ASAC Prevention Specialist

When it comes to selling alcohol, playing the guessing game when it comes to age is the last thing you want to do. Failing to verify age by asking for identification can result in sales to minors, large fines for the employee and employer, the loss of a liquor license, and potentially disastrous legal liability. For these reasons it is vital for businesses to have a policy in place that requires the identification of all customers prior to selling or serving alcohol, a practice many local businesses already have in place. For law enforcement it is important to make sure businesses are following suit and thus ID policies are periodically tested via compliance checks, with this year’s results being the strongest in a number of years.

Compliance checks occur when law enforcement uses a volunteer underage youth who, under the direction and supervision of law enforcement, attempts to purchase alcohol at any business with an alcohol license. Here in Jones County, both the Monticello and Anamosa Police Departments make it a point to check as many off-premise (grocery and convenience stores) businesses as possible. This year checks were conducted with eighteen total stores, which resulted in an outstanding 100% pass rate—meaning every business required identification and refused the sale. This stands in stark contrast to last year’s checks in which seven businesses failed out of the seventeen businesses that were checked, only a 41% pass rate. Such checks serve as a much needed reminder of the need for strong ID policies, and this year’s results demonstrate a clear improvement and commitment by local businesses to responsible alcohol service policies.

Funding for compliance checks is limited, and so law enforcement has to exercise discretion in selecting which businesses to check. For this reason, the Jones County Safe and Healthy Youth Coalition has sponsored the BARS Program for the second year in a row to help bridge this gap—checking every bar and restaurant, referred to as “on premise” establishments, in Jones County, 26 businesses in total. Though similar to compliance checks, the BARS Program is operated privately and does not have the force of law. It also utilizes young adults that are of age, yet are still well below the age of 35—the recommended threshold for which every customer is asked for their identification. Servers that ask for an ID prior to service are given a “green card” and congratulated on their caution, whereas servers that do not ask for an ID are given a “red card” and reminded on the importance of identification. Of the 26 businesses that were checked, 22 were given a “green card,” a success rate of 84%, slightly below that of last year’s 90%.

While there always remains room for improvement, the Jones County Safe and Healthy Youth Coalition would like to thank our local businesses for their support, concern, and dedication to promoting a safe community through implementing common-sense alcohol policies. It takes a collaborative approach by everyone in the community to truly effect concerns such as underage drinking, and Jones County continues to make great strides.