Class for retailers focuses on preventing alcohol sales to minors

Judy Clabough, community outreach coordinator for the Blount Memorial Foundation and Community Outreach, addresses those gathered for the retailer training workshop.

Photo by Leslie Karnowski

Judy Clabough, community outreach coordinator for the Blount Memorial Foundation and Community Outreach, addresses those gathered for the retailer training workshop.

When it comes to a being responsible for someone else’s actions, Kim Pouncey has walked a mile in those shoes.

Pouncey, who is now president of Straight Up, LLC, led a training seminar for retailers who sell alcohol to teach them how to spot fake driver’s licenses that minors use to obtain alcohol illegally on Tuesday, Sept. 20. The class, held at the Blount County Public Library, attracted more than 20 for “Retailer Training – Reducing Underage Alcohol Sales.” It was presented by TopShelf Responsible Beverage Sales and was hosted and funded by the Blount County Substance Abuse Prevention Action Team.

Pouncey spent 13 years managing restaurants before switching careers and training employers on how to best teach employees how to prevent alcohol sales to minors.

“I understand what you deal with,” she said. “You become responsible for someone else’s actions. Someone told me, ‘I can be responsible for someone’s training, but I can’t be responsible for their stupidity.’”

Pouncey said often good training means strengthening the “weakest link” on a retail organization’s team. “Preventing alcohol sales to minors is not an easy thing, and it is a huge responsibility,” she said.

Pouncey recalled how when she was managing a restaurant on the Cumberland Avenue strip on the University of Tennessee campus, she overheard a server asking to see customer’s Social Security cards when they ordered beer. Since the server should have been asking for driver’s licenses to check the ages of the customers, Pouncey asked the server why she was requesting Social Security cards. “The server said, ‘Everybody knows you need to be 21 to get a Social Security card.’ How many people must have asked for this girl to be their server,” Pouncey said as those gathered laughed.

Pouncey told the retail associates and managers they need to have a written policy to prevent selling alcohol to those younger than 21. “Once you have made the policy, it needs to be repeated once a month,” she said.

The employees should then be expected to sign and date a document explaining they understand the policy, and this document should stay in their personnel file, Pouncey said.

“Go over the penalties so they understand the risks if they sell to a minor,” Pouncey said. “It is like raising a child. You have to keep the same rules and policy all the time and make sure everyone does the same thing every time.”

Pouncey showed a video featuring Maryville actor David Dwyer that outlined specific steps for recognizing a fake identification. Using the acronym “CODES,” the video explained that clerks should look at the Consistency and Condition of the driver’s license, confirm ownership of the license by asking the person to give their address and be sure it matches what is on the license. The clerk should also be sure to confirm Date of Birth with that on the license. The clerk should look at the expiration date of the license, and they should also look at security features on the license to ensure it is state-issued.

Angie Sutton with Wine and Spirit Cellar said she has a lot of young people who work for her, and they know to look for fake drivers licenses. “They know how important it is to us and the community,” she said of preventing underage alcohol purchases.

Kelly Calloway, owner of the Reserve Wine and Spirits, said they don’t have as much a problem with underage customers. “The problem we’ll have is having groups of kids coming in together, and two will be old enough and one will not. You just have to card everybody,” she said.

Missy Hayes, manager of the Kenjo 15 market on Montvale Road in Maryville, said they don’t have that big a problem, but training helps prevent sales to minors. “We train our people when they hire in, and we check five transactions a month to make sure they are checking identifications,” she said. “We stay on top of it.”

Jessica Stith, project manager for the Blount Memorial Foundation and Community Outreach, said the program was funded by a federal Drug Free Community’s grant. Stith said it is important to reduce the access minors have to alcohol by working with law enforcement, retailers, parents and youth to provide tools to improve prevention efforts. “I was very excited to see all the retailers there, and I think it is commendable they are putting in the extra effort into protecting youth in Blount County,” Stith said.

Stith said there are plans to do this training for retailers twice a year.

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