A deadly rollover west of Sioux Falls is focusing new attention on teenagers' access to alcohol. A 42-year-old man is accused of buying vodka for Raphie Phan and Amanda Doty just hours before they died. But much of the time, purchasing alcohol doesn't require a middle man: teens can get it themselves.
The Minnehaha County Sheriff's Department sent an underage customer to 67 businesses in the county. Nine of those businesses sold alcohol to the undercover buyer. The Sheriff's Department says that's a surprisingly high number of businesses caught in the sting. 58 businesses passed the compliance check, including Tailgator's Grill & Bar in Brandon. The bartender on-duty at the time says carding is as automatic to him as pouring a drink.
Red flags went up immediately for bartender Brendan Shabino when the young customer walked into Tailgators.
"This kid is too old for quarters for the crane candy machine. But he's definitely too young to drink," Shabino said.
The young customer asked Shabino for a Bud Light.
"And I was just like do you have an ID? And I told him I can't accept it and that was that," Shabino said.
Tailgator's has a policy of carding anyone who looks 30-years-old or younger. Shabino is surprised so many businesses in the county failed the compliance check.
"It's kind of sad if you think about it. It's the most basic part of your job. And if you can't even do that, why are you even doing it," Shabino said.
Law enforcement doesn't know why, either.
"We do believe that the store owners are teaching their employees, but it can be intimidating sometimes for employees to ask for ID," Sgt. Jason Gearman of the Minnehaha County Sheriff's Dept. said.
A clerk or bartender can face a hefty fine and the business can temporarily lose its liquor license. So there's a lot at stake by not carding customers.
"I like my job, so I'm not going to mess it up because I can't ask someone's ID. It's not very hard. If they get mad at you, it's not your fault, you're just doing your job," Shabino said.
The owner of Hartford's Heart T Stop says his clerk resigned shortly after getting caught selling to an undercover customer. Wade Thomas says it's the policy of his store to always ask for ID's when customers purchase alcohol. He says convenience stores like his can be at a disadvantage during such undercover stings because they tend to be open longer than other businesses and have fewer supervisors on-duty.