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Failure to check ID burns local liquor store

La Plata, MD - It’s an element of being in the liquor establishment that no business owner wants to confront: that one of their employees sold alcohol to an underage patron during a compliance check.

That was the situation facing Virginia Crane, owner of Big B’s Liquor, 7099 Indian Head Highway in Bryans Road Thursday, March 12, when she was called before the Charles County Alcohol Beverage Board to answer charges that an employee, Rebecca Ann Darr, did not comply with the business’ strict policy regarding the sale of alcohol to underage patrons.

Cpl. Judith Thompson detailed the Jan. 16, 2015 compliance check on the business, saying the officers entered the drive through window and asked the clerk for a six pack of Bud Light. The clerks asked if they wanted bottled or cans, left, came back and bagged the alcohol.

“The clerk never asked her for any ID,” Thompson said. “In a conversation with the clerk, she said when she sees customers all the time, she doesn’t always check their identification. She said she understood the seriousness of the situation. I did ask the officer, based on the comment made by Ms. Darr, and she said she was 100 percent positive she had never been in the establishment before.”

Darr, 23 of Indian Head, told the board she had been working there for almost two years when the violation occurred. Under questioning by attorney Hammad Matin, she told the board that her boss “was almost like Hitler” when it came to compliance, and was always reminding employees about checking customer IDs.

“I knew when I did it I made a huge mistake,” Darr said, adding that she was fired as a result of the incident.

Board member William Young asked Darr, “You were aware at the time of this incident you would be fired.”

“Yes sir,” she responded. “I had signed the paperwork.”

Darr also admitted her alcohol training card expired in 2009 and she wasn’t certified at the time of the sale.

“That is part of the reason why I had the entire staff come in today,” Matin said. “Ms. Crane has a 100 percent compliance check in her store, we’re talking about if you serve alcohol to any kid, if you do that, you’re done.”

Matin added he had documentation that all the business employees were TAN certified.

Martha Ardis, manager and compliance officer at the store, said Crane is constantly questioning employees to see if they card patrons.

“We are constantly overseeing employees to make sure customers are carded,” she said. “They will be terminated if they are found not to have carded. This act was an aberration,” she said.

She added that signs are all over the place, “even prior to this incident occurring.”
She said the store had lost customers before because they didn’t have their ID and couldn’t be sold alcohol.

“At times, people have gone off on us,” Ardis added. “They’re upset because they’re not served alcohol.”

Matin asked the board for its consideration, saying that a closure “could obviously have a horrific impact on the sale of this business.”

Board member Thomasina Coates suggested a $1,500 fine for the establishment and $200 for the employee, with no closing, taking into consideration that Crane was in the process of selling the business and in fact, was due to meet with a potential buyer later in the day.

Member Steven Lowe suggested a slightly higher fine of $300 for the server.

The board agreed, levying a $1,500 fine on the owner, fining the server $300 and consenting not to close the business.

Contact Joseph Norris at joe.norris@thebaynet.com

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