Underage drinking check results in six citations
BASALT – The Eagle County Sheriff’s Office cited employees at five restaurants and one liquor store in the Basalt and El Jebel area for selling alcohol to an underage person during an undercover operation Friday night.
Ten plainclothes deputies and officers from the Avon Police Department made liquor compliance checks at 66 businesses throughout the county, with the help of five minors from 18 to 20 years old, according to sheriff’s office spokeswoman Shannon Cordingly. Ten businesses received citations, including the six in the portion of the county in the Roaring Fork Valley.
The servers at the establishments received the citations. An Eagle County press release listed the establishments but not the servers. The Basalt businesses where the servers received citations were Asiana Fusion Restaurant, Cuvee World Bistro, Two Rivers Bar and Cafe, and Willits Wine and Spirits. In El Jebel, servers were cited at Bella Mia and the Downvalley Tavern.
Cordingly said that while the servers face the criminal citation, the businesses face possible actions regarding liquor license administration. That could mean a fine or suspension of the license. A spokesman for the Colorado Department of Revenue Liquor Enforcement Division, which covers an area that includes Eagle County, referred questions to an official in Denver who wasn’t available to comment late Monday.
All the undercover sweeps took place Friday, Cordingly said. A witness reported that as soon a minor was served a drink in an establishment, that person immediately exited, and an officer entered to write the citation.
The Basalt Police Department was informed in advance of the operation, but it didn’t participate, according to Basalt Sgt. Stu Curry. He said the department doesn’t have a detective available with the training necessary for that type of operation.
Eagle County deputies have jurisdiction to conduct the liquor compliance checks in businesses within the county, even those within the town of Basalt.
Willits Wine and Spirits manager Maggie McVoy said she feels the serving of someone younger than 21 was an isolated mistake by a staff member.
“I just really feel we’ve trained our employees and we’re conscious of it,” McVoy said. “I don’t like that the community will perceive us as being soft on underaged drinkers.
“We were wrong. I feel horrible about it,” she added.
McVoy said she reinforced to her staff members that they must ask for the identification of all customers.
None of the restaurants where servers were cited was a sports bar or club where underage drinkers typically seek alcohol. Cuvee, for example, is a restaurant and wine bar. Owner Mitch Levy said he and his staff they felt bad that the person wasn’t asked for identification. It is a rare case where carding was necessary, and it fell through the cracks, he said.
“We’re not making excuses. It’s embarrassing that it happened. I don’t believe that it happens very often at all,” Levy said.
Joy Maniloff, owner of Italian restaurant Bella Mia, said this was the first offense in the 19 years she has managed or owned a restaurant. She declined comment on the compliance check.
The Eagle County Sheriff’s Office said the Eagle River Youth Coalition funded the liquor compliance check.
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