Warning - CA ABC enforcement teams are on the prowl this weekend!

Yesterday morning (March 10th) the CA ABC quietly issued a notice informing the public that on Saturday, March 12 it will be conducting, in conjunction with “as many as 100 local Police and Sheriff’s Departments” a statewide “shoulder tap decoy operation.” 

In shoulder tap operations, minors under the supervision of law enforcement officers will stand outside stores that sell wine, beer and spirits (potentially including urban winery, brewery and craft distiller tasting rooms) and attempt to solicit adults to purchase alcohol for them.  If an adult agrees to purchase alcohol for the minor decoy, the adult will be arrested and cited for furnishing alcohol to a minor.  “The penalty for furnishing alcohol to a minor is a minimum $1000 fine and 24 hours of community service.”

If the merchant knows or should have known that the adult was purchasing for a minor the merchant would also be liable for the crime, and its license would be at risk. An example of this would be when a licensee employee sees the minor hanging out in front of the location, and doesn’t take steps to tell the minor to move on.

While the goal of a shoulder tap operation is to curtail the purchasing of alcohol for underage individuals by adults, the increased law enforcement presence has in the past, and will undoubtedly in this operation, lead to additional arrests and citations for other, alcoholic beverage law related offenses.  Hundreds of law enforcement agents focusing on licensee alcohol sales protocols means that all aspects of the licensees operation (including compliance with conditions) will be examined and, if the licensee is found wanting, will result in accusations.

The ABC press release states that during a similar operation last year, citations were issued for “open containers, false identification and other violations.” We are assuming that no one wants to be part of a sale to a minor.  It’s the “other violations” that give us (and should give every licensee out there) heartburn. Retailers should be extra vigilant this weekend to ensure they are fully compliant with all laws and regulations – the police are out in force! 

The timing of the operation and the notice will allow the ABC to claim that they gave notice of the operation, which could result in aggravated discipline.

If you would like a refresher on compliance, Hinman & Carmichael has 30+ years of experience in the arena.