The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

Opinion

April 30, 2014

Good news: Underage buyers of alcohol have decreased; Bad news: There still are underage buyers

ENID, Okla. — It’s a constant struggle, but efforts by PreventionWorkz and others to cut the number of businesses selling beer and alcohol to people under 21 are showing some progress.

Speaking recently, Sean Byrne, executive director of PreventionWorkz, gave a comparison of two compliance checks. In September 2012, 52 percent of stores checked did not sell to underage buyers, meaning 48 percent did. In May 2013, 87 percent of the stores checked followed state law and did not sell to underage buyers.

That’s the good news.

Efforts by PreventionWorkz and local law enforcement are working. In addition to the compliance checks, PreventionWorkz holds training sessions — Responsible Beverage Sales and Service Training — for restaurants, bars, liquor stores, convenience stores and anyone who sells any type of alcohol. Sellers are trained to recognize fake identification as well as recognize signs of intoxication.

And, PreventionWorkz rewards good work. Officials with the organization will pass out reward cards to clerks who follow procedure by checking identification and not selling alcohol to minors. In many instances, bosses will reward employees who get the cards.

Those efforts appear to be paying off.

The bad news is there are several stores in Garfield County that have sold to underage buyers during each compliance check, Byrne said.

That’s a problem.

Byrne is trying to work with the state, as well as with the Garfield County District Attorney’s Office, to do something to punish stores that are repeat offenders.

Oklahoma Tax Commission has jurisdiction over beer licenses for stores. Three bad sales in two years, Byrne said, gives OTC the right to suspend or revoke a beer license.

Why that hasn’t happened for area stores that are repeat offenders is puzzling. We hope OTC officials step up to be part of the solution.

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