No action taken by Norris City Beer Board against store busted in ABC ‘wine sting’

No action will be taken against the beer license of Archer’s Food Center in Norris by the city’s Beer Board in the wake of a state undercover “sting” operation in April during which an Archer’s clerk sold wine to an underage customer.

The Norris City Council, sitting as the Beer Board, decided during a special meeting last Friday that it did not need to do anything in conjunction with the sting operation, because that involved the grocer’s wine license, which is issued and managed by the Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission.

City Manager Scott Hackler told the council members that the city’s legal counsel had advised that the Beer Board did not have a role to play in the aftermath of the sting, which has already resulted in the ABC fining Archer’s $1,500 for the violation.

The clerk who sold the wine, who was not identified, was charged with a criminal misdemeanor offense of selling alcohol to a minor and cited to appear in General Sessions Court. The outcome of that case was not disclosed by Hackler or state ABC officials.

Archer’s owner Wayne Chaniott said the store was informed of the violation right away, and said it was merely an oversight.

“It was my best young college student cashier, who’s usually right on top of things,” he said, adding that she made a mistake when calculating the purchaser’s age from the ID.

“It’s just one of those things,” Chaniott said. “We’re glad everything’s fine now.”

In Tennessee, cities and counties issue beer sales permits, but all wine sales permits for grocery stores come from the ABC, which also polices any violations of its rules, Hackler said.

Brent Clayton, deputy ABC chief, told the Courier News that during an ABC undercover operation at Archer’s on April 11, the unnamed clerk sold wine to a customer who presented an ID showing that he was just under 21, which is the minimum age to buy wine in Tennessee.

“We do these ‘minor compliance checks’ all over the state during normal business hours,” Clayton said. “This one was conducted under our USTOP program, which means ‘Underage Sales Tennessee’s Operational Plan.’”

It was Archer’s first violation under the state’s new wine-in-grocery-stores law, which took effect in 2016, Clayton said.

“On a first violation, the establishment will get a regulatory citation, and the server will get a criminal violation to be heard in criminal court,” he said, adding that the normal fine for the establishment is $1,500, which Archer’s paid in July.

In most cases, the violation is a simple oversight by the merchant, rather than a deliberate act of selling alcohol to a minor, Clayton said.

“What I see in a lot of these cases is young people who can’t do the math in their head, or they get confused on the dates when checking an ID,” he said.

“Rarely do we see anyone doing it intentionally.”

Clayton said that the local beer board could opt to act on its own against an offending business even if the violation was for wine and not beer.

“If a beer board cites one of our establishments [for selling beer to a minor], we sometimes will cite them as well, if we’re notified,” Clayton said.

As for the ABC sting operations, “If we didn’t do these checks, people would get more lax in checking IDs,” he said.

Hackler said the city manager nor the City Council was notified about the Archer’s violation, although the police chief at the time knew it had happened.

“The chief should have made us aware of it,” he told the council. He also noted that it was not the current chief who failed to pass the information along.

Clayton said Tennessee law requires that all purchasers of alcoholic beverages in retail stores show ID to verify their age before the clerk can make the sale.

That rule applies only to retail sales, he added, noting that in bars and restaurants, the server can make an observed determination of a person’s age before requiring ID.