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Latest round of alcohol compliance checks at city businesses scores 95 percent passing grade

WILLMAR -- The vast majority of alcohol retailers in the city of Willmar successfully passed the most recent round of alcohol compliance checks.

Of 20 establishments where compliance checks were performed, 19 -- or 95 percent -- refused a sale to someone under the legal age of 21, said Willmar Police Chief David Wyffels.

The compliance checks were carried out at both on-sale and off-sale liquor establishments in Willmar on Oct. 9. Only Westside Liquor failed the compliance check, Wyffels said.

The results were announced Friday.

The Willmar Police Department has regularly conducted alcohol compliance checks since 2001, when the city adopted an ordinance that establishes escalating penalties for businesses that don't comply.

The most recent round of checks was conducted with funding from the Minnesota Department of Public Health through the Enforcing Underage Drinking Laws Program of the Minnesota Department of Public Safety.

Another round of checks is scheduled to be conducted after Jan. 1, Wyffels said.

The Willmar Police Department hosted two free classes for alcohol servers on Oct. 4, attended by 21 people from seven local and area liquor establishments.

Although attendance is not mandatory, the classes are designed to educate servers about how to appropriately deal with underage customers who request alcohol and to help liquor establishments meet compliance regulations.

A year ago, seven establishments failed a compliance check. One of them, the Green Mill, appealed its citation, which had penalized the bar and restaurant with a $750 fine and suspension of alcohol sales for five days.

It was the second time the Green Mill had failed its compliance check.

The Green Mill's request touched off a controversy within the Willmar City Council over whether the penalty was too harsh and whether the ordinance should be revised.

In another violation stemming from the October 2009 alcohol compliance checks, a server at The Oaks at Eagle Creek who sold two beers to a 19-year-old working with Willmar Police to conduct the compliance checks was charged with a gross misdemeanor -- and then fined $1 by Eighth District Judge Michael Thompson. Thompson told the courtroom that the server's violation didn't appear to be intentional and didn't merit being treated as a gross misdemeanor.

The judge's fine in effect reduced the violation to a petty misdemeanor. It drew criticism from local law enforcement, the Kandiyohi County attorney's office and the Kandiyohi County Drug-Free Communities Coalition, and also received statewide attention.