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City Council Approves More Funding for Alcohol Education/Enforcement

$22,000 is approved for compliance checks of liquor retailers. Much of the funding is coming through state and federal grants.
(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) The St. Joseph City Council approved more funding for alcohol education programs in the city.

More than $22,000 will be directed to St. Joseph's Youth Alliance to fund its citywide compliance programs.

In the compliance programs, minors will enter bars, restaurants and liquor retail outlets and attempt to purchase alcohol.

When the agency began compliance checks in 2007, it found that 56 percent of businesses would sell liquor to minors.

"We knew from that standpoint we had a problem," said Robin Hammond, Executive Director of the Youth Alliance. "We have worked with a variety of different strategies since 2007 to reduce that rate. We now keep it under ten percent."

That drop in non-compliance has taken a lot of work along with cooperation with police.

"The pieces they provide for us can only be done through law enforcement," Hammond said. "So, compliance checks to legally be done must be done by law enforcement."

Another key to the success of the city's alcohol education program is server licensing. Those who sell alcohol have to go through a training to get permission to sell alcohol.

"We make them take their I.D. out of their wallet and look at the front and the back of the I.D. for flaws," said Alison Atwater, an employee at Hy-Vee who works in the grocery store's liquor department.

"We get to teach folks the rules and get them to recognize the issues related to alcohol and as a result, we've got more voluntary compliance," said St. Joseph Police Chief Chris Connally.

Experts say better education has changed the culture around alcohol sales.

"I've seen a difference when I'm in the store lines," Hammond said. "Just the shift, you don't see the clerks just click right on by. They ask for I.D., I really think our community has stepped up to this."

"The real measure of success isn't how many tickets we write," Connally said. "In this case it's how many we don't write."

Hammond believes better alcohol enforcement at the point of sale will result in fewer minors drinking.

"If kids can't get it, they're not going to drink it," she said.

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