Minors who want to buy beer or wine in Spokane can find a place to do it.
That’s the conclusion of a recent undercover sting by police and state liquor regulators that targeted 45 of the city’s convenience stores.
Clerks in 17 of those stores - nearly 38 percent - sold alcohol to underage volunteers working with the police and state Liquor Control Board without checking identification, police spokesman Dick Cottam said.
Those odds are way too good, authorities said Wednesday.
“We have a serious problem here in Spokane,” said Blaise Pistotnik, executive director of Washington Drug Free Youth.
Police officer Bob Grandinetti agreed.
“Alcohol is related to a significant number of teenage deaths,” Grandinetti said.
In 1994, more than 40 percent of 15- to 20-year-olds killed in traffic accidents nationwide were drinking beforehand, according to figures provided by the Spokane County engineer’s office.
Earlier this year, 16-year-old Anna Sherman died in a car collision in the Spokane Valley. Authorities believe the driver of the car, 19-year-old Anthony R. Lazanis, had been drinking prior to the wreck.
Three teams made up of undercover authorities and “youthful looking” minors 18-20 years old fanned out across the city Friday night in search of convenience stores, Grandinetti said.
The minors, who rehearsed for their part, took beer or wine to the counter and tried to buy it while authorities watched.
If the clerk asked for identification, the decoys simply left the store.
If not, officials allowed the clerk to ring up the sale and then cited them for selling alcohol to a minor. They also issued citations to the business itself.
Robert Stamper of the Liquor Control Board said more citations were issued this year than in 1995, when 30 percent of the targeted businesses were cited.
Stamper was at a loss to explain the increase.
“Basically, either management hasn’t stressed it, or they’re guessing,” he said.
Businesses who are continually cited for the practice face hefty fines and the possibility that their liquor licenses will be suspended.
Katee Pierce, a 16-year-old high school sophomore and president of the local Prevention Youth Council, accompanied one of the teams to observe the sting.
Six of 13 clerks approached by Pierce’s team were cited.
“I was very, very shocked by those numbers,” said Pierce, a University High School student whose brother was killed by a drunken driver 10 years ago. “I thought more people were aware.”
Grandinetti warned that the stings would continue.
“Hey, if they look under 30, check them for ID,” he said.
, DataTimes MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: STUNG Spokane police say clerks at the following stores sold alcohol to underage volunteers during a sting Friday night: Driscoll One Stop, 4203 N. Driscoll; Zip-Trip, 1503 E. Illinois; Maid O’Clover stores at 2205 N. Hamilton and 909 N. Division; Fairco Market, 2020 W. Francis. Chevron Market, 1713 E. Francis; Chevron station, 8624 N. Nevada; Chevron Mini-Mart, 9420 N. Newport Highway; Qwik-Stop stores at 3125 E. Mission and 1001 E. Wellesley. Exxon stations at 901 E. Francis and Third and Maple; 7-Eleven stores at 1006 W. Garland, 1317 S. Grand and 1908 W. Sunset; Conoco, 228 S. Thor; Circle K, 303 S. Altamont.