Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Baby faced Bronxites buying booze from bodegas without ID

Here is a story that didn't make this week's paper. Enjoy.

By Amanda Macaluso

The Bronx’s underage drinkers are having no problem buying booze in the borough.

The New York State Liquor Authority released a report last week that shows 38 of 48 bodegas visited by 18- to 20-year-old decoys in the Boogiedown sold alcohol to minors without asking for identification.

From Aug. 15 through Aug. 17, the SLA sent voluntary, underage decoys into 212 groceries throughout New York City to have them try and buy alcohol. In 123 out of the 212 stores (58 percent), the decoys were successfully able to purchase alcohol without being asked for I.D. 

Out of the five boroughs, the Bronx by far had the highest percentage of minors who were successfully able to purchase alcohol, at 79 percent. In Brooklyn, 59 percent of the bodegas approached failed to I.D. minors. Staten Island bodegas sold to 40 percent and Queens bodegas sold to 28 percent. Groceries who were cited for selling to these minors can face penalties of up to $10,000 per violation with fines starting at $2,500 to $3,000 for first time offenders.

Jump below to read the SLA's statement, and also how the Bronx Press did its own independent study and found that some bodegas are still selling alcohol without checking I.D.!

The operation was the SLA's largest underage alcohol sweep since the agency's creation in 1934.
“Preventing the sale of alcohol to minors is a priority for the State Liquor Authority,” said William Crowley, Director of Public & Legislative Affairs for the SLA. “These large scale operations will continue, and they should send a clear message to licensees that if they sell to minors, they’re going to get caught and they’re going to face serious consequences.”

The Bronx Press did their own independent research and sent a baby-faced reporter to some of the delis who had just been recently busted and some that were not on the list. Izzy’s Deli at 2001 Westchester Ave. and Lehigh Wines & Liquor at 2929 Westchester Ave., both in Pelham Bay and who were just charged by the SLA, sold beer to the reporter and did not ask for ID. Likewise, Peghe’s Deli at 3273 Westchester Avenue, who was not busted by the SLA in this round of events, also sold to the reporter and did not ask for ID.

The SLA focused on “problem areas,” in hopes of scaring the bodegas into following the law. In the Bronx, that area was mostly inside the area defined by the Cross Bronx Expressway, and the Pelham, Bronx River and Hutchinson parkways.

Many of the bodegas were located on East Tremont, Morris Park and Westchester avenues.
Community Board 10, which includes Westchester Square, expressed concern over the high percentage of bodegas engaged in the illegal practice, but vowed to work with local organizations to attack the situation head on.

“It is of the utmost importance that that we do all that we can to discourage underage drinking in Bronx Community Board 10's service areas,” said John Marano, chairman of the board. “We work closely with our community partners, the Archdiocesan Alcoholism and Drug Prevention Program ADAPP and the Throggs Neck Community Action Partnership, TNCAP on initiatives to prevent this type of problem.”

City Councilmember James Vacca was furious with the illegal sales.

“Underage drinking not only threatens the health and well-being of our children but is also a serious quality-of-life concern for our communities,” he said. “I have zero tolerance for these delis’ callous disregard for the law and urge the SLA to keep a watchful eye on chronic offenders. I commend the SLA for taking decisive action against merchants who endanger lives by selling alcohol to minors.”
The SLA said they will continue to test bodegas in problematic areas and this round of busts was not a one-and-done event.

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