Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Juneau Liquor Store Owner Paints a Different Picture of the Underage Buyer Bounty

SB 194  would increase the bounty on underage liquor purchasers.  As I reported in the previous post, current law has the fine at $1000, but the money goes back to the liquor license holder who turns in the violator, so one could call it a bounty paid by the person who pays the fine.

Initial testimony from a Mr. Madden representing Brown Jug Liquor stores made it sound like a great program.  They waive $750 if the kid agrees to go to an alcohol awareness class and a sexual assault awareness class.  $200 goes to the cashier who turned him in.  And I guess Brown Jug keeps the rest.  But then Rep. Peggy Wilson reflected to bill sponsor Sen. Kevin Meyer that if only Brown Jug does this program, the kids will figure out they need to go to other liquor stores and when will that happen? 

Sen. Meyer responded that CHARR was now doing the work for independent liquor stores, and in fact, CHARR had asked the fine be raised to $1500 to cover the costs of tracking down violators.

That got me thinking about how this would actually work.  If I clerk gets an underage buyer, what does he do?   Tell him to sit and wait for the cops?  Grab him and cuff him? 

Rep. Gatto also asked questions about where the money goes if they raise it by $500.  If Brown Jug can do this for 12 years including waiving $750 if the kid goes to a class, why does CHARR need another $500?  In the previous post I calculated that at the rate Brown Jug said it's prosecuting people, they would bring in $200,000 per year if the fee was $1500. 

As I read the legislation, CHARR doesn't need extra money for costs because the bill already includes reasonable costs and attorney's fees.
(b) A licensee may bring a civil action against a person who violates this section if the violation occurs on the premises of that licensee. If judgment is entered in favor of the licensee, the court shall award civil damages in the amount of $1,000 and award reasonable costs and reasonable attorney fees allowed under the Alaska Rules of Civil Procedure.
As I read the new bill which changes the $1000 to $1500, it simply licenses CHARR and any liquor store owner to get $500 more per prosecution. 

I had 15 minutes to kill before meeting my wife and a friend for dinner.  I'd been inside most of the day so I walked around the block thinking about this.  I walked past Percy's liquor store.  Then I walked back again and went into the liquor store and asked the clerk about this. (I looked him up to get his name spelled right and the Juneau-Empire identifies him as a co-owner of Percy's.)  His answer was that it was a joke.  I asked if he would repeat his comments on video.

This is a very different perspective than we heard in committee.  Last week, Rep. Ramras extolled the small business owners who testified before the Judiciary Committee where this bill goes next.  Perhaps this small business owner will encourage his committee his committee to ask a few more questions.

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