AYER — The Police Department is in the midst of conducting sales compliance stings at all businesses in town licensed to sell and serve alcoholic beverages.
“The idea is not to catch people doing something wrong, but more of a checks and balances,” said police Chief William Murray. “It’s not a problem. We’ve seen very good compliance. We just want to maintain the checks and balances. They’re providing alcohol to the public. We want to make sure they’re following the rules.”
Officer Andrew Kularski attended training for the stings hosted by the Massachusetts Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission in Mendon two years ago. He held the stings in Ayer for the first time in 10 years last summer.
The department decided to become proactive with the stings after multiple drivers under the age of 21 were stopped for operating under the influence, said Kularski.
“Last year we only gave a 90-day window and tested on the 68th day,” he said. “We had five failures.”
When the stings were conducted at the end of last July, each establishment was tested twice.
“Each place got tested twice, and (the ones in compliance) passed both times,” said Kularski. “Those that failed failed on the first attempt.”
The five establishments attended a hearing with the Board of Selectmen and were given a warning, according to Kularski, because the owners were proactive in sending their employees to training for intervention procedures.
“The Police Department was happy with the response it got from those that failed,” he said. “Before the hearing each of the businesses set some sort of proactive action to either train or set up the training for their employees. Some even went as far as letting the employees go that caused the noncompliance.”
Kularski will use kids under the age of 21 from local high schools, Mount Wachusett Community College and even friends’ children for the stings.
“There is no trickery involved,” he said. “We use someone who looks 21, but not someone who’s bald or anything like that. They won’t show fake IDs either. There is zero trickery.”
Each of the “underage operatives” will have their pictures taken before and after the stings to ensure no alterations were made to their appearance.
The town, which is only nine square miles, has a total of 15 establishments that sell alcoholic beverages. Eight of those establishments are considered “pouring” because they can serve on their premises.
The underage operatives will walk into the establishment and attempt to purchase an alcoholic beverage with or without a license to ensure compliance.
“In a pouring establishment, as soon as they serve the drink, even of it’s not paid for, it’s not in compliance,” said Kularski.
The underage operatives have to take a breathalyzer test before beginning the stings and will be given another at the conclusion of the stings. They are required to sign an agreement explaining they’re not members of the Police Department, and they’re not allowed to say they represent the department.
If the establishment is found not to be in compliance, Kularski will approach the employees who failed the test and give them the notice of the violation and let them know they will be receiving correspondence from the Board of Selectmen for a hearing.
The board will decide on the punishment, said town administrator Shaun Suhoski, including revoking licenses depending on the situation.