Businesses' first underage alcohol sale in Cottage Grove could lead to educationCottage Grove businesses that sell alcohol to underage drinkers could be headed to school following their first offense under a proposal awaiting City Council approval.
Cottage Grove businesses that sell alcohol to underage drinkers could be headed to school following their first offense under a proposal awaiting City Council approval.
Cottage Grove Public Safety officials check bars, restaurants and liquor stores licensed to sell alcohol twice each year. Establishments that fail the check — that is, sell an alcoholic beverage to a police volunteer less than 21 years of age — can face a one-day suspension of their liquor license and fines that start at $500 and climb with each offense within a 36-month window.
Under proposed amendments to the city’s policy drawn up by police and recommended by the city’s Public Safety, Health and Welfare Commission, an establishment’s first offense in a shortened 24-month period would trigger compulsory yearly training requirement for employees in lieu of a fine.
The City Council is set to review the proposed changes next week.
The educational component would essentially wipe away a first offense, said Public Safety Director Craig Woolery, but would help educate businesses avoid future violations. It could be provided by Cottage Grove police, Washington County health officials or an approved online course.
“We want businesses to pass. A lot of them make a big effort,” Woolery said, referencing Las Margaritas Bar and Grill, which was recently fined $1,000 for its second violation in a 36-month period but told the council earlier this month it had purchased electronic card readers for checking ID’s.
Woolery said the department is also recommending shrinking the existing 36-month look-back to 24-months in recognition of the frequent staff turnover at bars and restaurants.
The key in amending the city’s policy, the chief said, is to not make penalties too burdensome, “but not to give away any component of safety.”
He added: “We don’t want underage people buying alcohol.”