Underage sting finds 10 Concord businesses in violation of state liquor laws
The police have cited 10 Concord businesses for selling or serving alcohol to minors after a one-night sting operation involving underage volunteers.
The businesses, including restaurants, grocery stores and gas stations, face administrative action by the state Liquor Commission. The employees who handled the transactions have each been charged with prohibited sales, a Class B misdemeanor that carries a fine of up to $1,200.
The businesses cited were: Hess Express on North Main Street, Ichiban Japanese Steakhouse, two Shell convenience stores on Loudon Road, Sam’s Food Store, Siam Orchid, Old Europe Restaurant, Dos Amigos Burritos, EJ’s on Main and the Common Man.
The sting took place last Friday and was the first compliance check conducted in Concord since October 2011. The checks are operated by the New Hampshire Liquor Commission’s enforcement division and are funded through a state grant. They have been performed since 2002, though they have become less frequent in recent years because of financial strains, according to Concord police Lt. Greg Taylor.
As it has in the past, the Liquor Commission recruited volunteers between the ages of 17 and 20 and sent them into more than 100 businesses – any open and licensed venture was vetted – to order or request an alcoholic beverage. Each volunteer was monitored by undercover liquor enforcement and Concord police officers.
In most cases the volunteers were asked for identification and then denied service, Taylor said. But in the businesses cited they received the alcohol, sometimes without question and sometimes even after having produced identification showing they were underage.
Taylor described the checks as quick and straightforward, and said that officials did not attempt to lure businesses into selling the alcohol. Volunteers were screened beforehand to ensure that they appeared age appropriate and were instructed to produce legal identification upon request.
He said the compliance rate during checks is typically good, though there tends to be a dip when checks are performed less frequently. Only four businesses were cited in the October 2011 sting.
Managers of some of the businesses cited would not comment yesterday on the violations or what training they provide to employees about state liquor laws. But Tom Saktanaset, who owns Siam Orchid, called his case an unfortunate mishap on a hectic night by a hostess who should have known better.
Saktanaset said he instructs every new employee about the laws and that the hostess, Jiayu Yue, “understands the rules.”
“I tell her, but she forget,” he said. He said that Yue, 30, does not normally take orders but was pitching in that particular evening because business was heavy.
Saktanaset noted that his restaurant has been cited once before – more than 10 years ago, he said – and that he is routinely approached by underage customers trying to purchase alcohol. He said he has met with his staff since last week’s incident and reiterated the need to “check everybody, young, old, white-haired – everybody.”
Dos Amigos manager Tyler Valentine said in his employee’s case it was a “lack of due diligence.” He said Jordan Reynolds, 25, had asked for identification but simply had not looked at it carefully.
Valentine called the experience regrettable, especially because the restaurant had been cited once before, in 2007.
“It’s not the reputation you want to have,” he said, adding that Reynolds received a warning as part of a staff-wide three-strike policy.
Valentine said every new hire at Dos Amigos receives extensive training, including reading material and discussions, about the state’s liquor laws. He noted that training had grown more rigid since 2007, and he said he planned to sit down with each of his 14 employees to go over the rules.
The other employees charged by the police were: Daniel Melocik, 37, of Dunbarton; Qing Chen, 26, of Concord; William Hall, 23, of Pittsfield; Elizabeth Rennie, 34, of Concord; Eddy Calix, 21, of Manchester; Caitlin Locke, 27, of Concord; Susan Young, 53, of Barnstead; and Kyle Poulin, 27, of Manchester.
(Jeremy Blackman can be reached at 369-3319,
on Twitter @JBlackmanCM.)