Department of Public Protection
ABC Has Record Year Stopping Underage Drinking
The Kentucky Office of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) had a record year in 2006 with its efforts to stop underage drinking.
ABC investigators visited a record 2,021 businesses licensed to sell alcoholic beverages last year. Investigative aides ranging from 18 to 20 years of age, working undercover for the agency, made 396 buys from ABC-licensed businesses. In the previous four years, the number of visits varied from 744 to 1,395, with the number of buys ranging from 139 to 245.
“More importantly, we have seen a steady increase in our compliance rate,” said Chris Lilly, executive director of ABC. “The percentage of businesses that had no violations is now about 80 percent compared to less than 75 percent in 1998.”
In Kentucky, alcohol sales are illegal to anyone under age 21. Through Operation Zero Tolerance (OZT), a young investigative aide asks to buy beer or alcohol at an ABC-licensed package store, restaurant or bar. If the sale is made, an ABC investigator accompanying the aide contacts the manager.
The investigator then typically charges the offending clerk with one of two possible criminal violations, depending on the jurisdiction. The license holder also faces administrative penalties levied by the ABC Board. Possible penalties include a substantial monetary fine, mandatory server training in alcoholic beverage laws and revocation of the business’ ABC license.
“We are very proud of the progress we have made in addressing this serious problem,” said Randy Fawns, acting director of enforcement for ABC. “It’s especially gratifying given the number of investigators last year was no more than in previous years. We had 36 sworn investigators last year, and they did an outstanding job covering a lot of territory.”
The OZT program has found success not only in monitoring illegal sales at retail businesses, but also during special events such as festivals, sporting events and off-campus keg parties. The office issued 813 citations during such events last year.
OZT is underwritten by a federal grant that typically totals $100,000 a year.
ABC is an agency of the Department of Public Protection in the Environmental and Public Protection Cabinet.