The Garden City Telegram
10/22/2013
OPINIONS AND COMMENTARY

Booze bust

Message must be received on alcohol sales to minors.

The Garden City Commission showed moderation recently in addressing possible penalties for businesses selling alcohol to minors.

Of course, such offenses still warrant more than a slap on the wrist.

Garden City police officials understandably pushed for tougher sanctions in the wake of a June sting operation that saw people at 18 local restaurants, stores and other places liquor is sold cited for allegedly furnishing alcohol to minors.

The total number of citations surprised even law enforcement officials, and provided a sobering look at how easy it can be for local minors to buy booze.

Proposed changes commissioners considered during last week's meeting called for violators' ability to sell alcohol suspended three days for a first offense; three days to one year for a second offense; and one year for a third offense.

Concerns centered on how such sanctions could threaten someone's livelihood.

Businesses busted for selling to underage patrons already face state fines of $750 ($270 for the person who makes the sale). It's easy to see how cutting off sales — especially for one year — could put smaller operators out of business.

The concerns led city commissioners to request revisions to the proposal, which was reasonable.

Ideally, they should settle on a plan that still hits home with violators.

Tough penalties — especially for repeat offenders — can be an effective deterrent. The goal must be in compelling every restaurant or retail location to be as vigilant as possible in checking a patron's identification to ensure they're of legal age to indulge — especially in a community that's struggled with underage drinking for some time.

Research shows teens who consume alcohol are more likely to have alcohol-related problems throughout their lives. Immediate issues could range from poor performance in school to more serious outcomes in traffic crashes, teen pregnancies, sexually-transmitted diseases, crime and suicides.

While programs in schools and beyond have helped discourage some youngsters from using alcohol, the high number of local businesses failing the recent test proved there's more work to do in sending a message to people of all ages — to include those in the business of alcohol sales.