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Willmar restaurants discuss violations of alcohol compliance checks

WILLMAR -- Owners of two local restaurants that failed an alcohol compliance check earlier this month discussed the violations with the Willmar City Council's Finance Committee this week.

Juan Valencia of El Tapatio and Jon Emami, owner of Café Persepolis, met with the committee after their establishments failed the Willmar Police Department check on May 6 when an employee at each licensed liquor restaurant sold alcohol to an underage person.

It was the first violation for each establishment within five years.

License holders are required to appear before a council committee to explain measures to be taken to eliminate future violations of city ordinances and state laws regulating the sale of alcohol.

The police department has been conducting regular compliance checks since 2001 when the city adopted an ordinance that establishes escalating penalties for businesses that fail the checks by selling alcohol to a minor.

City ordinance sets monetary fines and suspension of license for additional days for second and third violations, concluding with revocation of a liquor license for the fourth violation.

Valencia said his staff always asks for identification. He explained that the server requested the identification and looked at the correct year but the wrong month in determining the age of the individual. Halliday said El Tapatio has had five successful compliance checks in a row.

Emami apologized for the mistake and said the server miscalculated the individual's age. Emami asked if simpler methods were available to help employees determine the age of customers. He said a training video could help employees.

The police department provides free training for employees of any establishment that provides alcohol. Although the training is not mandatory, it can help employees and liquor establishments become better prepared to meet the statutory requirements regulating alcohol sales.

Committee Chairman Denis Anderson urged Valencia and Emami to take steps to ensure that future violations do not happen again. Anderson said he thought a police department training video was a good idea. Police Chief David Wyffels told the committee the department is willing to work with businesses.

During discussion, committee member Tim Johnson said it is not uncommon for employees to not see the date on the driver's license. "It happens,'' he said.

Anderson asked how other establishments do not have a problem.

Green Mill Restaurant also failed the May 6 check. City Clerk-Treasurer Kevin Halliday said this was Green Mill's third penalty. The penalty for the third violation is a $1.500 fine and 10-day license suspension. Halliday said Green Mill has appealed the violation and is scheduled to meet with the Finance Committee on June 13.

David Little
David Little covers the Willmar City Council, Willmar Municipal Utilities and other city news.
(320) 235-1150