The New York State Liquor Authority has announced a change to the Alcoholic Beverage Control Law regarding the sale of alcoholic beverages to minors and the investigations of these sales.
Licensees (with no prior violations in the last five years) now have two opportunities to reduce penalties imposed by the SLA. If, at the time of sale, the person who sold the alcohol to the minor had previously attended a course in the Alcohol Training Awareness Program (“ATAP”), the penalty would then be reduced to a claim against the licensee’s surety bond. The person must be able to provide a valid certificate of completion (or renewal of certificate of completion) of an ATAP course. It is important to note that this option will not be offered to the licensee; rather, the licensee must bring this to the attention of the SLA prosecutor.
If the person who sold the alcohol to the minor did not complete an ATAP course before the sale, the licensee can get a 25% reduction of the penalty. In order to be eligible for the reduction, the licensee must provide proof that the individuals involved in the sale have completed an ATAP course. Proof of completion must be submitted within 90 days of the penalty being imposed.
A list of SLA-approved ATAP courses is available at https://www.sla.ny.gov/alcohol-training-awareness-program.
The SLA uses underage agents to investigate allegations of sales of alcohol to minors. The agents attempt to purchase alcohol under the supervision of law enforcement agencies. Previously, if agents were asked their age while attempting to make a purchase, they had to give their true age. The policy has changed to allow the agents to misrepresent their age if they are asked by the person selling the alcohol. They also do not have to disclose that they are associated with law enforcement.
Licensees must understand that merely asking a person’s age does not enough to prevent the sale of alcohol to a minor. Selling alcohol to an underage individual is considered a “strict liability” offense, which means that the licensee is responsible, no matter what the intention. By not asking for proper identification as proof of age, the licensee is assuming the risk that the customer may not be being truthful. The best procedure is to demand documentary proof of age, examine it, and even consider using a scanning device to verify its validity.
Another best practice tip is to require all employees complete an ATAP course. The cost of the course is minor compared to the penalties you could face if an inadequately trained employee gets caught selling alcohol to a minor. These costs are born by the licensee, not the employee, so it is in the licensee’s best interest to invest in training employees properly.