Steamboat Springs Six of 14 liquor stores in Routt County sold alcohol to a minor during compliance checks by Grand Futures Prevention Coalition and local law enforcement.
During the test, a 19-year-old woman tried to purchase beer, wine or liquor at the stores. Of the 11 liquor stores checked in Steamboat Springs, five sold alcohol to the woman. One of three establishments in Hayden sold to the underage woman.
Clerks that sold alcohol to the minor could have prevented the sale with a simple request for the woman's identification card, said Brooke Lachman, Grand Futures project manager who coordinated the operation with the Steamboat Springs and Hayden police departments.
"It takes 30 seconds to check an ID," Lachman said. "If they asked for an ID, the sale was dead.
"I was surprised so many liquor stores would sell. It is a little disappointing, but that is why we are doing these compliance checks."
The stores that sold alcohol to the woman were not identified and were not cited because the test was an "educational operation," police said. But similar operations in the future could result in citations and fines for offenders.
"This was a warning," said Angela Kimmes, Grand Futures director. "This time it was educational."
What disappoints Lachman the most about the results is every business was notified by letter that the compliance checks were being planned and would be conducted sometime in March. The letter also included the legal penalties a clerk would be subject to for selling to a minor.
The woman who volunteered to buy the alcohol was ordered not to lie about her age or give any other false information to a clerk.
Each time, the woman was given money and ordered to buy a specific item.
In Hayden, Lachman worked with Officer Gordon Booco. In Steamboat Springs, she worked with School Resource Officer Jason Patrick. After each test, Lachman and the officer talked to the clerk and returned the alcohol when necessary.
Steamboat Springs Director of Public Safety Services J.D. Hays and Hayden Police Chief Jody Lenahan were disappointed with the results.
"Alcohol is an issue for the youth in this community," Hays said. "I'm always disappointed when that many liquor stores don't comply with the law."
Lenahan said liquor stores selling to minors is a problem everywhere.
"We have to keep the liquor stores educated and alert," Lenahan said. "We may do this again."
A person who sells alcohol to a minor could be charged with a class two misdemeanor.
The penalty is punishable by up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine.
Lachman is hopeful Oak Creek liquor stores fare better when they are checked in April.
"We are hoping liquor store owners and managers will take a better stance and train their employees better," Kimmes said.
Grand Futures received a grant from the Colorado Department of Human Services to conduct the checks. The Community Mobilization as Prevention grant also will allow Grand Futures to do tobacco compliance checks later this year.