Local police report that 22 percent fewer businesses in Blaine County sold alcohol to minors in their latest alcohol sales compliance check than they did during a similar operation earlier this fall. However, Saturday's sting operation left some bar owners or bartenders complaining that police are using "entrapment" techniques.
Allegations arose Sunday that police intentionally used a 20-year-old man who looked much older in an effort to get businesses in the Ketchum area to illegally sell him alcohol.
"He was big and tall and looked like he was in his late 20s," said Dave Klemer, a bartender at Whiskey Jacques'. "But I carded him and he was under 21 so I didn't serve him. The kid said, 'So I can't get a beer here?' and I said, 'Beat it.'"
Fellow Whiskey's bartender Cody Proctor agreed the young man looked much older than 21, the legal drinking age in Idaho.
"I would not have carded him—he looked almost 35 to me," Proctor said.
Whiskey Jacques' was one of 22 businesses in the county that passed the test. Twelve others were not so successful and employees who allegedly sold alcohol to a minor were issued citations.
Eight of the failing businesses are in Ketchum, three in Hailey and one in Picabo.
Police identified the Ketchum businesses as Atkinsons' Market, Cellar Pub, The Pioneer Saloon, Roosevelt Grille, Casino Club, Sawtooth Club, Cornerstone Bar and Grill and Mountainview Grocery. Citations were issued to employees in Hailey at Albertsons grocery store, the Chevron station and Powerhouse bike shop and pub, and in Picabo at Silver Creek Convenience Store.
The Blaine County Alcohol Compliance Task Force reported Tuesday that compliance in the latest operation was 64 percent, up 22 percent from an operation in September, but only 11 percent from the team's first compliance check in August.
The task force is comprised of local law enforcement agencies and the Blaine County Community Drug Coalition.
Drug Coalition Executive Director Terry Basolo stated in a news release that the purpose of the program is to "decrease sales of alcohol to minors and to build awareness of the dangers of underage drinking, due to the fact that alcohol claims more lives than any other drug combined, [and] is the leading cause of traffic accidents, fatalities, crime and suicide in our country."
Nonetheless, Paige Griffith, co-owner of the Cellar Pub, said she met Sunday with several other bar owners and bartenders and they concluded the task force is using entrapment.
"Seasoned bartenders and even bar managers said without a doubt that this patron looked well over 30 years old," Griffith said. "In my opinion, their sting methods resemble entrapment, trickery and confusion tactics."
Hailey Police Chief Jeff Gunter said two police teams were employed in the operation, one in the north and one in the south. He said each team consisted of one 20-year-old police cadet from College of Southern Idaho and three undercover officers who observed the alleged purchases.
"We've done everything we can do to be up front," Gunter said. "We do not deceive. If they ask what their age is, they tell the truth.
"Their driver's licenses show they were born in 1990. This is 2010 and simple math would show you that they are 20."
Gunter, who is team leader for the south group, said more compliance checks will be conducted.
"It's getting better," he said. "It's not where we want it, but it's getting better. This month, we saw improvements."
Terry Smith: email@example.com