Selling Alcohol to a Minor is Not Worth the Risk
an article by co authors; Ralph B. Saltsman, Stephen Jamieson, and Erica Jamieson
It can take only one ABC violation to effectively lose your license. In two recent cases, The ABC conditionally revoked and indefinitely suspended liquor licenses after intoxicated minors were involved in fatal traffic incidents.
Edison Market, in Edison, CA, after a TRACE (Target Responsibility for Alcohol Connected Emergencies) investigation, traced the sale of alcoholic beverages to a minor subsequently involved in a deadly car crash in November 2021. Store clerks failed to check the identification of the minor and repeatedly sold alcohol to him over the course of four hours. After consuming the alcohol in the parking lot of the market, the minor drove off and eventually rear-ended another vehicle at high speed resulting in the death of the driver. Alcohol sales from this premise are prohibited until the license is transferred.
Slough House Social also had its liquor license revoked after a TRACE investigation determined that a 17-year-old was served by three separate servers. After leaving the Slough House Social, the intoxicated minor exited a moving vehicle sustaining fatal injuries. The driver of the car was arrested for DUI.
The takeaway of these recent cases cannot be ignored. Minor sales violations with deadly consequences can come back to haunt the license holder, and it only takes one time. Neither case involved repeat offenders, and neither case was determined by the three-strikes rule. A license can be revoked the very first-time mistakes of this nature are made. No liquor license holder wants to be responsible for their customers’ injuries, fatal or not.
Selling alcohol to a minor is the basis for suspension of liquor licenses, and in the case of intoxicated minors, this leaves the licensee open to civil liability. Moreover selling alcohol to a minor is a misdemeanor. In addition, the TRACE program, made possible by a grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety, provides that the ABC can also investigate and take appropriate measures against a license holder where any person, regardless of age, under the influence of alcohol is charged with vehicular manslaughter.
To reiterate, if the minor is obviously intoxicated at the time of purchase as defined in Business & Professions Code, Sections 25602 and 25602.1, the license holder may also be exposed to civil liability for the resulting death or injuries. Liquor Liability Insurance is available for this unique but avoidable situation. Insurance is inexpensive and, although cannot protect your license, will offer monetary relief if civil damages are sought when systems fail and alcoholic beverages are sold to an obviously intoxicated minor who subsequently is involved in injuring himself or others.
Remember, it is an ongoing, unrelenting responsibility of the license holder and all its employees to do what is required: check identifications and do not sell to minors.
- Check and verify Identification
- Do Not Sell to Minors
- Monitor alcohol consumption of all patron
- Obtain Liquor Liability Insurance
- Be certain your employees are aware of consequences