Dozens of Californians cited for allegedly providing alcoholic beverages to minors.
During the weekend of March 11th and 12th, 2023 the ABC worked with nearly fifty local law enforcement agencies and departments across California to conduct “shoulder tap” minor decoy operations at premises holding California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (“ABC”) retail alcohol licenses. As you may know, “shoulder tap” operations are a type of minor decoy sting. In these operations, the police decoy does not try and buy alcohol directly from a store, but instead approaches people outside of the licensed premises, “taps a shoulder,” and asks that person to go in and buy alcohol for them. The weekend’s operations resulted in nearly a hundred and fifty arrests, state-wide.
Usually, the persons arrested and cited in “shoulder tap” operations are the private citizens who fell for the sting and bought alcohol for the decoy. However, there are some circumstances – most frequently when the purchaser is also a minor – which can lead to the seller being cited as well. In these cases, the ABC will also file an administrative Accusation against the licensee for a violation of Business & Professions Code section 25658(a) – selling or furnishing alcohol to minors. Depending on the licensee’s disciplinary history and the facts of the case, such Accusations can seek the suspension or even revocation of the selling store’s alcohol license!
At Solomon, Saltsman & Jamieson we’ve worked for decades to advise ABC licensees on compliance, as well as to defend them in regulatory actions. In that time we’ve seen countless retail licensees deal with administrative discipline against their licenses because of big law-enforcement operations like the ones that occurred this weekend. In such cases, we find that it’s of the utmost importance to secure relevant evidence as soon as possible because otherwise it can be misplaced, deleted, or otherwise lost. This can severely hurt a licensee’s ability to contest any discipline against its license!
Thus, licensees should be diligent about frequently and consistently checking with employees to see if law enforcement has issued any citations to employees, or to the business as a whole – if there have been any such citations issued, there will usually be some paperwork left behind for the owner/operator of the licensed premises to review. Once a citation has been identified, all relevant evidence should be gathered as soon as possible. This often includes things like: (1) sales receipt(s) for any transactions at issue; (2) witness contact information and statements (customers in the business at the time? Other employees on duty?); and (3) surveillance camera footage. If quick action is not taken to save this evidence, it often vanishes. Surveillance videos, in particular, are often automatically overwritten or deleted if not specifically downloaded or saved after some number of days.
We recommend that you gather all this information as well as any other evidence which could be relevant to the matter, and contact your lawyer for the purposes of preparing for potential legal or administrative proceedings. Even if you don’t hear anything from the ABC right away, you’re not out of the woods just yet. The ABC has one year after the incident to file an accusation. So keep that information on hand until you hear from your lawyer that everything is alright.
If you have any questions about handling California alcoholic beverage licenses, or if you have received a notice of violation and need legal assistance, please feel free to contact our office toll-free, at (800) 405-4222, or (310) 822-9848. You can also email us through our website, at https://ssjlaw.com. We’ll be happy to put you in contact with one of our experienced ABC-law attorneys to discuss your case – your initial consultation is free!