A grocery store in Newton Corner faces citations that could jeopardize its liquor license after about 90 minors, including 50 with fake IDs, attempted to buy alcohol over the holiday weekend, state officials said following an investigation.
The Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission along with Newton police cracked down on the Newton Corner Mart on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evening in response to complaints received by the commission and city police that the Centre Street store was selling alcohol to minors, officials said.
Investigators said the 90 minors were between 17 to 20 years old, most were from Belmont and most were college students home for the three-day weekend.
They were found in possession of, transporting, or attempting to purchase alcohol. Officials confiscated 45 cases of beer, 41 bottles of other types of alcoholic beverages and five beer balls, or mini kegs. Based on the national “binge drinking” standard, the amount of alcohol confiscated prevented delivery to approximately 600 minors, according to the commission.
Frederick Mahony, the commission’s chief investigator, said the Newton Corner Mart does not have a record of selling to minors in the past, and investigators were surprised at the number of underage people attempting to buy alcohol.
“Normally, you might see 10 to 15 [minors attempting to buy alcohol] per night,” in such investigations, he said. “But in this case it was double that.”
Mahony attributed the high number of underage customers to a trend he has seen where tech-savvy teens quickly alert each other by text message and on social networking sites like Facebook that a particular liquor store is not checking, or lenient in checking, identification.
The store faces eight civil charges for selling alcohol to a minor. The administrative charges against the store will soon be submitted for a hearing before the commission, and, if found guilty, the store’s liquor license is subject to suspension, modification or revocation.
The store’s owner, who does not face criminal charges, was not immediately available for comment. Newton police referred questions to the commission.
When the investigation began on Thursday, enforcement officials stopped between six to eight groups of minors in the parking lot after they had just bought alcohol at the store, said Mahony.
Officials then informed store owner, David Kong, of the investigation, that the store would face administrative charges, and put an undercover agent behind the checkout counter to check for fake IDs and minors attempting to buy alcohol, said Mahony.
Investigators found some “very, very good fake IDs,” among the 50 that were confiscated, he said. Other ID's were more obvious fakes, including a 17-year-old who handed the undercover clerk the license of a 34-year-old woman.
Two other 17-year-olds approached undercover officials in the parking lot, and the teens asked the officials if they could buy them alcohol, said Mahony.
“We never know what we’re going to see on a given night,” he added.
None of the underage shoppers were charged; but their information was taken down, and their parents were contacted directly from the liquor store parking lot as part of the state’s parent notification program.
Officials said such an investigation is an effective way to immediately prevent minors from obtaining alcohol, as well as a long-term deterrence to liquor store owners serving those who are under 21.
“There is no doubt that these operations save lives and prevent tragedies before they happen,” Treasurer Timothy P. Cahill, who oversees the commission, said in a press release.