Enforcement Ramping Up Pre- and Post-COVID Regulations
Across the country, loosened liquor laws and expanded to-go options have potential to reign constant among long-term societal changes brought upon by the COVID-19 Pandemic. Intended as triage for collapsing revenue streams, the novel practices bring with them prerequisites that solicit wide-spread surveillance by regulatory and enforcement agencies.
Traditional compliance standards of server and bartender training, scrutiny of photo IDs and refusal of service among intoxicated patrons is now joined with state-specified conformity of to-go packaging requirements, order conditions and delivery protocols. Enforcement of these pre- and post-COVID regulations are in full effect, but not without concern.
Pre-Covid Regulation Violations
In August, a Louisiana sheriff’s office conducted an underage alcohol sales audit to verify sales operations of some 30 businesses. According to office records, 5% of businesses were issued citations for first- and second-time violations; arrests were also made.1 In July, a regional crime unit in Truckee, Nev., visited a dozen businesses to find as many as half were willing to sell alcohol to underage patrons.2 The Illinois’ Liquor Control Commission reported 0 violations of underage sales in May and three in June.
Post-Covid Regulation Violations
Arizona reports 18 violations between May 1 and Aug. 24; at least three restaurants were cited and fined $1,500 for failure to derive 40% of their income from food – a statewide requirement to play within the to-go drink realm.Enforcement agencies in Virginia, California and Maryland report a series of unrelated decoy operations conducted during the last two years to audit alcohol delivery practices.
According to reports out of Virigina, 62% of participating underage buyers obtained alcohol when drivers either failed to ask for ID, or willingly handed it over despite the recipient being underage.
California’s operation resulted in 79% of delivery drivers giving alcohol to underage decoys. A second run concluded with a 53% violation rate. Drivers were cited with educational warnings for a first-time offense and up to $1,000 in fines for repeat infractions. A third effort produced a decline in citations, with a 20% violation rate in February 2022. Updates to Golden State Covid ordinances (due 2026) no longer allow alcohol delivery of cocktails.
Maryland’s most populated county, Montgomery County, orchestrated a mystery shopper operation in 2020. The outcome revealed 55% of restaurants failed to check curbside IDs and only 15% mentioned an ID was needed upon order pick up.
Onlookers warn there are far too many regulations in place; thus, making it harder for employees to stay current with state regulations and for law enforcement to police compliance. Adding to the narration, health advocates oppose cocktails to-go and home delivery, saying both makes alcohol more easily available and could lead to increased substance-use disorder and underage drinking. The National Liquor Law Enforcement Association recommends quarterly, random compliance checks; it also wants servers, bartenders and delivery drivers trained in both state and local alcohol policies, as well as how to properly check IDs.
Whether Covid-era ordnances are here to stay, or they expire in the near future, you can maintain total confidence in your employees’ selling and serving performance by partnering with The BARS Program. To learn more about BARS, visit www.barsprogram.com.
1Caddo Sheriff, 08/08/2022; Press Releases: CPSO arrests seven for illegal sales of alcohol
2KOLO8 abc, 08/16//2022; Six businesses caught in underage alcohol sting; six pass