May 16, 2014 in Idaho

Coeur d’Alene Resort buys new liquor license, receives softer penalty for second violation

By The Spokesman-Review
 

The Coeur d’Alene Resort will dodge a costly penalty after one of its bars was hit with a second state liquor law violation in just over a year.

Splash, a resort sports bar at Sherman Avenue and Second Street, was cited by the Idaho State Police for serving a minor in early May.

A similar violation there in April 2013 resulted in a five-day suspension of the resort’s liquor license, and because the license covers multiple venues, the resort closed several of its restaurants and lounges during that suspension in early January.

A second offense within three years could lead to a license suspension of 15 to 30 days. But the resort recently made a change to its alcohol license structure that protects it from a penalty that severe.

Splash was placed under its own liquor license, buffering it from other resort venues. And the new license for Splash means the recent violation counts as a first offense for that bar, not a second, explained Lt. Russ Wheatley with the state police Alcohol Beverage Control.

“So what that means is the new license becomes what’s under scrutiny, not the resort license,” Wheatley said.

The resort license, covering venues such as Beverly’s Restaurant, Whispers Lounge, Dockside Restaurant, Tito’s Italian Grill and the resort convention center, still has the 2013 violation attached to it.

And now Splash has the violation from early May and faces a license suspension of five to 10 days.

One more violation for either license could add up to some serious down time for the Hagadone Hospitality businesses.

The company did not respond to a request for comment. But Wheatley said the resort takes alcohol compliance very seriously.

“They do such a good job of bringing us in and doing training for their employees. They really are a model, and I can’t say that enough,” he said. “It’s unfortunate, clearly, that they find themselves in this situation again and had an employee who failed a compliance operation.”

The state has discretion in determining the penalty for a violation, including the quality of employee training, Wheatley said. The prior violation at Splash also could factor into the new penalty.

“I think in some form or another it does come into play,” he said.

Plainclothes detectives working with underage youths conducted alcohol age compliance checks May 2 and 3 on 48 businesses licensed to sell alcohol in Kootenai, Bonner and Shoshone counties. Fourteen of the businesses, or 29 percent, failed to comply with the law and sold alcohol to persons under 21.

That failure rate is well above the average of 10 to 15 percent in Idaho, investigators said.

Some employees checked identification that showed the customer was not yet 21, and they still served or sold to the minor, the state found. In other cases, identification wasn’t even requested.

In addition to the penalties businesses face, the clerks and bartenders who sold to minors were cited for misdemeanors.

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