A compliance check was made of 23-24 businesses between May 30-31 by the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office in conjunction with the Hamilton County Coalition. That night there were five failures, three in Chattanooga and two in the county. The three businesses in the city were cited to the Chattanooga Beer Board’s meeting on Thursday. All involved the offense of selling beer to a minor.
Deputy Marty Ray with the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Department notified the clerk at Mystic Food Mart, 2413 4th Ave., that she had sold beer to an undercover 19-year-old immediately after the sale had been made.
The clerk had asked to see an ID and looked at the license that was given to her, yet she sold the beer anyway. She told Officer Ray she thought she had entered the right date, but must have made a mistake keying it in. Assistant City Attorney Keith Reisman noted that underage drivers’ licenses have a red border that alert to age even if the date is misread. The state has recently also reformatted underage drivers licenses so they are positioned vertically but there are still horizontal ones in circulation, he said. But both are bordered in red. The clerk was terminated for the mistake and the Mystic Food Mart was penalized with the loss of its beer license for seven days starting July 25.
The clerk behind the cash register at MAPCO at 3709 Cummings Highway also asked for an ID and looked at it but made a sale even though the buyer was an undercover minor. The clerk said he thought he had entered the right birth date but must have made a mistake, which allowed the sale. That mistake cost him his job since MAPCO’s policy is automatic termination, which is non-negotiable, for selling alcohol to a minor. Kyle Berry, the regional manager for the company said that after this violation the company looked for gaps in their system and updated it by removing the “override” option which allowed a clerk to complete a sale after the cash register stopped it. Employees in the whole district were retrained in alcohol sales after the infraction. Mr. Berry said they are trying to take the human error out of the equation by removing the override key; however, the clerk could still enter the wrong date. Because MAPCO is part of the state of Tennessee’s responsible vendor program, the penalty, by state law was limited to a monetary fine. The store was penalized with a $1,000 fine for this second violation it had received within a 12-month period.
The third Chattanooga business that was found selling beer to a 19-year-old during the two days of compliance checks was Smoke 1, 2201 McCallie Ave. In this case, the clerk never asked to see an ID before making the sale of a beer. The company has been in business for five years without a violation, said Akram Algaheim, the store manager, "and we take full responsibility and apologize," he said. He told the board that the clerk at the time of the bad sale had only been an employee for one and a half weeks and had been trained by the owner and manager. He said in the future, clerks would be professionally trained so this would not happen again. The business was punished with the choice of either a $250 fine or a three-day suspension to start on July 25.