The Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC) Law Enforcement Division frequently conducts Minor Compliance Checks all throughout the state of Tennessee to ensure that licensed establishments are complying with state law which prohibits the sale of alcohol to those under 21. This week, our MADD Tennessee Marketing Program Specialist, Michelle Rozell, had the privilege of joining Chief Bond Tubbs and several agents on a ride-along as they conducted these checks in Lebanon, TN.
She joined them around 5pm on Tuesday, August 18, 2020. The operation was already in progress. They had visited four establishments before her arrival and all four had refused to sell to the Minor Decoy, a 19-year-old female. Unfortunately, the fifth establishment, checked after she joined them, did sell. Jalisco Mexican Restaurant was fined an administrative citation for selling to a minor in addition to citations for a server who did not have the required server permit to sell alcohol, nor proper Human Resources documentation on file. The server was given a criminal citation for selling alcohol to a minor.
As the Minor Decoy visited each establishment, agents outside watched on video and communicated with plain clothes agents from within as she attempted to order alcohol. They were able to observe rather or not the server asked for ID when the order was placed and confirm if the server actually delivered what was ordered to the Minor Decoy. The Minor Decoy used her own real driver’s license and had been instructed to provide it when asked and make no attempt to lie or conceal her real age. Of those servers who asked for her ID, some told her they could not sell her alcohol. Some, however, checked her ID, and served her anyway.
By the end of the night, twenty establishments had been checked, including restaurants licensed to sell liquor by the drink, retailers such as grocery stores, and liquor stores. Five out of the twenty in Lebanon that night sold alcohol to the Minor Decoy. They included Jalisco Mexican Restaurant, O’Charley’s Restaurant & Bar, Logan’s Roadhouse, Demos’ Steak and Spaghetti House, and Bangkok Pad Thai Asian Kitchen. All were inside sales where the Minor Decoy went inside, sat at a table or the bar, and placed an order with a server. No establishments that agents investigated in Lebanon were selling alcohol with curbside orders.
Concurrently, agents in Chattanooga, TN, were also conducting Minor Compliance checks with a 19-year-old male Minor Decoy. Chief Tubbs was able to see video of those transactions, as well, and was in communication with agents there throughout the night. In Chattanooga, five out of the eleven establishments checked that night, sold alcohol to the Minor Decoy. They included Olive Garden Italian Kitchen, Aldi Food Market, O’Charley’s Restaurant & Bar, Old Chicago Pizza & Taproom, and The Cheesecake Factory. It was The Cheesecake Factory’s second citation within 90 days. Of the eleven checked, four of them were offering curbside pick-up service for orders placed that included a combination of food and alcohol. Three out of the four restaurants with curbside orders, sold alcohol to the Minor Decoy.
In Lebanon, agents conducted a second night of Minor Compliance Checks on Wednesday, August 19, and found that five out of eighteen sold to a Minor Decoy. Also, in Chattanooga, agents conducted a second night of checks on Thursday, August 20, and found six out of fourteen sold to a minor. No establishments checked on either Wednesday or Thursday were offering curbside pickup service with alcohol.
A key component of MADD’s mission is to prevent underage drinking. We know that underage drinking is deadly and dangerous. But it’s not just car crashes that are responsible for the approximate 4,300 people per year who are killed due to underage drinking. Those numbers also include deaths due to alcohol poisoning, drowning, falls, fires, homicide, and suicide.
Minor Compliance checks are conducted regularly by the Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission Law Enforcement Division as well as many local law enforcement agencies. Not only do they randomly check restaurants and retailers selling alcohol, they also follow-up on complaints from the public who report suspicions of underage sales in their communities. If you suspect an establishment in your community is selling alcohol to minors, click here to file a complaint. An option is available to file the complaint anonymously, if you prefer.
MADD offers free resources to parents and youth, educating them about the dangers of underage drinking and drugs and we deeply appreciate the efforts of all our law enforcement partners who enforce laws meant to protect Tennesseans from underage drinking. We also value the diligence of the community to be alert to those who are not in compliance with state law and report them when necessary. Together, we can keep our youth and communities safe from underage drinking and drugs.
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