Market faces fifth illegal beer sale violation

By Thomas Wilson
STAR STAFF
twilson@starhq.com

   A convenience store charged with its fifth violation of selling beer to a minor is one of four off-premises beer license holders facing punitive action by the Elizabethton Beverage Board on Thursday night.
   Elizabethton City Council, acting in its capacity as the Elizabethton Beverage Board, will determine if the license status of the Road Runner Market #141, 416 U.S. Highway 91, will be suspended or revoked following Thursday night's scheduled council meeting.
   The store was cited for its fifth violation of selling to beer to a minor during a sting operation conducted by the detective division of the Elizabethton Police Department in October.
   The beverage board issued the market's beer permit to Ralph Fellers and Warren K. Broyles of Mountain Empire Oil Co. 3583 W. Market St., Johnson City, in December 1997. Elizabethton police have since cited store employees on five occasions for selling alcoholic beverages to an under age customer working with the police department.
   The Beverage Board had suspended the market's off-premises permit to sell beer for 180 days in December of 2001 following the market's fourth violation in two years. Mountain Empire Oil appealed the Beverage Board's ruling into Chancery Court shortly after the decision.
   In a court hearing held in March 2002, Chancellor Richard Johnson reduced the suspension of six months to 90 days and ordered the company to pay court costs in the case. Mountain Empire Oil Co. presently operates more than 40 convenience stores and fuel centers in Tennessee, Virginia, and North Carolina.
   Also cited by police in the October operation and facing a show cause hearing are the Sunoco A-Plus Market, 1258 Milligan Highway, the Quick Stop Market, 2404 W. Elk Ave., and the Blue Circle Market, 101 Broad St.
   The citation was the first issued to the Sunoco and Quick Stop markets and the second violation for the Blue Circle Market. Elizabethton Police used an undercover operative over age 18 but under age 21 to make the beer purchases. The transactions were monitored by wireless radio transmission and recorded on audio and video surveillance by detectives.
   All four employees issued charges by police for selling beer to a minor have been adjudicated through General Sessions Court. Each offender was found guilty, fined $50 and given 11 months and 29 days probation.
   In past Beverage Board rulings, first-time offenders have typically received an elective punishment of either a $250 penalty or suspension of their beer license for three consecutive days. A second offense has usually drawn a choice of a $1,500 penalty or a suspension of beer-selling privileges for a fortnight.
   The first violation of Road Runner #141 was brought before the Beverage Board in December 1999 when the board imposed a $250 penalty and three-day permit suspension for the first violation. The company received a $750 civil penalty on July 20, 2000 for the second violation, and a $1,500 penalty for the third violation on Sept. 13, 2001. The fourth violation reportedly occurred in Sept. 2001 just six days after the board imposed the $1,500 penalty.