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Alcohol Compliance Checks in Johnson County

JOHNSON COUNTY, IA (CBS 2/FOX 28) -- Law enforcement agencies across Iowa continue the battle against underage drinking. One of the methods they employ is the compliance check - where they send an underage decoy into a business - so they can attempt to buy alcohol.

If the business refuses, it passes. If it sells the alcohol it fails, and faces major consequences.

Thursday night, there were 28 compliance checks here in Johnson County. 17 businesses passed and 11 failed. Those that passed say they know exactly what's at stake.

Big Grove Brewery in Solon has only been open for 6 months, but its been 6 months of hard work.

The reception has been awesome here for the people of Solon and the surrounding communities, says Doug Goettsch, one of the managing partners of the brewery.

Goettsch says hes not going to let a failed compliance check ruin it all.

We have a lot at stake more than most people, because we're brewing on the premises as well, he says. We don't want to put that license in jeopardy.

Over in Oxford, Courtney Sheets says her store The Depot doesn't take chances either.

We don't want to get a ticket, we don't want to sell to an underage person, we're trying to protect the community as well as ourselves, Sheets says.

That's why both businesses go the extra mile to keep in compliance.

In addition to yearly training, and carding everyone that looks under 40, the Depot does its own policing.

We conduct our own compliance checks with our employees to make sure they're following the rules, Sheets says.

Big Grove Brewery checks IDs for everyone that looks under 30. In addition, Goettsch says he tells his employees to keep their eyes open - even after the drink hits the table.

If someone is in the place, and has an alcoholic beverage in front of them but you didn't serve it to them, ask them for ID again.

Unfortunately not everyone is going the extra mile, Iowa City Police conducts compliance checks, the Johnson County Sheriffs office checks as well, and yet people continue to fail.

We have so many failures, says Sheriff Lonny Pulkrabek. So that to me is a little worrisome...that people aren't paying attention.

Pulkrabek says businesses may be getting complacent.

Lot of people think nobody's going to do that anymore, those days are behind us, Pulkrabek said.

They're not, however. With a pricy $740 ticket for the violating employee, in addition to possible fines and insurance impacts on the business itself, it doesnt take much motivation for businesses to stay above board.

Its not much of a brewery if we can't sell beer, Goettsch says.

In addition to the hefty fine, both businesses say if a person is caught selling alcohol to a minor, it means immediate termination.
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