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Age Compliance Program – Be Vigilant

Licensees are still being cited for sales to minors as a result of Pennsylvania’s Age Compliance Program, which is administered by the State Police Bureau of Liquor Control Enforcement. I have written about this program in past columns and is worth revisiting since the sales or the furnishing of alcohol to minors is one of the most serious violations that a licensee can have on its record.

The idea of the Age Compliance Program is to check on PLCB licensed establishments to see if they are complying with the law, and to see if they are using a proper age ID verification system. The State Police BLCE works with actual minors in an undercover capacity posing as patrons to impress upon the licensee that it is illegal to serve a minor no matter how old he or she looks.

Under the program, minors aged 18 to 20, recruited mainly from college campuses, are trained as Underage Buyer Volunteers. These volunteers enter licensed establishments, under the direct supervision of BLCE officers who are also on the licensee’s premises, and attempt to purchase alcohol, using their personal photo driver licenses with their actual age. (Be aware that a Pennsylvania underage driver’s license is physically different from an adult driver’s license.)

If the licensee fails to properly I.D. the minor, and serves the alcohol the licensee is given a verbal and a written notification by letter that the licensee failed the compliance check. The identity of the server is noted in the letter. Also, even though the program is supposed to be educational a citation for sale to minors is always issued against the licensee. This violation legally requires the imposition of an enhanced penalty. If it is the licensee’s first offense a fine in the amount $1,4000.00 is usually imposed. Also the licensee’s entity must become RAMP certified through the PLCB’s Responsible Alcohol Management Program within 90 days of the date of the Judge’s order. Note: licensees, who are cited, will probably receive another visit from a BLCE underage buyer posing as a patron. A second offense will carry an increased fine or a suspension depending on the licensee’s citation history.

Licensees who pass the age compliance check are given positive compliance letters by the BLCE. These letters should be kept on file by those licensees.

All licensees should become fully RAMP certified, since the law now requires all of the licensee’s alcohol servers, bartenders, waiters, sales persons, and doorpersons who ID youthful patrons to be RAMP certified within six months of being hired. Also licensees should have regular meetings with their employees to reinforce the prohibition of sales to minors. Sales to minors most often occur as a result of an inattentive employee not being vigilant and in many cases just professionally negligent. Licensees cannot be too vigilant.

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