Compliancy rate soars

All 16 businesses pass alcohol compliance checks

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Two men arrested during shoulder-tapping sting

Two Routt County men were arrested Thursday night after police said they purchased alcohol for a 17-year-old undercover police informant.

Police Capt. Joel Rae said Ronald Lynn Limbaugh Jr., 41, of Hayden, and James Milo Alfring, 21, of Steamboat purchased six-packs of beer from Central Park Liquor for a teen who was working with police on a special "shoulder-tapping" investigation.

Shoulder-tapping is the term given for when an underage person asks an adult entering a liquor store to buy him or her alcohol.

Both men face charges of felony contributing to the delinquency of a minor. Alfring is facing additional charges of possessing less than 1 ounce of marijuana and drug paraphernalia.

The shoulder-tapping investigation was conducted in conjunction with a routine alcohol compliance check Thursday night.

The arrests indicate the police department has a long way to go in deterring underage drinking, Rae said.

"(Thursday) night showed us that shoulder-tapping does happen here and that we still have a lot to work on to address that," he said.

The special investigation was funded by a grant from the Colorado Department of Revenue's Liquor Enforcement Division. The $43,000 grant to the Steamboat police department provides money for such investigations.

Thursday's shoulder-tapping investigation was the first of many to come, Rae said.

Routt County Court Judge James Garrecht set Limbaugh's bond at $5,000 during a hearing Friday. His next scheduled court date is at 8:30 a.m. Dec. 12. Alfring posted his $10,000 bond before the advisement Friday afternoon. Alfring is scheduled to appear in court at 8:30 a.m. Jan. 2, 2007.

— Sixteen out of sixteen businesses passed a Steamboat Springs police alcohol compliance check Thursday night, the highest rate of compliancy the city has had in years.

Police Capt. Joel Rae praised the results Friday.

"I am very pleased with the compliance check results," he said. "That's what we're shooting for - 100 percent compliancy."

A combination of bars, restaurants and liquor stores passed the compliance check by asking the police department's undercover and underage buyers for identification Thursday night. The businesses were Tugboat Grill & Pub, 8th Street Steakhouse, Amante Coffee, Azteca Taqueria, Cafe Diva, Dos Amigos, Double Z Bar & Barbecue, Fiesta Jalisco, Gondola Pub & Grill, Gondola Liquors at Market on the Mountain, Lupo's Sports Bar & Pizzeria, Mahogany Ridge Brewery & Grill, Rocky Mountain Wine and Liquor, Slopeside Grill, Sunpie's Bistro and Tap House.

"This shows that the restaurant and bar community is doing a much, much better job of checking IDs, and it proves that whatever the restaurant and bar owners and managers are doing is working," Rae said.

Cracking down on businesses that sell alcohol to underage drinkers has been a focus of the city and the police department during the past 15 months.

In September 2005, nine of 11 businesses failed a compliance check. In December 2005, six of 16 failed. In May, one of 13 failed, and in June, one of six businesses failed the check.

The city also has played an active role, increasing the penalties for businesses caught selling to minors and implementing a new hearings process for such businesses. Although some business owners have taken issue with the city over some aspects of the new policies, the attention to the issue appears to be paying off.

The police department used two teams of underage buyers during Thursday's 5 1/2-hour operation. One team consisted of a 18-year-old girl and a 21-year-old man, and the other group included two 17-year-old boys. Police Officers John McCartin and Josh Carrell and Det. Jerry Stabile assisted the teams.

The underage buyers were paid for their work, with the money coming from the city's Enforcing Underage Drinking Laws grant, which the Color-ado Department of Revenue's Liquor Enforcement Division awarded to the city Dec. 1.

- To reach Alexis DeLaCruz, call 871-4234

or e-mail adelacruz@steamboatpilot.com

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