Businesses punished in underage alcohol sting
by Megan Thornton
mthornton@mdjonline.com
May 07, 2013 12:13 AM | 2724 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
KENNESAW — A popular restaurant and a convenience store both have had their alcohol licenses temporarily suspended after a police operation found each business sold alcohol to minors on at least one occasion.

Bullfrogz, at 3655 Cherokee St., will be prohibited from pouring for two weeks, and A&P Foodmart, at 3338 Cherokee St., will be unable to sell alcohol for the next 30 days after the City Council unanimously upheld recommendations from the city’s license review board at its Monday night meeting.

Both suspensions are effective immediately.

The mayor and council members drew a hard line against underage alcohol sales during the due cause hearings, with Mayor Mark Mathews frequently reminding both business owners that an alcohol license is a privilege.

“It’s not something required for you to operate your business,” Mathews said. “And we take that privilege very seriously, especially when it comes to selling underage.”

In both cases, employees of the businesses allegedly sold alcoholic beverages to minors who were representing the Kennesaw Police Department and were sent to the businesses in undercover operations. Both business owners admitted the slip-ups and informed the council of their newer, stricter policies to prevent sales to minors in the future, but were nonetheless left with suspended licenses.

At A&P, according to the officer in charge of the operation, an employee sold a 17-year-old female a six pack of malt liquor beverages after checking her underage ID and selling to her anyway.

Kyle Patel, co-owner of A&P, said she fired the offending employee, who did not have a permit to sell alcohol, and has put in a new software system that electronically reads licenses to approve a sale.

“I understand it’s my fault” for not checking the employee’s permit, Patel said. “But at that time, my husband was in the hospital.”

Patel asked the council to consider instead a year probation instead, as the 30-day suspension would deplete her savings. However, the council stuck with the recommendation.

“It bothers me that it took (the business owner) getting caught to make the change,” Councilmember Tim Killingsworth said. “We have to protect our children and protect this community. … There’s no telling how often that employee or other employees did that.”

Robyn Smith, part-owner of Bullfrogz since 2007, requested the council delay the decision on her suspension until July 1 pending the outcome of her divorce case involving her husband’s claims to the business and custody of their children, which is being heard in Cobb Superior Court.

The suspension came after an 18-year-old male was sent in the establishment. The teen testified he provided the bouncer with his valid ID and was given “x” marks on his hand to designate him as an underage patron. Once inside, he was still able to purchase a beer before he was asked to leave by an employee, he said.

Smith, who had about 10 employees present in support, has received a prior citation for advertising an all-you-can-drink special that violated city ordinance but said she is increasing the amount of training her employees receive in checking identification.

The council went into a 10-minute executive session to receive legal counsel on the Bullfrogz hearing. Upon returning, all five council members voted to uphold the recommendations from the license review board.

Mathews said he took issue with Smith admitting she was often not present during peak business hours at night.

“I find that very, very disturbing,” he said.

Councilmember Bruce Jenkins agreed, saying he felt her personal matters regarding her divorce were “clouding her judgment” of the matter.

“Clearly, you were prioritized somewhere else,” Jenkins said.

Park update planning

The council also voted unanimously to authorize the issuance of a request for proposal for consulting services to update the Swift Cantrell Park Master Plan.

City Manager Steve Kennedy said the purpose of the RFP was to recapture some of the changing needs and wants for the park since 2006 when the Swift Cantrell Park Master Plan was approved.

“We feel like it was a good time … we go back and revisit it and make sure that we are reflecting in the park the uses that the public would like to see there,” Kennedy said.

Kennedy said the consultants would be asked to perform stakeholder meetings, surveys and a number of other methods to inquire to the public to get feedback on the vision for the park.

The council also went into a closed session for approximately 30 minutes to discuss personnel. No action was taken upon return.
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