There’s a good deal of money to be made selling beer in New York, which is why so many sellers of the stuff — particularly small convenience store operators and restaurateurs — seem willing to sell to someone who is underage.
Obviously the stakes are high — as last week’s sting in Montgomery County indicate: Clerks who sell to minors can be led away in handcuffs, charged with unlawful dealing with a child, while the store owners can lose their licenses. But the law provides for a fair amount of discretion in meting out such penalties, and one can only assume by the apparent willingness of many merchants to take the chance that the odds of getting caught and having one’s liquor license suspended or revoked isn’t as great as it should be.
The results of the Montgomery County sting speaks for itself: Of the 31 stores the sheriff sent underage buyers into in search of alcohol, 12 came out with it. That’s a 39 percent failure rate — pretty dismal.
There’s a reason the purchase age for alcohol is 21 in New York state, and it’s a good one: Kids younger than that don’t do a good job handling booze. They drink too much, have a low tolerance or they tend to do even more stupid things (like drive) when they’ve been imbibing than adults do.
But regardless of one’s opinion of the law, it has to be upheld — by sellers of alcohol and law enforcement.
We hope authorities in other jurisdictions follow Montgomery County’s example and stage more regular stings; moreover, that when merchants get stung, the State Liquor Authority comes down harder on violators. How hard can asking for an ID be?