DENISON, TX - Three different law enforcement agencies converged on one lakeside business this past weekend after receiving several complaints of underage drinking.
As long as there has been a legal drinking age, there has been underage drinking. And while the problem isn't new, it is still a major issue that can have serious consequences for everyone involved, a lesson learned the hard way for a four minors over the weekend.
The Point Restaurant and Bar at Grandpappy Marina north of Denison is a popular hangout for lake-goers. And this Saturday more than 400 people showed up to enjoy a concert and a few drinks. But according to the Grayson County Sheriffs Office some of those people who were sold alcoholic beverages were underage.
"The Sheriff's Office, the TABC, and the Game Wardens went out there and did a walk-through and ended up arresting four people," Sgt. Rickey Wheeler said.
Three 19 -year-olds and two 20-year-olds were arrested for underage drinking. One 19-year-old man's blood alcohol indicated over twice the legal limit, while a 19-year-old woman's BAC registered three times the legal limit on a breathalyzer test.
Wheeler says in addition to the dangers of alcohol poisoning, underage drinking plays a significant role in fatality accidents involving teens.
"In the more horrific accidents I have been to involving people under 21, a lot of times alcohol is a contributing factor," Wheeler says.
State laws in Texas and Oklahoma provide stiff penalties not only for teens who get caught drinking but for those who provide them with it, something that Grandpappy Point General Manager Jason Cottingame is well aware of.
"My response was shock. By no means do we condone underage drinking," said Cottingame.
Cottingame says his bartenders and servers must be certified by the TABC, and they check ID's at the door.
"If they are of age they are given a wrist band, if not they are given a different type of wrist band, we try to police that very well."
How the minors came to be in possession of alcohol at the restaurant is still unclear, but one bartender was arrested for sale to a minor by a Texas Alcohol & Beverage Commission Officer. Craig Spears of Denison was booked into the Grayson County Jail before posting a $1,500.00 bond.
Cottingame says that while employees cant watch everyone all the time, extra emphasis will be placed on stopping underage drinking at The Point.
"There is going to be a significant change in the future. We can't just stress that to employees, we have to take action as managers."
According to a 2009 study by the CDC 42% of high school students admitted to drinking some amount of alcohol and 24% of those admitted to binge drinking. Probably more shocking is that the study concluded that people ages 12 to 20 years old drink 11% of all alcohol consumed in the United States.