Clerks who sold cigs to minors due in court
ASPEN – Sales clerks at four local businesses are due in Pitkin County Court on Tuesday to answer charges that they sold cigarettes to minors.Employees at Great Western Grog Shop, City Market, Sundance Drug & Liquor and Aspen Quick Mart were cited after the Department of Revenue’s Tobacco Enforcement Unit operated a sting in Pitkin County on Nov. 22.The sting was part of a routine compliance check the state does in Pitkin County at least once a year, said Mark Couch, spokesman for the Revenue Department.”We’re constantly doing them throughout the year,” he said, noting that the state averages between 2,000 and 3,000 tobacco compliance checks annually. The checks are part of a federal program, Couch said. For the Grog Shop, it marks the second time in the past 24 months the establishment had been cited for selling cigarettes to minors. The liquor store’s second infraction came when a 17-year-old boy paid $7.72 for a pack of Marlboro Reds, according to a case report filed by Larry Mullen, an investigator with the Department of Revenue.Mullen was inside the Grog Shop at the time of the transaction. He reported that the clerk who sold the cigarettes, 50-year-old Marie Bulcke, did not ask the minor for his identification. Mullen, who was assisted by Aspen Police Detective Walter Chi during the Grog Shop sting, then issued Bulcke a summons. The store also received an administrative summons because it was its second infraction within the past two years.Grog Shop manager Roger Carlsen said Thursday that he’ll be in court Tuesday “to see what happens.” He hasn’t hired a lawyer, and Bulcke no longer works at the store.He said Bulcke was on her second day of the job when she sold the cigarettes. Even so, Carlsen said, “We’re being more vigilant and aggressive and checking everybody’s IDs.”Couch said the Grog Shop received a warning letter for its first infraction and now faces a $250 fine for its second offense. The clerk faces fines of as much as $400, Couch said. Pitkin County prosecutor Richard Nedlin, who is handling the case, declined comment.The other three businesses cited have had clean records concerning tobacco sales within the past 24 months, Mullen wrote. They received warnings for the alleged infractions.The City Market employee who was cited, Rosali G. Cabrera, 60, allegedly sold a pack of Marlboro Blend No. 27 for $4.76 to a 17-year-old girl also enlisted by the Department of Revenue. That bust came just 26 minutes before Grog Shop was cited, records show. The two businesses are located next to each other in downtown Aspen.Later that day, at 12:30 p.m., Mullen, with the assistance of Snowmass Village Police Officer Dave Heivly, busted Sundance Drug & Liquor. A 17-year-old girl allegedly paid clerk Todd Kachik, 30, $7.25 for a pack of Marlboro Reds.”I witnessed the entire transaction from inside the store,” Mullen wrote, adding that “the clerk did not ask the operative for her age/identification/birthdate.”The fourth and final bust came at the Aspen Quick Mart, a convenience store and gas station located off Highway 82 by the entrance to Old Snowmass.Mullen, accompanied by Pitkin County Sheriff’s Deputy Bruce Benjamin, reported that he watched a 17-year-old girl buy a pack of Reds for $7.25. The clerk was 30-year-old Dolores M. Figueroa-Fletes.The minimum age to buy tobacco products in Colorado is email@example.com
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Written pleadings filed Monday in district court by the Pitkin County Restaurant Alliance seek a court decision requiring the defendants — the county, the board of health and interim director — to answer their complaint by Thursday and hold a court hearing on the matter as early as Friday.