San Luis Obispo County was recently awarded a $55,000 grant from the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, and will be putting forth an increased effort to crack down on liquor stores that sell to minors, as well adults purchasing liquor for underage consumption in unincorporated areas.
The grant will focus on the California Mid-State Fair, using “Shoulder Tap” and “Decoy” undercover operations to catch offenders.
Crime Prevention Specialist Rob Bryn said that the undercover operations are efforts to control public drunkenness and reduce violence at the fair.
“We want to make sure the atmosphere is one where people want to come,” he said. “It is a coordinated effort to keep the fair a fun, family event.”
The stings will involve undercover officers looking for adults purchasing drinks for minors, as well as actual underage individuals attempting to get people to buy them alcohol.
“A 21-year-old buys two beers and passes one back- we will be looking at that,” Bryn said. “The object of the exercise is to gain compliance and educate.”
Tom Keffury, director of marketing and sponsorship at the fair, said there will be seven vendors serving alcohol this year.
All vendors will attend a seminar educating them on how to recognize fake identification cards and offering tips on how to refuse service effectively.
“It is a two-hour seminar, and all vendors come in with previous knowledge,” he said. Vendors are more than willing to comply, according to Keffury, because their alcohol license is on the line.
Jack Knoebber, a Cal Poly art and design senior, said he thinks the undercover methods at the fair are a positive way to enforce the law.
“You shouldn’t always have to know the law is watching,” he said. “You should obey the law all the time. It would help if they let it be known that underage drinking will not be tolerated. People won’t buy as much.”
Not all students would agree with Knoebber, however. Carly Hubbell, Cal Poly English senior, said that the undercover operation is an unjust way to set people up.
“I know it’s for the best, but it puts a damper on an otherwise good time,” Hubbell said. “I think it goes against human rights to have people spying on you when you are trying to have fun.”
Hubbell said that a more useful way to keep people safe would be to man the parking lots looking for potential drunk drivers.
“If they did that, they would not only catch underage drinkers, but unsafe drivers at the same time,” she said. Bryn said that in order to make a change, there has to be a consequence. The undercover decoys are nothing new to the county, and people should be aware of the law.
“Alcohol is a huge problem,” he said. “We’re out there. We told you we were coming.”