Seven local alcohol license holders failed compliance checks with Vermillion police on March 22. Underage confidential informants attempted to purchase alcohol at 10 locations in town.
Three businesses — Bunyan’s, Main Street Pub and Cherry Pit Stop — all passed the compliance checks. Each of the employees who sold alcohol at the seven failing businesses — both Casey’s General Store locations, Coyote Convenience, Dakota Brick House, Eagles, Freedom Store and Leo’s Lounge — were charged with furnishing alcohol to a minor.
Vermillion police chief Matt Betzen said this is one of the worst years for compliance checks since 2012, when the pass rate was 65.9 percent.
Betzen said this most recent round of compliance checks is an unusual number of passes and fails for Vermillion, and it’s a “disappointing failure rate.”
“Really seven or eight of those businesses should have passed, and they obviously didn’t,” Betzen said. “If this type of failure rate continues, then we’re looking at maybe changing some of the remedial actions we would take.”
Betzen said some of those actions include contacting the Department of Revenue, which could fine or suspend businesses through their business license. Betzen said he’s looking into that process, which includes a method of warnings and loss of license for a period of time, he said.
“That’s not something we’ve done in the last several years, but it’s something we could do if we continue to see these types of failure rates,” he said.
Betzen also said the Vermillion City Council has the right to renew licenses, and if the VCC doesn’t renew a business’s license, they can’t reapply for a year.
“That’s a very significant penalty that with good reason, the council should probably hesitate to use before we’ve tried every other method of correcting behaviors,” he said.
Betzen said certain businesses in town create a culture where they’re willing to serve minors.
“Generally speaking I expect that this is a trend, I wouldn’t even hesitate to call it a trend,” he said. “It’s the first time we’ve done (compliance checks) this year, that will likely correct itself and will see an improvement in the future. At least that’s my hope and my belief is that that’s what we’ll see.”
Betzen said VPD will continue to do compliance checks, and he’s hoping to see improvement with the compliance checks. There are a variety of steps VPD would take before taking away a business’s license, he said.
“The officers already do lots of bar checks and they catch minors pretty routinely, probably almost weekly and cite them at different bars or liquor stores or convenience stores,” he said. “Hopefully we’ll see compliance or less drastic steps on that.”