Five Lawton businesses are facing fines and court hearings after getting busted selling alcohol to minors.
Oklahoma Alcoholic Beverage Law Enforcement Commission (ABLE) and Wichita Mountains Prevention Network (WMPN) with the help of student volunteers — all under the age of 21 — conducted compliance checks June 18 on 18 Lawton businesses licensed to sell alcoholic beverages. Five of the 18 businesses failed the checks by selling alcohol to the underage volunteers. This is an increase from October 2019 when three businesses out of 16 checked sold to minors.
A compliance check is a tool to identify alcohol establishments that sell alcohol to underage youth and are conducted because they have been shown to be an effective strategy in reducing underage drinking said Jillian Latimer, Regional Prevention Coordinator for WMPN, in a press release.
“It’s something we have to stay on top of,” said Captain Erik Smoot, a special agent with ABLE. “We want to be visible and let businesses know we’re out there.”
Because of ongoing investigations and pending court cases, Smoot was unable to disclose which Lawton businesses failed the compliance checks, but said any business and employee with a liquor license that sells to minors could be faced with a fine of $1000 for the first offense. Minors purchasing or in possession of alcohol could face criminal charges.
“Adult alcohol consumption has increased since the COVID-19 pandemic so we want to make sure that isn’t crossing into our youth population as well,” said Latimer. “We really rely on our retailers selling alcohol responsibly and correctly to help us keep those numbers down.”
Smoot requested that anyone who knows of or believes a business is selling alcohol to minors should report that business to local law enforcement or ABLE.