Roughly 15 percent of stores and restaurants sold tobacco, alcohol or both to minors during compliance checks conducted by Drug Free Montcalm.
The group annually tests local stores and restaurants by sending in minors with identification clearly showing they are not of age to purchase tobacco and alcohol.
This year, Drug Free Montcalm visited 67 stores that sell tobacco and 32 stores or restaurants that sell alcohol.
“We do have documented visits to the vendors, including the date and time of the visit, and most often the name of the clerk if they have a name badge or are willing to give their name,” Drug Free Montcalm Coordinator Lynn Cooper said.
Nine stores sold tobacco to the minors, representing 13 percent of those checked. Five stores or restaurants sold alcohol to the minors, representing 15 percent of those checked.
“We would like to emphasize that the majority of the vendors did not sell and they should be commended in complying,” Cooper said.
A police officer came along for every compliance check, usually hiding around a corner. The minor involved in the sting reported immediately to the officer if an improper sale was made. The officer then notified the business.
Each business that failed the sting received a letter from Drug Free Montcalm regarding the situation, which offers assistance with training for employees and assists the businesses in asking for ID and reading them correctly.
“We are sure that the vendors do not desire to sell to minors and would like to work cooperatively with them to make sure that doesn’t happen,” she said.
Drug Free Montcalm submitted a report on the illegal tobacco and alcohol sales to the Michigan Liquor Control Commission. The stores and restaurants could be guilty of a misdemeanor, but law enforcement has discretion of whether to pursue legal action.
Liquor Control Commission regulators also can levy fines of up to $100. Further penalties are possible depending on the situation and the how many times it has occurred.
“Usually, the very least that is done is the employee is terminated, which is up to the employer who will also have to pay unemployment, hire and train a new employee,” Cooper said.
Changes for vendors who sold
Some stores caught selling to minors fired the employee who made the sale.
Daryl Johnson, owner of Tamarack Sports in Lakeview, said an employee was terminated on the spot after selling alcohol to a minor.
“(We are) pretty strict,” he said. “We don’t tolerate it.”
McBride Country Store immediately fired the clerk who sold tobacco to a minor, according to an employee who did not want to be named. He said employees have to check anyone’s ID that looks close to the age.
Other stores implemented new policies to prevent more illegal sales.
The Handy Market in Greenville sold both tobacco and alcohol to minors. Manager Jay Patel said employees are now asked to ID anyone who looks under the age of 30 when buying those types of products as a procedure.
The Mobil Stanton Mart sold tobacco to minors and is now making sure all IDs are not only checked but run through a machine, said cashier Cassy Stout.
The same is true for the Mobil Pierson Mart, which also sold tobacco to a minor.
“There is no reason (for failing the checks),” manager Patti Hoskins said of the tobacco sale early this year.
The Pierson Trading Post also sold tobacco to minors.
“Employees are asked to sign and read a policy when they are hired,” said owner Jerry Dreyes.
Kramer’s Market, Sheridan Marathon, El Rancho Restaurant and Bar in Greenville could not be reached for comment regarding their sales to minors.
Wesco 47 in Lakeview is looking into the situation, according to an employee who would not give their name.
Viking Grocery Mart in Howard City hung up on The Daily News each time they were asked if new procedures were put into place after the store sold tobacco to a minor.