Police crack down on Durant businesses selling alcohol to minors

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DURANT, OK -- Dozens of Oklahoma law enforcement officers hit the streets of Durant tonight, doing random alcohol compliance checks as part of the Alcoholic Beverage Laws Enforcement Commission's training. Not only was it a good test of their skills, it was a way to find out which businesses were breaking the law.

When the law enforcement agencies do these alcohol compliance checks, they send a minor who works for them into a business. That minor tries to buy alcohol with a real i.d. that has their actual birthday on it.

Under Oklahoma law, it's a misdemeanor for the clerk to sell beer to a minor, and a felony if they sell them hard liquour. If it's a restaurant, the business can pay the consequences as well. A lesson that some establishments learned the hard way tonight.

"You realize this is a felony. Furnishing alcohol to a minor."

Senior Agent Erik Smoot with Oklahoma's ABLE Commission, and several other officers from agencies across the area, checked Durant convenience stores, liquor stores and restaurants Wednesday night as part of a training course, making sure they weren't selling to minors. Not everyone obeyed the law.

"You realize the fine to the business is $1,000 and it's a felony for you in district court for selling to a minor," Smoot said.

Tokyo restaurant, Pizza Hut and Truck Stop #5 were not in compliance.

"I'm gonna give you a warning tonight and I'm not going to charge you either. This is your one and only break. You should go to jail," Smoot told a bartender. "I wouldn't have a choice normally. If this was not training. I would have to put you in handcuffs and take you to jail right now."

Other businesses followed the law to the letter.

"We appreciate the fact that you took the time to check an i.d. and make sure she was over 21," Smoot said.

"First I think about my kids. If someone sells beer to my kids, they're under 21. How would I feel?" a store clerk said.

When Smoot sent a teenager in to the Stop-n-Shop to try to buy beer, this sales clerk checked the girl's i.d. and wouldn't sell to her. Out of 17 businesses checked, three sold to the minor.

Durant Police Captain Mike Woodruff says he is pleased with the outcome.

"I've participated in compliance checks before locally, and some of the establishments that we checked or visited tonight were in compliance, where they were not before."

Woodruff says the department will continue to make random checks on local businesses. Because tonight was just training, businesses who did sell to minors were given a warning, but the ABLE Commission will be following up.

"When this is over and we come back, there's a class that we will offer to retailers and we will teach them how to check i.d's how to make sure you identify somebody that's intoxicated, because we want the retailers to obey the law," Smoot said.

The ABLE Commission says more than 60 Durant retailers attended their meeting last year. Captain Woodruff says these random checks have made a difference in their community.

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