Recently the Alcohol Beverage Control and the Town of Sonoma Police Department in Sonoma County have been conducting stings in tasting rooms. They send a couple who is underage into tasting rooms to see if they get served. The decoys, as they are called, have to be under 20 years of age and look younger than 21. In this recent “sting,” four out of ten wineries were cited for serving minors.
Not getting caught in a “sting” is as easy as always asking for ID. You may also ask the person if they are 21 years of age or older. If asked for an ID the decoys must show it, and if asked for their ages the decoys must answer truthfully.
While most wineries provide some sort of responsible hospitality training for their staff, a once-a-year training is not enough. Employees should be reminded regularly to ask for an ID and not assume they can tell the age of everyone who walks into the tasting room.
They should also know your winery’s policy for the payment of fines. Is the server personally responsible for any penalties incurred including fines? Not only are there fines and possibly time in jail, there is also time spent with the police when the employee is convicted of a misdemeanor (not a fun wine country experience).
Check the penalties in your state for serving or selling alcohol to minors. Below I’ve listed the penalties in three states. I found this information merely by typing into Google “Penalties for serving alcohol to someone underage in…” and added the name of the state.
California: $1,000 fine and 24 hours community service
New York: Up to one year in jail and/or a $1,000 fine
Texas: Fine of up to $4,000, up to one year in jail or both
It just makes sense to get in the habit of asking for IDs. Encourage the practice in your winery. Also, don’t wait for your local law enforcement to send in decoys, do it yourself twice each year or as many times as you think necessary.
Enjoy the last of summer and make the most of the Labor Day weekend!