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Businesses fare badly during checks

WORTHINGTON -- Charges were recently filed in Nobles County against six Worthington bartenders and clerks for selling alcohol to minors.

Alcohol compliance checks were done in random businesses in Worthington in May. The underage buyers used for the compliance checks are instructed to comply with whatever the bartender or clerk requests.

Buyers are told to provide identification if it is requested, to admit their age if asked or to leave if told. They are to refrain from drinking the alcohol if it is served to them and fitted with audio and video equipment to record the attempted purchase.

"We set up surveillance for every one of them, case number it, wire the people," Worthington Police Capt. Chris Dybevick explained. "It takes time, but that is the process needed to make it legal for court."

In stores, the underage buyers attempt to buy a six-pack of beer. In a bar, they order a beer, and if served, take it into the restroom and pour a small amount into an evidence bottle. The rest is poured down a toilet.

According to police reports:

At the Worthington Travel Plaza, clerk Bhanh Khounin, 22, of Worthington has been charged. The buyer there was not asked for ID when successfully purchasing beer.

James Curtis Meester, 37, of Worthington, was clerking at Hy-Vee when he sold a six-pack to an underage buyer without asking for ID.

Clint Nixon, 27, a bartender at the A&T Tap, now faces a charge after a buyer went into the A&T Tap, ordered a beer and was not asked for ID before being served.

In other compliance checks, ID was requested, but the minors were served or allowed to purchase alcohol anyway.

Roberta Ann Hoff, 35, of Sartell, requested ID before selling a six-pack at Casey's West, and looked at the ID before allowing the buyer to pay for and leave with the beer, according to the report. Elks Club bartender Beverly Jean Van Dyke, 66, of Worthington, asked for ID before serving the buyer a beer, as did Eagles Club bartender Michael Louis Grant, 20, of Ocheyedan, Iowa.

Charges are still pending against a clerk at Bob and Steve's.

The bartenders or clerks who made the sale are charged with furnishing alcohol to a minor, a gross misdemeanor with a maximum penalty of one year incarceration and/or a $3,000 fine.

"We don't try to sneak anything by them, don't make (the buyers) up to look older," Dybevick said. "They just go in and order or attempt to buy, and if asked for ID, they give it up."

Whether the establishment is accountable for selling alcohol to a minor depends on the situation and is decided by the Liquor Committee, which is put in place by Worthington City Council. Unlike the bartenders and clerks who face criminal charges, any charges against the establishment are civil.

Dybevick said the compliance check is funded by a grant, but since local police aren't funded to check all businesses that sell alcohol, establishments are chosen at random.

The checks were done on two separate dates. Dybevick said the process is slower than it would seem to be and added that police can't hit all the businesses at one time.