Officials: Alcohol Easy to Get for Underage Buyers in NYC

NEW YORK (AP) -

Underage decoys were able to buy alcohol at more than half of the hundreds of pharmacies, grocery stores and liquor stores that the state liquor authority targeted in an undercover investigation last year, officials said Sunday.

As part of the investigation, underage buyers went to 911 stores all over New York City between April and September, 10 percent of city stores that have liquor licenses. They were able to get alcohol at 58 percent of the businesses, the city health department said.

Commissioner Mary Bassett said the department would take steps to reduce underage alcohol consumption. A letter was to be sent Monday to all stores that sell alcohol reminding them to check IDs and to make sure employees are trained to avoid selling to underage buyers. The department also translated the liquor authority’s handbook for stores into Arabic and Chinese, the two most requested languages.

The department said it would sponsor trainings for stores in the next few months that would help with things like recognizing fake IDs.

A store that sells alcohol to a minor faces penalties of $2,500 for a first-time offense, and up to $10,000 for repeat violations as well as license suspensions or revocations. The investigation found that stores that had violations were less likely to sell to minors than stores that didn’t have any recent violations.

The liquor authority’s investigation was funded by a grant from the health department.