Businesses sell alcohol to underage customers

By RAELYNN RICARTE

News staff writer

June 3, 2006

An Oregon Liquor Control Commission sting recently caught five Hood River businesses selling alcohol to underage patrons.

“While the schools are doing their part with strong policies and enforcement, almost half of our (tested) alcohol servers and retailers let us down and that is very disappointing,” said Maija Yasui, county prevention coordinator.

The “decoy” missions involving area teenagers were organized by OLCC in May. Employees at the following businesses violated state law by furnishing alcohol to customers under the age of 21: Cascade Market on West Cascade Street, Chevron on Marina Way, El Tapatio Mexican Restaurant on 12th Street, Ho Ho Restaurant on West Cascade Avenue and Passport Exchange on Oak Street.

Yasui said OLCC made no attempt to have the decoys look younger than their actual ages. Nor did those individuals attempt to trick the server or clerk into selling the alcohol.

She said the results of the OLCC operation were “surprising” given the educational outreach of the past four months. In February, Yasui and the Hood River County Commission on Children and Families arranged a public forum in Hood River that centered on the problems associated with underage drinking.

Almost 200 representatives from area service organizations, businesses, schools and churches attended. Presentations by professionals working with juveniles outlined the potential for more driving accidents, unplanned pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases with teen alcohol abuse.

“We had hopes that the information relating to all the damage caused by youth use of alcohol would have a stronger impact on people’s actions,” said Yasui.

She was heartened that five other local businesses were also targeted by the OLCC sting but did not sell to underage customers. Yasui said HRCCCF applauds the diligence of: Food Mart, Rite Aid and Safeway on West Cascade Avenue, and both Hood River Restaurant and Union 76 on Second Street.

Another positive note, said Yasui, is that OLCC investigators observed a reduction in the samples of wine served at May’s First Friday event. Last year two businesses were cited for violations after allowing patrons to leave the premises with alcohol. The Downtown Business Association then began discouraging retail outlets from providing alcohol at the monthly celebration.

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