Area businesses charged with sale of alcohol to minors in sting operation

By Thomas Wilson

STAR STAFF
twilson@starhq.com

   The Elizabethton City Council acting in their capacity of the Beverage Board will convene Thursday night to hear reports of five permit holders charged by Elizabethton Police Department detectives with sale of alcoholic beverages to a minor during an undercover police operation.
   Elizabethton Police Chief Roger Deal said that while he understood the difficulties businesses face in training employees to comply with alcoholic beverage sales, business owners holding a beverage permit took on tremendous responsibility.
   "When someone applies for a beer permit, that isn't a right to sell beer; it is a privilege," said Deal. "We look for a trend that consistently violates with the ordinance."
   Police detectives cited the employees of four businesses and the owner of one establishment on a charge of selling alcoholic beverages to an under age customer as part of a sting operation.
   The citation was the first for the Winn-Dixie market located on U.S. Highway 19E, Pizza Hut, and the Coffey's Creekside Café on the Milligan Highway. Winn-Dixie holds an off-premises permit while Pizza Hut and the Creekside Café have on-premises permits allowing beer consumption at the restaurants.
   The newest citation was the second since 1999 for the Roadrunner on West G Street and the Ingle's Market in the Carter County Plaza. A clerk at Ingle's was cited in 1999 for selling alcohol to a minor following a similar police sting operation, according to a history report from the city.
   The supermarket was also issued a warning in July 2000 for accepting a verbal birth date from an undercover operative instead of valid identification.
   The clerk charged at the Roadrunner, Debbie Ramsey, pleaded not guilty in a court appearance in December. She is schedule to appear in General Sessions Court Jan. 14.
   The four remaining defendants were fined $50 and sentenced to one year of probation by Sessions Court Judge John Walton.
   There are 25 permits to sell beer issued in the city of Elizabethton. Permit holders range from convenience stores to private clubs. To obtain an on-premises license, most restaurants are required to have a capacity of not less than 100 persons and have their primary business be that of serving food to be prepared and consumed on site, according to city ordinance.
   Previously, the Beverage Board has given permit holders cited for sales violation the option to pay a fine or have the beer permit temporarily suspended.
   While police gather information and present it, any potential punitive action ranging from fines to permit revocation lies at the discretion of the Board.
   "I will not make a recommendation, unless I'm asked to by the Beverage Board," Deal said.