Illegal beer sales judged

By Thomas Wilson

   Elizabethton City Council, acting in its capacity as the Elizabethton Beverage Board, levied penalties against three convenience markets cited for selling beer to minors during show cause hearings on Thursday night.
   However, the most egregious violator charged with a fifth violation of selling beer to a minor was deferred from the board's agenda and is less than one week away from letting its beer permit lapse.
   The Roadrunner Market, 416 U.S. Highway 91, had been on the board agenda facing action for its fifth violation of selling to beer to a minor since 1997.
   During a sting operation conducted by the detective division of the Elizabethton Police Department in October, the Roadrunner, along with Sunoco A-Plus Market, 1258 Milligan Highway; the Quick Stop Market, 2404 W. Elk Ave., and the Blue Circle Market, 101 Broad St., were cited for illegal beer sales to minors.
   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.
   City attorney Roger Day and City Clerk Brad Moffitt advised board members that the permit holder had not paid the license renewal fee to sell beer due on Jan. 1, 2004. The permit became delinquent on Jan. 31. Day sent a registered letter received by Mountain Oil on March 8 notifying them of the delinquency.
   If Mountain Oil does not pay the fee renewal within 7 days of receiving the letter, the beer permit at that Roadrunner Market becomes invalid.
   The citation was the first citation issued to the Sunoco and Quick Stop markets and the second violation for the Blue Circle Market since 1999.
   At Thursday night's meeting Day said that Blue Circle's last violation occurred more than three years ago, which categorized the latest violation as a first-time violation under standard board policy. The board voted to give the three permit holders the option of paying a $250 fine or having their beer license suspended for three days.
   The Beverage Board had suspended the permit of Roadrunner to sell beer for 180 days in December 2001 following the market's fourth violation. The suspension was later reduced to 90 days when Mountain Empire Oil appealed the board's ruling into Chancery Court shortly after the decision. The company also operates a Roadrunner Market on West G Street.
   Elizabethton police used an undercover operative over age 18 but under age 21 to make the beer purchases during the operation conducted in October. The transactions were monitored by wireless radio transmission and recorded on audio and video surveillance by detectives.
   All four employees issued charged 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.