Alcohol issues stump council

Members delay decision on liquor license renewal for convenience store

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Craig City Council unanimously endorsed Tuesday night a proclamation naming April as Alcohol Awareness Month and in the spirit of encouraging people to make positive, alcohol-free choices, tabled a decision on the renewal of a liquor license for GoFer Foods.

This year, Council will have to consider whether to renew licenses for eight businesses, GoFer Foods included, caught selling alcohol to minors during a November law enforcement sting. Some Council members are concerned about the message they send by renewing licenses for businesses that break the rules.

"Where do we draw the line?" Councilor Bill Johnston asked. "When do we not issue a liquor license or a renewal?"

A GoFer Foods employee was cited for selling alcohol to minors. That employee failed to attend a court-ordered alcohol training class, to the dismay of Council members.

"I have a problem with this clerk who doesn't care enough to go to this court-ordered class in the first place," Johnston said.

The discussion centered around whether Council planned to punish a business for mistakes of employees.

"I don't think we should penalize GoFer that harshly for one mistake an employee made," Johnston said.

Council approved a liquor license renewal in February requested by City Market because employees promised to attend an alcohol training course. City Market was caught in the November sting, its second violation.

State code gives City Council authority to approve or deny a liquor license, but the decision to deny a license must be based on "good cause shown," City Attorney Sherman Romney said.

"My concern is that, with this particular case, there's one case of sale to a minor and that may not be sufficient cause. There's no pattern shown," Romney said.

Council wanted to postpone its decision to allow the employee who sold alcohol to a minor time to attend another alcohol training class. The next class won't be for three or more months. Instead, the Council tabled the issue so Romney could research options. A temporary suspension of the license is one option.

GoFer Foods manager Elaine McDiffett said she would require all her employees to take the alcohol class next time it was offered, but Craig Police Chief Walt Vanatta said the high rate of turnover in convenience store clerks doesn't make that plan effective.

"I think this is a management issue," Vanatta said. "I think it's management's job to train new employees."

The employee still works for GoFer Foods, but will be fired if she ever sells alcohol to a minor again, McDiffett said.

"It upsets me that she isn't taking this more seriously than she is," McDiffett said.

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