03/07/11 — ABC board targets alcohol sales to minors

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ABC board targets alcohol sales to minors

By Steve Herring
Published in News on March 7, 2011 1:46 PM

An early Sunday morning raid last month at Lamar's Mexican Restaurant in the 700 block of South George Street was developed after law enforcement, including local ABC officials, received complaints about the restaurant.

It is that kind of information that Wayne County ABC enforcement officer George Raecher and local ABC Board director Mike Myrick hope people will continue to supply -- especially where underage drinking is concerned.

"The Lamar's case was threefold," Raecher said. "I received some information from a very good source who had given me information when I was with the Sheriff's Office that there was some illegal activity going on at Lamar's late at night and early morning. Coincidentally the police department had noticed activity there. About a week and half or two weeks before the actual raid, the Goldsboro police had to go over to Lamar's and it took the whole shift -- they had a big fight in there.

"Then ALE (state Alcohol Law Enforcement) started receiving information. ALE started doing an intense investigation and that is what led up to the raid. It was reported there were anywhere from 70 to 100 people in there on the weekends after the bars are supposed to close. They aren't supposed to serve after 2."

Also the tables have to be cleared by 2:30 a.m. and the raid was at 3:15, Myrick added.

"There were probably than 70 people in there the night we went," Raecher said. "There was alcohol, cocaine, marijuana, firearms, meth, underage people in there. In fact, there were some children in there. I don't know how old the little girl was, but she was with her parents.

"There was a 16-year-old boy sitting on the steps outside. I said, 'What are you doing here?' 'My parents are here. They wanted me to come. They did not want me home by myself.'"

Approximately 25 officers were involved including Raecher, Goldsboro police, ALE and the state Division of Motor Vehicles.

Wayne County EMS was standing by and two officers were interpreters.

"We had an operations briefing that detailed everybody's jobs and what everybody was to do when we hit the establishment," Raecher said. "Like the ALE said, and I agree, it was an excellent coordinated effort and everybody did what they were supposed to do. It was very well-coordinated from start to finish."

"The coordination went as deep as to how they were going to go into the building," Myrick said. "George made sure they had EMS backup just in case something went wrong. This situation could have gotten out of hand with that many people drinking that late at night."

Raecher praised Goldsboro Police Department Capt. John Biggins, the shift captain on duty, whose entire shift helped.

"Everybody was pretty cooperative," Raecher said of the people at Lamar's. "Of course you had people who had consumed alcohol, but we didn't have to fight anybody. Nobody got rough. Of course you have a little bit of mouth when you have alcohol, but that was minimal. The people were right polite about it."

Raecher coordinated securing a police department vehicle to get officers closer to the door. Police also blocked off both ends of George Street near Lamar's and photos were distributed of felons who might be there.

"They talked about how when they got there would they chase them if they ran just to make sure everybody was on the same page," Myrick said.

It is not unusual for the ABC Board to receive complaints about underage drinking, Raecher said.

"I try to get parents to bring their children in up here so that we can talk to them," he said. "They don't want their children involved and going to court. They give us information about particular restaurants. There are two restaurants where people have been cited in those restaurants for underage drinking in the last couple of months. Those are criminal citations.

"You have to prove that the agency or the business actually sold it them knowing they are underage, but 19- and 20-year-olds are sliding drinks across the table or getting somebody to buy it for them. If the business is found guilty of selling it to them they not only get a criminal citation, but an administrative violation. We will write it up and send it to the ABC Commission in Raleigh. They could get fines up to $1,500 or $2,500."

Raecher said he is not sure how big a problem underage drinking is in the county, but that he knows it is a problem.

"Every time you pick up a paper and see where a teenager was killed and alcohol is involved, then we have a problem," he said.

"Our ABC board, made up of five individuals, that is our No. 1 concern," Myrick said. "It also has been expressed by the governor and the new ABC Commission Chairman Jonathan Williams, who is a former Wayne County attorney. The commission is really playing hard ball with people who have repeat violations of underage drinking in their establishments."

Along with the fines, that includes closing the business for 7 or 14 days, he said.

Underage drinking is not the only concern -- establishments with a history of violence such as Lamar's are, too, Myrick said.

Raecher said he plans to contact local law enforcement to ensure he is made of aware of any calls to establishments where there are fights or other acts of violence.

Efforts to help curb underage drinking also include using young people to attempt to purchase alcohol. Not even the ABC stores are exempt. A person must be 21 years of age to enter an ABC store, and Raecher said in the last year and a half he has made close to 150 underage people leave an ABC store.

He said he is not trying to shut down any business, only stop underage drinking.

"They need more attention to detail when they are serving people," he said.

""One way to do that is wrist bands for underage, and say if they have a certain hour, 10 o'clock, when they stop serving food, they need to say anyone under 21 out of there," Myrick said. "That is a good policy because these establishments don't want to end up getting in get one of these suits where somebody comes after them after somebody has a wreck and someone underage was killed who had been drinking at their establishments."

To make a complaint, contact the ABC Board at 778-7731 or call Crime Stoppers at 735-2255.