The Smithville Beer Board has suspended the license of three businesses for violation of the city's beer ordinance which prohibits the illegal sales of alcohol to a person under the age of 21.
The owners of Jewel's Market on South Congress Boulevard, Village Market on North Congress Boulevard, and El Mariachi (BP Station) on West Broad Street are prohibited from selling beer for ninety days.
The beer board held a hearing Thursday evening at city hall.
Smithville Police Chief Randy Caplinger, in presenting his case against the stores to the beer board Thursday night, explained that a confidential underage informant was sent into all locations that sell beer in Smithville on Friday, August 27th. In each case, Chief Caplinger said the informant, who is 18 years of age, presented his ID and tried to buy beer. He was successful only at these three stores, Jewel's Market, El Mariachi, and at Village Market. "At each stop, myself and detective (Matt) Holmes, positioned ourselves where we could actually see the operation. He (underage informant) would go in and pick up a six pack of beer out of the cooler, come to the counter, and set it down. We watched to see if he was asked for an ID or not. Some stores turned him down, some did not."
In the case against El Mariachi, Chief Caplinger explained that "at this particular location, and we did not know it at the time, but the (clerk behind the counter working there) was a juvenile. We observed her sell him the beer and she did not ask for an ID or anything. He did have the ID out but they did not check it. He bought a six pack of Busch beer. We observed him pay for it, pick it up, and then he came out of the store and got back in the van with us (Caplinger and Holmes). We recorded everything and went to the next location."
Chief Caplinger said the store clerk was still working behind the counter when police returned later to make the arrests. "That's when we found out that she was only sixteen years old."
The girl's aunt, 33 year old Susana Jasmin Saldivar was charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor for allowing a sixteen year old female store clerk to sell beer. The 16 year old was also charged in a juvenile petition with selling alcohol to a minor.
Since then Saldivar has appeared in General Sessions Court where she pled guilty to the charge. She was given a six month suspended sentence and fined $50 in the case.
Jim Judkins, the attorney for Ms. Saldivar, appealed to the beer board not to punish the aunt for the actions of her niece, who was not an employee of the store. "This was an afternoon where she (niece) came over to the store. What we would allege is that they (uncle and aunt) have allowed her to stand up near the bar (store counter) where the cash register is and do her homework. At this particular time, she (niece) was supposed to get Mr. Rodriguez (her uncle) to come over and do this (make the sale). He was on the very other side of the store checking out a shipment and got distracted. Ms Saldivar, the owner, was in the back in the ladies room. So our position is that the owners or none of their employees ever made or allowed any sale of beer to a minor under 21 years of age. Their niece, and I'm not saying she's a bad girl because sometimes kids break the rules, but she didn't do what she was supposed to and she went ahead and made the sale. Our argument is that my clients, the owners and their employees, no one who was authorized to sell beer that day did it. The niece did it."
In response, city attorney Vester Parsley, Jr. said the city ordinance is clear. "It says "make or allow" and they were allowing her to run the cash register. The ordinance says "It shall be unlawful for any beer permit holder to make or allow any sale of beer to a minor under twenty one years of age."
Judkins added that Saldivar entered a "best interest" guilty plea and accepted the sentence rather than spend another two weeks in jail.
In the case against Jewel's Market, Chief Caplinger explained that the underage informant showed the store clerk, Kira G. Clouse, his ID but she ignored it and sold him the beer anyway. " Our client went in and purchased a six pack of Natural Ice Beer. She did ask for an ID and he produced it, showed it, but she just looked down at it and handed him the beer and he walked out."
The store manager of Jewel's Market, Neil Patel, was present during Thursday night's beer board hearing and admitted that the store was guilty of making the illegal beer sale. The store owner did not attend the meeting. Patel said the owner lives in Georgia. The court case against Ms. Clouse is still pending.
In the case against Village Market, Chief Caplinger said the buy went pretty much the same way as the others. "Our agent went in and picked up a six pack of Busch beer. He put it on the counter. No ID was checked there. He paid for it and received a receipt for it and he came out with the beer."
The case against the store clerk who made the sale at Village Market, Hardik Pravinbhai Patel, is still pending in court.
The owner of Village Market addressed the beer board Thursday night. He too admitted that the store was guilty of making the illegal beer sale, but asked that he be allowed to pay a penalty fine in lieu of a 90 day suspension of his license. The owner said he would lose business and might have to lay off employees because of this.
Parsley said the city ordinance does not provide for the option of a fine." The ordinance says upon the finding of any violation by any permit holder, the punishment for the first offense shall be a minimum suspension of the beer permit for a period of ninety days. Upon any permit holder committing a violation a second time, the punishment shall be the revocation of the beer license."
The beer board, made up of Steve Hayes, Farron Hendrix, Annette Greek, and Alderman Cecil Burger, voted in each case to suspend the beer license of each establishment for ninety days. Beer board member Lloyd Black was absent Thursday night.
Parsley instructed each of the store owners and operators to stop selling beer immediately and warned of the consequences if they are caught selling beer to anyone during the 90 day suspension period.
Chief Caplinger is expected to pick up the license of each of the three stores by Friday.