By Shawn Regan
---- — HAVERHILL — Seven local package stores were caught selling alcohol to a minor in a police sting, investigators said.
The businesses face penalties ranging from warnings to suspension or revocation of their liquor licenses at hearings at tonight’s License Commission meeting. The meeting is at 7 p.m. at City Hall.
The commission’s practice for first-time offenders has been to put them on probation or cut their hours by ordering them to stop selling alcohol early for a period of time.
The stores implicated in the March 3 sting are: 7-Eleven, 508 River St.; The Grill Next Door, 653 Broadway; Quality Brand Liquors, 185 S. Elm St.; Town’s Variety and Liquor, 277 Groveland St.; Li’s Asian Garden, 1186 Main St.; American Grocery, 426-428 Main St.; and Bradford Convenience & Liquors, 91 S. Main St.
License Commission Chairman Joseph Edwards could not be reached yesterday and Captain Alan Ratte, the Police Department’s liaison to the commission, did not return a phone call seeking comment for this story.
Only one of the six stores — Town’s Variety and Liquor — is a repeat offender, according to the commission’s meeting agenda.
However, the commission voted to suspend Quality Brand Liquor’s alcohol license for two days in September 2013 for allegedly selling wine and vodka to an intoxicated woman. The commission agreed to delay action on the punishment for six months, and eventually rescinded the suspension. The courtesy was given to the store’s manager, Yatin Patel, because he had no history of license violations at that time.
That incident was brought to the commission’s attention by Deputy Police Chief Donald Thompson, who said he happened to be driving by the store as a woman stumbled out the front door carrying a bag of liquor. Thompson said he was off duty at the time, but that he recognized the woman and turned his car around after he watched her “fall into the building” while walking out of the store with her teenage daughter.
Thompson said he pulled his car over and watched the woman fall again, before her daughter helped her into their vehicle, which another teenage girl was driving.
Police later visited the store to speak with Patel, who was working when the woman bought wine and vodka. Officers said Patel, who has been running the store since November 2012, told them that he recalled the woman police said was intoxicated as a customer who was in the store earlier with her daughter. However, Patel told police he did not think the woman was drunk when he sold her alcohol.
At a subsequent meeting with the commission, Patel said he installed several signs inside his store after the incident alerting customers that picture identification is required to buy alcohol and that no one who is intoxicated will be sold alcohol.
“I’ll be more careful in the future for sure,” Patel told the commission at the September meeting.