In a recent alcohol compliance check conducted by the Easton Police Department, eight Easton establishments were caught selling alcohol to underage customers.
Three liquor stores sold a case of beer to two 19-year-old college students and five Easton restaurants sold alcohol to the same two teens.
Stores and restaurants that failed the compliance check included Scott's Fine Wines, South Easton Variety Store, White Hen Pantry, Porticello's Restaurant, Hayashi Japanese Restaurant, El Mariachi Cantina, May East Restaurant, and the Union Villa.
"This is the highest number of violations we've had since I've been on the Board of Selectmen," said Board of Selectmen Chair Colleen Corona. "It's disappointing after so many years of doing this and also that we notified these businesses that there are so many failures."
Corona and the rest of the Board of Selectmen will conduct a hearing for each of the establishments in the coming weeks. Establishments who have not had any violations in the past four years will be considered for their first offense. However, establishments with multiple violations in the past four years will be sentenced based on multiple offenses.
Porticello's Restaurant was cited for a violation in July of 2006 and May East Restaurant was cited in December of 2008, according to Board of Selectmen citizen and business advocate Kit Minsky.
"It's difficult because they are local business owners, and I certainly understand that in this economy its hard for local business owners to succeed," said Corona. "On the other hand, it's the duty of the Board of Selectmen who issues the liquor licenses to make sure the people who hold those liquor licenses are using them correctly."
The investigation was conducted by Sergeant Mark Ferretti and Officer Darren Mangott of the Easton Police Department who accompanied two 19-year-olds to liquor-selling establishments in town.
The teenagers signed waivers in compliance with the Massachusetts Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission and entered the businesses without any of their own money or identification. If they were asked for I.D., they were instructed to leave the business, said Easton Police Chief Allen Krajcik.
"There's no trickery," said Krajcik. "There's no fake I.D.'s or lying or anything like that. They just go in and try to make a purchase and in those package stores they walked out with a case of beer each time."
Ferretti and Mangott waited in the car at each establishment. If the teenagers exited the building carrying a case of beer or were served beer in a restaurant, the officers entered the building.
"It really is just a public safety thing when you get two 19-year-olds just walking into package stores and walking out with beer," said Krajcik. "It is a public safety issue and I'm very concerned."
Krajcik said that although the police department regularly conducts a compliance check once a year, the department plans to do more this year as a result of the high number of establishments that failed this fall.
For the Easton establishments who failed the check, sanctions will be handed down by the Board of Selectmen.
"A liquor license is a privilege, not a right," Corona said. "It's our job to ensure that they're not selling to minors and we take that job very seriously."