By Lynda Jensen
WRIGHT COUNTY, MN For the second time around, Cokato has passed alcohol compliance checks completed by the Wright County Sheriff’s Department and Wright County Public Health. For a breakdown of the businesses checked, click here.
This time, Niesen’s Liquor was checked in the Cokato area. It passed.
Previously, in December of 2008, three Cokato businesses were checked and also passed: Iron Horse, the Cokato Town & Country Club, and Niesen’s.
However, during the most recent round, three other businesses were not so fortunate. The three that failed checks were Clark’s Station of Montrose, Cowboyz Bar & Grill of Rockford and Riverwood National Golf Course Otsego.
This is the second offense for Clark’s, which also failed in December of 2008, according to results made public at that time.
The three businesses were checked last September, according to Jill Hylla of public health.
In the case of Clark’s, which was checked Sept. 28, 2009, no ID was requested, therefore none was shown. The underage buyer was 19 years of age, Hylla reported.
On the same day, Cowboyz Bar & Grill of Rockford was checked, and although servers asked for IDs, which were shown, buyers were 19 and 20 years of age, and the server failed to notice buyers were under the age of 21.
Similarly, Riverwood National Golf Course of Otsego was checked a few days before, Sept. 23, 2009.
“No ID was requested, therefore no ID was shown,” Hylla noted. The underage buyer was 18.
In the past, Hylla has estimated that the failure rate is about 10 percent. This round of checks is an improvement to the past, since checks done at the end of 2008 featured a failure rate of 29 percent, with four out of five businesses in Montrose failing at that time.
When a business fails the check, not only does the business face a civil penalty, but the server also faces a criminal gross misdemeanor charge.
Fines are set by each city unless the establishment is located in a township. If so, the business receives a fine from the county.
In Montrose, the fine schedule is as follows: first offense over a three-year period is a fine of $200 plus proof of training, which is required, second is $500 plus training, third is $1,000 fine plus training, and a fourth offense is revocation of the license.
Under Minnesota statute, cities can fine up to $2,000 for each violation, up to a 60-day license suspension, and/or revocation, depending on the city’s ordinance, according to Hylla.
For example, the City of Hanover charges a $100 fine, which is the lowest in the county. Otsego, on the other hand, charges $2,000 for first-time offenders.
Wright County Public Health has been offering alcohol sales training classes for a number of years. The training is a program developed by the Minnesota Department of Public Safety.
The training consists of criminal and civil penalties, what forms of ID are acceptable, how to check an ID, problems with overserving customers, and other such subjects.
From 2009 through March 2010, WCPH staff have done 15 alcohol sales trainings that have trained 465 participants. Two more trainings are scheduled for May and June. For more information contact Terri Burkhart at 763-682-7516.
Cities such as Howard Lake, Buffalo, and Annandale are not involved with county compliance checks because they have their own police departments, according to Hylla.