The Safeway location on College Avenue will not be allowed to sell alcohol for 60 days starting Aug. 6, according to a release from the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, or ABC, as first reported by Berkeleyside.
The store had its alcoholic beverage license suspended by ABC for selling alcohol to minors three times in the span of three years, which is a violation of the ABC Act.
In March 2019, law enforcement observed the store selling alcoholic beverages to minors. Starting Aug. 6, the store will not be allowed to sell alcohol until Oct. 4.
For 24-year-old UC Berkeley student Peter Yuhasz, Safeway’s predicament is not particularly surprising given its location near a college town.
“Everyone in this town is trying to get liquor. Most of the people doing so are underage,” Yuhasz said. “I think the more surprising thing is that they actually got caught.”
ABC agents normally work in plainclothes and have the legal right to visit and inspect any licensed business during its hours of operation without a search warrant. Apart from the agents, peace officers and district attorneys are empowered to enforce the ABC Act. “Any licensee who refuses to permit ABC Agents to inspect or examine their books and records for which provision is made in the Act is guilty of a misdemeanor,” the ABC website reads.
ABC also affirmed on its website that a valid identification card issued by a government agency that includes a picture of the customer’s face, a date of birth that proves the person is 21 years old or older and a description of their hair color, sex, eye color, weight and height must be used for the purchase of alcohol.
ABC spokesperson John Carr explained in an email that there “are many alcoholic beverage laws. (Selling) alcohol to minors is one of them. It is obviously a very important public safety issue.”
According to Carr in the email, the misconduct was reported by an officer and was not a part of the Minor Decoy Program, which is an operation in which minors attempt to purchase alcohol at a store to ensure the company is enforcing the law.
According to the ABC website, the Minor Decoy Program was legalized by the California Supreme Court. Law enforcement agencies can use people who are less than 20 years of age to attempt to buy alcoholic beverages for the program.
Yuhasz expressed surprise at the Minor Decoy Program.
“That is probably the best way for them to check it. … They have laws that they want to enforce and (the Minor Decoy Program) is the most obvious way to make sure that it is being followed,” Yuhasz said.
For the College Avenue Safeway branch, the suspension is only temporarily. However, the shop will be on probation for three years. According to the ABC release, if another violation occurs during the probationary period, ABC can take “further disciplinary action.”
For a company’s third violation, as in the case of the College Avenue Safeway location, the ABC website suggests that the store’s license should be revoked. Although the College Avenue Safeway is temporarily banned from selling alcohol, its license was not completely revoked.
“ABC has the authority to revoke the license, it doesn’t mean ABC will always revoke. The dept has put this Safeway license on probation for 3 yrs. and if similar violations occur ABC does have authority to revoke,” Carr said in an email.
Wendy Gutshall, director of public and government affairs for Safeway, explained that the franchise takes these violations “very seriously” and that the rest of the stores are “open and pleased to serve our customers.”