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Businesses cited for illegal sales

Thirteen citations for selling alcohol to minors were handed out last week during an alcohol and beer compliance check sweep in Oxford.

Investigators with the Attorney General’s Office, Alcohol and Tobacco Enforcement Division, in conjunction with the Oxford Police Department checked 15 establishments on Thursday to see if clerks and bartenders were checking identifications of those trying to purchase alcohol.

The businesses receiving one violation were, 4 Corner Chevron, The Library Sports Bar, The Burgundy Room, Circle K and Oxford Spot. The Corner Bar, Funky’s, The Levee and Ward’s Short Stop all received two violations.

For some of the businesses, it was their second offense within a year. Those businesses were Circle K, Oxford Spot, The Levee and Ward’s Short Stop.

“The safety of our young people is at the heart of this law,” said Attorney General Jim Hood. “It states very simply that it is illegal in Mississippi to sell alcohol to anyone under the age of 21.”

The sweep is part of a statewide effort to check college towns.

“College is an exciting and very important part of life, and we have a responsibility to help young people have as safe of an environment as possible,” Hood said. “I want our young people and our retailers to be fully aware that we will continue to strictly enforce our compliance checks statewide, especially in college towns.”

The businesses that were checked and did not receive a violation for selling alcohol to someone under 21 were Double Quick, Three Way Store, Texaco Express Shop, The Brittany Store, Lamar Express and Lindsey’s Chevron.

Lindsey Hill, owner of Lindsey’s Chevron said he takes underage alcohol sales very important.

“We’ve got caught a time or two in the past, mostly by new employees,” he said this morning. “But myself and our senior staff all stress the importance to check IDs.”

According to state law, any person selling beer to a person under the age of 21 years can face a fine of up to $500, up to six months in jail or both. Any place of business selling beer to an underage person can be fined and/or suffer administrative charges. For a first offense, a retailer may be fined not less than $500 but not more than $1,000 and/or be prohibited from selling beer for three months. For a second offense occurring within 12 months of the first offense, a fine of not less than $500 but not more than $1,500 and be prohibited from selling beer for six months. For a third offense occurring within 12 months of the first offense, a fine of not less than $1,000 but not more than $5,000 and be prohibited from selling beer for one year.

Whatever the reasons, a majority of businesses seem to be getting more lax on checking the identification of their customers who appear to be under 30 years old.

In 2013, during a similar sweep, two of nine businesses checked were issued violations. In 2008, two of 10 were given citations for noncompliance.

The Alcohol and Tobacco Enforcement Division provides training for staff and management of any retail establishment that sells alcohol.

“The lives of our children and loved ones are at risk whenever alcohol consumption and driving are mixed,” Hood said. “Other dangers include binge or excessive drinking which can also result in overdose, an accident or injury.  Retailers who are vigilant in following the law can significantly improve a safe environment for all.”

During the past fiscal year, which runs from Sept. 30 through Oct. 1, the Alcohol and Tobacco Enforcement Unit has conducted more than 6,000 compliance checks with 203 buys for a 3.28 percent buy rate across the state.