Two restaurants and a liquor store in the Santa Clarita Valley were accused of selling alcohol to minors in a sting operation aimed at ferreting out people who put alcohol in the hands of minors, sheriff’s officials said Thursday. The Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station’s Community Partnerships Bureau met up with agents of the state’s Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control to carry out decoy sting operations at eight local businesses last week. “We, as law enforcement officers, are holding them to a higher standard,” Capt. Robert Lewis told The Signal on Thursday, vowing to continue carrying out ABC sting operations. The joint forces team carried out “decoy” stings at four local restaurants and four liquor stores. Two of the restaurants and three of the liquor stores targeted for compliance with state liquor laws obeyed were found to have obeyed those laws. Staffers at a liquor store and two restaurants, however, served alcohol to a minor on Feb. 8, according to Deputy Sheklow. The businesses cited for selling alcohol to a minor received a citation, and will now go before an “ABC court,” where their liquor licences will be reviewed. Businesses that allegedly violated liquor laws by selling to a minor, include: Kisho Japanese Restaurant on Valencia Boulevard at Cinema Drive; Saddle Ranch restaurant, also on Valencia; and the Kwik Pick Jr. Market liquor store on Bouquet Canyon Road, at Haskell Canyon Road. The two restaurants that passed the sting operation were Schooners on Soledad Canyon Road, east of Bouquet Canyon Road, and Margaritas Mexican Grill on Valencia Boulevard, near Cinema Drive. Local liquor stores that passed the test included: MGA Liquor, Junior Liquor and Circle K. “We are making sure local businesses are not serving alcohol to minors,” Sheklow said.
In complianceJose Lucatero, who runs Margaritas Mexican Grill, passed the test with flying colors. Although he wasn’t personally in the restaurant when the plainclothes detectives showed up with their two underage volunteer “decoys” his staffers checked ID. “I took a class,” Lucatero said, pointing a framed certificate posted near the cash register. “We check their IDs eveyday,” he said, pointing to daily calendar also mounted on the wall. The daily calendar reminds restaurant staffers, reading the dates on driver’s licenses, who turns 21 years old on that day. At Schooners, owner Teri Ledesma, proudly waved a piece of paper given to her by the joint forces sting team last week, after she refused to serve alcohol to the “decoy” minor. “We follow strict ABC guidelines,” she told The Signal Thursday. “And, all our staff are trained to properly ID customers.” Having to pay a citation fine is one thing, losing a liquor license because you sold alcohol to a minor could cost you the business, she said. Deputy’s carried out their first series of sting operations aimed at liquor-serving establishments last month.
Sting operationHere’s how the restaurant sting works: A minor goes into a bar followed at a short distance away by a plainclothes undercover deputy. The kid, between 16 and 20 years old, sits down at a table and, when the waiter arrives, orders a beer. If he’s asked his age, the kid answers honestly, giving the waiter his real age. If he’s asked to produce identification, the kid hands the waiter a valid ID showing he is clearly under 21 and not allowed by law to purchase alcohol. If the waiter brings him an alcoholic beverage, the kid and the undercover watching him walk out of the bar and alert uniformed officers to the violation. The uniformed deputies notify the owners and/or managers of the bar that the business has violated state liquor laws. In applying the sting at liquor stores, the decoy minor grabs a six-pack of a “nationally-recognized” beer and brings it to the counter. If asked for ID, the minor produces a identification that clearly shows he is underage. In the sting carried out last month, Art’s Liquor on Soledad Canyon Road near Sierra Highway was cited for having allegedly sold alcohol to a minor. The offense, contributing to the delinquency of a minor, carries a possible sentence of up to one year in jail and a fine up to $2,500. Every year, the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station, as is the case with all law enforcement agencies in the state, gets a chance to apply for a state grant to conduct the operation. The mission of the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control is to provide the highest level of service and public safety to the people of the State through licensing, education, and enforcement. [email protected] 661-287-5527 On Twitter @jamesarthurholt