Underage liquor citations exceed average in March

By Stephanie Gomes

In the Wednesday April 9 edition of The Daily Illini, the graphic accompanying the article “Underage liquor citations exceed average in March,” showed Station and The Clybourne located on Springfield Avenue. Station is located at the intersection of Third and Green streets. The Clybourne is located on Sixth Street, just south of Green Street.

The following is the article as it appeared in print that day.

March proved a popular month for underage drinking in Champaign County, according to the Illinois Liquor Commission. This may not come as a surprise to those who remember the month was kicked off by Unofficial St. Patrick’s Day weekend.

“The Liquor Commission has made it a priority to crack down on those who sell to minors,” said Lainie Krozel, Illinois Liquor Control Commission Acting Director, in a press release. “Our goal is to keep alcohol out of the hands of those not old enough to drink. Those liquor establishments who chose to break the law will be held accountable.”

According to a press release, the Liquor Commission reported a record of 50 citations for liquor establishments selling to minors in March, the majority of which were cited on Unofficial St. Patrick’s Day weekend on campus. During this weekend, the Illinois Liquor Commission worked with local enforcement to cite 30 violations at 18 locations.

“During Unofficial St. Patrick’s Day, we did increase the number of Illinois Liquor agents in Champaign due to local requests,” said Katie Ridgway, commission spokeswoman. “We worked with local law enforcement to cite retailers and bars that were selling to minors.”

Liquor agents in Champaign County have issued a total of 28 other citations in March for violations, including unlicensed locations, gambling and happy hour violations.

Sgt. Scott Friedlein of the Champaign Police Department said the Illinois Liquor Commission cites the licensees, and the police department cites the individual sellers.

“If a bar was cited it was because minors were consuming alcohol on the premise,” he said.

The Illinois Liquor Commission conducts underage age compliance checks where youths are hired to purchase alcohol from retailers, he said. If a purchase is made, the liquor agent then instructs the seller to report it to the Champaign Police Department. The police would give the seller a notice to appear in court for violations of alcohol sales to a minor.

The numbers of violations liquor agents find at these establishments vary, Friedlein said. The agents came in December and checked 15 locations and found nothing.

“The bottom line is that underage drinking leads to many issues such as overconsumption,” he said.

“By reducing alcohol sales to minors, we reduce other more serious crimes from occurring.”

Liquor agents wrote five violations in two days when they discovered a Mahomet, Ill., liquor retailer selling to minors and raising the prices of the alcohol they purchased.

The Illinois Liquor Control Commission agents reported that the retailer sold one case of beer for $25 to a minor, significantly over the marketed price, according to a press release.

Krozel said this record report affects the whole community in Champaign County.

“I’m not surprised that the month of March had recorded breaking numbers,” said Justin Randall, University student body president and member of the Champaign Liquor Advisory Commission.

“March has better weather and is in the middle of the semester. Students have more time to go out and drink.”

The Illinois Liquor Commission, which has the authority to shut down any bar if they are in violation of the law, was checking to make sure bars were conducting business legally on Unofficial.

“They came in to ensure the bars were not violating the law,” Randall said.

Teri Legner, the Deputy Liquor Commissioner at the Champaign Liquor Advisory Commission, was out of the office all week and unable to answer questions.

“Unfortunately, in Champaign County, our liquor agents found that many liquor retailers had become lax in following our state’s liquor laws,” Krozel said. “Underage drinking can be dangerous not only for minors who do not know how to handle the effects of alcohol, but also for drivers who may come into contact with a minor driving under the influence.”

Those establishments found selling to minors are subject to arrest, one year in jail and a $2,500 maximum fine, according to the Illinois Liquor commission.

In addition, the liquor establishment will receive a suspension or revocation of their license.