By Gary Mitchell
A minor working with area law officers was able to purchase alcoholic beverages from half of the Clovis businesses he visited on Saturday, the Department of Public Safety says.
The man, 20, was able to purchase alcohol in eight of the 16 businesses he visited, officials said.
“This is not good,” said special investigations division Agent D. Ledezma-Pinon, who conducted Saturday’s operation in conjunction with the New Mexico State Police. “Usually, the average failure rate has been approximately three out of 10, or 30 percent, so this is quite a bit higher.”
Of the 16 establishments checked in the Clovis area, eight clerks and servers properly checked the minor’s ID and refused to sell the alcohol, according to a DPS news release issued Monday.
Of the eight businesses that sold the alcohol, four failed to check ID; four sold alcohol to the minor even after checking his ID, Ledezma-Pinon said.
New Mexico law stipulates individuals must be 21 to purchase alcoholic beverages.
The press release said the minor was briefed prior to the operation. He was instructed to show identification when asked, and to tell the truth if asked questions concerning his age.
The minor carried his valid New Mexico driver’s license, which displayed his date of birth in bold red print, and a caution statement warning that he was under 21 until 11/14/2004, the release stated.
The clerks were cited. Selling alcoholic beverages to a minor is a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 and/or up to 60 hours of community service, and possible suspension or revocation of their alcohol server permits.
A special investigations division agent also issued administrative citations against the liquor licenses of the establishments accused in the operation, the release stated.
Those administrative citations will be forwarded to the New Mexico Regulation & Licensing Department’s Alcohol & Gaming Division, which may assess administrative penalties. Those penalties include fines of $1,000 to $10,000 and/or suspension of an establishment’s liquor sales.
Representatives from each of the eight stores cited were contacted for comment, but all declined or said management was not available for comment.
Capt. Oscar R. Gonzalez, Clovis’ district commander with the New Mexico State Police, said he hoped the sting will improve compliance in the future.
“I think we’ll see the results on the next operation,” he said. “It could be that some businesses may have new employees since the last operation. It just takes some education.”
A similar check done in January found three out of 16 businesses in the Clovis area sold alcohol to minors, Ledezma-Pinon said.