A city bar owner told members of the governing body that the city has been retaliating against liquor license holders who have made it their aim to overturn the business curfew ordinance that forces them to close at midnight.
“After we used our constitutional right [to file a lawsuit] we’ve been retaliated against,” said Quilvio Montesino, owner of Quilvio’s Pub, on Tuesday evening. He said the city’s police has been sending in young police officers, who are under the drinking age of 21, to purchase alcohol.
A police officer six foot tall, bald headed, wearing a leather jacket, just a week from turning 21-year-old is sent in to trick liquor businesses to sell, said Montesino. He said often employees fall for the trick and end up selling to the customer based on age approximation without checking identifications.
“You should just ID everyone,” said Martiza Davila, councilwoman at-large. She said when she’d walk into Rite Aid to purchase cigarette she was never spared from showing her identification. “Somebody is coming in to buy alcohol or cigarettes, ID them, ask for ID; I don’t have it on me — ‘I’m sorry I cannot sell to you.’ They’ll come back to you with their ID,” she said.
Police director Jerry Speziale said a business is often selected based on investigative leads, surveillance, and observations of patrol officers. He said the city’s narcotic division and ABC personnel conducts operations based on objective data.
Montesino suggested the city start fining the employees who sell to minors instead of the businesses. “There’s no excuse for selling to minors, but we have to address this differently,” said Montesino.
“We cannot do that because they are your employees,” said Ruby Cotton, 4th Ward councilwoman when Montesino suggested the city start citing employees.
Alex Mendez, councilman at-large, asked if the city’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Board offers training to liquor business employees.
“The ABC is not here to train your employees on how to run your business,” added Cotton.
William McKoy, 3rd Ward councilman, said Montesino’s fining the employee idea is a “novel concept” that exists nowhere else in the United States. He said it’s entirely uncommon to see employees, who work under the direction of an employer, be fined while on the job.
McKoy said Montesino is linking the lawsuit with the enforcement actions the city has been taking. He said the council would not discuss a matter that is currently in litigation.
“If you’re a license holder of a liquor establishment you’re ultimately responsible for your employees and your establishment,” said Speziale. “You have to do your due diligence to make sure everybody understands the rules and regulation of serving alcohol.”