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Liquor Checks Catch Five Businesses

February 16, 2011, 6:35 PM by Kelly Bartnick

Liquor Checks Catch Five Businesses
SIOUX FALLS, SD - It's getting easier for underage buyers to get beer in Sioux Falls. Police routinely put stores and gas stations to the test, and lately they've seen a surge in underage sales. The most recent stings could mean more serious penalties for those who sell to minors.

After months of successful compliance checks, six Sioux Falls businesses sold alcohol to an underage buyer in December. The results were the same a month later. Tuesday night's results were a slight improvement, police say the numbers are too high.

The under 21 sign is one of the first things you see when you walk into the Booze Boys in Sioux Falls. Owner Robert Wentz says that's exactly what his clerk did Tuesday night.

"When you refuse it, an officer comes in and says you've passed and asks for the person's name," Wentz said. 

He said the business hasn't failed a compliance check in more than six years. He wants it to stay that way.

"That's what I pay them for. I pay them to do their job which is to card people if you don't think they're old enough," he said. 

"We're not trying to set them up to fail. We're just giving them a person who's 18 to 20 walking in presenting their identification and these businesses are selling to them," said Sioux Falls police officer Sam Clemens.

And five east side business did sell last night. MX Liquors, Hy-Vee, Walgreens, Gregors Eastside Liquors and Wofie's. With the recent increase in underage sales, police are considering going back to sending clerks who fail to jail.

"It kind of come down to human error. That could be part of it or maybe someone is allowing it," Clemens said. 

"When it's red, it's saying they're under 21. Black and white. There's no grey area here it's black and white," Wentz said. 

That why he cards almost everyone and is in favor of tougher penalties.

"They're basically telling everyone, go ahead and sell to minors. We don't care. We're going to lower the penalty so it don't cost as much. That doesn't make sense. Either you want underage consumption or you don't," Wentz said.

Wentz is pointing to House Bill 1241. The legislation would cut fines in half and would also allow clerks to keep their drivers licenses after being caught selling alcohol to a minor.

Sioux Falls police are only considering changing their policy right now and have not made any formal decisions.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:
A misspelling was corrected in this story.

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