Wild Wing Café in Statesboro, GA Defends Alcohol Beverage License Based on Unclear Laws
Last fall, the Statesboro, GA City Council resumed hearings on alcohol beverage license infractions, and numerous businesses have gone before the council in that time to argue to keep their alcohol beverage licenses. One business, Wild Wing Café, stood to lose its ABL, but along with four other businesses, was let off with a warning.
The café faced a citation or the revocation of its alcohol beverage license because of an ordinance in the city regarding serving alcohol to underage people. Although state law clearly says that no business that serves alcohol may serve people under the age of 21, the law also empowers cities to define “ascertainable standards” for local businesses. The problem that Wild Wing Café argued was that the ordinance does not define what a “major violation” of that law is, and whether businesses should lose their alcohol beverage licenses when employees unknowingly violate the law, or if that should count only when employees or business owners intentionally violate the law.
South Carolina state law prohibits “knowingly” furnishing an underage person with alcohol, but not unknowingly.
At the crux of the ABL dispute is Wild Wing Café employee Taylor Burroughs, a Southern Georgia University student who was working at the café on December 19th, when an underage, undercover officer entered the restaurant and ordered a beer. Burroughs checked the undercover officer’s ID, but he said, in a written statement, that the ID “was bent and not in the best of condition.” He said he saw the birthdate on the ID as 5/9/1991, which would make the customer 23.
However, a Statesboro officer came into the café the next day with an enlarged copy of the girl’s ID, which showed her birthdate as 5/9/1994. That would make her only 20 years old, too young to legally drink.
Burroughs faces misdemeanor charges which will go to court in a few months.
“We’re all human. We all make mistakes from time to time,” said an attorney for Wild Wing Cafe. “This young man says he made a mistake. He looked at the year, made a mistake. What evidence do we have that he knowingly, intentionally violated the law? We don’t have any, in this case.” The attorney continued that Burroughs was on the honor roll in high school where he was also captain of the football and the baseball team. In college, he has maintained a 3.7 GPA and a Zell Miller scholarship.
The attorney added that, although Statesboro may want to enforce a “strict liability” standard for alcohol beverage licenses in which knowledge or intent don’t matter, the city’s current ordinance does not clearly state that method.
The Strom Law Firm Defends Alcohol Beverage Licenses
As a business owner, you worked hard to file the correct paperwork for your alcohol beverage license. But receiving the license is only the beginning: ensuring you are in compliance with the letter of the law is also very important. One minor infraction, even made by an employee when you were not directly supervising, can put your alcohol beverage license at risk. You may have to go to court to dispute the charges. But you do not have to fight alone: the alcohol beverage license attorneys at the Strom Law Firm can help. Contact us today for a free consultation regarding the facts of your case. 803.252.4800