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BOC Deadlocked on Amending Alcohol Ordinance

District 4 Commissioner Patrick Bell wants county to get tough on underage alcohol sales. Chairman Tam, a restaurateur, argues in favor of mitigating circumstances.

Following a 30-minute discussion of Forsyth County's alcohol ordinance, county commissioners failed to reach a clear consensus.

Chairman Brian Tam, a restaurateur, argued that the current ordinance is too stringent and that commissioners should be permitted to hear mitigating circumstances before automatically revoking the license of a licensee who has sold alcohol to an underage customer.

District 4 Commissioner Patrick Bell argued that would send a message that Forsyth County is not going to be tough on enforcement of its ordinance. "Is that the message we want to send," Bell asked.

Tam argued that the county should be tough on someone who repeatedly violates the ordinance, but that there can be mitigating circumstances that should be considered. Under the current ordinance, he said, that isn't possible.

Bell made a motion that a distinction be made between administrative violations, such as an expired license, and underage sales which was seconded. Before a vote was taken on that motion, Tam made a motion to amend that would include a clause for mitigating circumstances in either scenario.

That vote ended in a 2-2 tie with Bell and Commissioner Jim Boff opposed and Commissioner Todd Levent absent. As a result, Bell's original motion was left to stand until the full board could vote at the next work session.

Bell, who is the father of a teenage son, then made a motion that the county institute mandatory carding but the motion died for a lack of a second.

In other business, the board agreed to appoint Flo Giltman and Joseph LaBranche to the Region One Behavioral Health & Developmental Disabilities Planning Board and Lorne Twiner to the Board of Ethics as the Civil Service appointee.

The board also agreed to approve the FLIPSFilm Master services agreement and the Aging Services contract with Legacy Link, Inc. Those items will be placed on the Consent Agenda at a future Board of Commissioners meeting.

SOGTP July 30, 2011 at 11:27 AM
Do not over regulate drinking, because it is a personal Liberty choice. If a minor violates a law like driving under the influence - book em Dano. No need to mandate carding.
Marc July 30, 2011 at 12:32 PM
I was in a restaurant when the alchol police showed up. They were working undercover. The waitress had carded everybody but made a math mistake on the under aged undercover girls licence. She was sited and when in court was fined 675.00! For a honest mistake.If that is not mitigating circumstances, I do not know what is. Her mother went with her for support but was not allowed in. I thought court proceedings were public? This is a young girl just trying to make a living fined more than she would make in tips at this small restaurant in a month. More than most speeding tickets! With speeding they give you 5mph lee way. If I was speeding to the hospital with a gunshot victim in my car they would give me mitigating circumstances. I have never been a fan of zero tolerance for anything. Nothing is ever black or white in life. And if she did not have the money she would spend 10 days in jail. Do we need to ruin the record of a young person just getting started in life for a math mistake? And the others with her were drinking age adults. Would that not make them co-conspirators since they did not speak up? I think we have better use of our sheriff department then setting up these entrapment scenarios.The arresting officer even tried to argue mitigating circumstances but was struck down. Our courts and tax money certainly have better uses I think.
SOGTP July 30, 2011 at 01:39 PM
We are over regulated like a police state.
Hal Schneider July 30, 2011 at 02:37 PM
Brian Tam should recuse himself from any involvement in this issue. There is a clear conflict of interest with his restaurant business! On point, those who have liquor licenses are required under current law to card everyone. As long as that is the law, it must be enforced. Penalties should be graduated to match the infraction, however. $675 for a first time "mistake" seems pretty excessive, however, habitual ignoring of the law should trigger harsh fines and revocation of license. For those who don't like the law (personal liberty, etc), do what is necessary to change it. Until then, the law must be enforced.
Marc July 30, 2011 at 02:53 PM
Hal, Should not the restaurant /alcohol business have an advocate? Carding everyone really should be done by all sellers of alcohol if only to cover themselves. But there does need to be graduated punishment for 1st time offenders and repeat offenders. Education should be the path for 1st timers. I agree that merchants that knowingly sell to minors should be dealt with harshly. But my problem with the undercover operations it lends itself to abuse. A particular merchant can in theory be targeted over and over again. If complaints are lodged or minors admit to buying from a merchant then by all means lets crack down on them. But these are not drug dealers. Let us give them the benefit of the doubt and put our tax money and deputies to more productive use.
Hal Schneider July 30, 2011 at 03:25 PM
I have no problem with the restaurant/alcohol business having an advocate. It is entirely inappropriate for that to be one of the County Commissioners who will actually vote on any change in the law and could have a direct impact on his business. I agree with everything else you say.
Marc July 30, 2011 at 03:41 PM
Hal, In theory I agree with you but allow me to present these scenarios. What if one of the commissioners had a child killed by a young driver under the influence? What if one was a clergy that opposed to drinking at all? Would these not also present conflict of interest? I do not know the answer but I would rather see business men making decisions about business than lawyers and career politicians or people with agendas. If we feel they abuse that power than it is up to us to take them out of power. Thank you for the exchange of ideas and views
Molly Scott July 30, 2011 at 10:47 PM
Can we really say that anything we do to prohibit underage drinking is too strengent? Do we just kinda sorta wanna protect the kids?
SOGTP July 30, 2011 at 10:51 PM
The decision to card anyone in an establishment should be the owners. It is private property. If the owner instructs his employees to card 100% then so be it. The government should NOT interfere. The US Bureau of Statistics indicates there are 52,653 people under 18 in Forsyth County. Subtract the 30% under ten years old then you have 36,857 potential scoflaws trying to get an illegal drink. Why would anyone think carding 175,911 people to catch 36,857 juvenile deliquents is a good idea? btw ... of those 36, 857 probably 150 will actually try to buy liquor the other 36,707 will get their brothers or a friend to buy it for them. Hey that's what we did.
Hal Schneider July 30, 2011 at 11:39 PM
Marc, This change in the ordinance could have a direct financial impact on Tam's business. That's not the same as a clergyman opposed to drinking. When any Commissioner has a financial interest in the outcome of a vote they should recuse themselves. That is simply the ethically right thing to do.
Marc July 31, 2011 at 04:05 AM
Hal, I concede your point to you. I was just putting in ideas to see what shook. It is the ethical thing to do to bow out of voting but he still should be allowed to say his piece.
Marc July 31, 2011 at 04:07 AM
n reality very few under age kids try to by alcohol. Most that do are over 18. It is funny how an 18 year old is considered a kid when it comes to buying alcohol but that same kid is old enough to die fighting for our country, old enough to drive a 2000lb car at 70 mph. Old enough for a credit card or a loan. Old enough to be tried as an adult in every crime yet we set up stings and make that 18 year old and any one serving them almost a criminal.
Bill July 31, 2011 at 02:51 PM
Thank you all for weighing in on this issue. I appreciate all of our readers. It is an important one and I have to admit I like Comm. Bell's desire to send a message that Forsyth County is tough on violations of its ordinance.

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