The new get-tough policy of the Carroll County liquor board is a change for the better. The board has handed out stiff fines and penalties for two establishments that sold liquor to minors, and it has announced it will conduct surprise, random inspections of all stores and bars licensed to sell alcohol.
Considering that teen-age drinking is a major problem in the county, every effort should be made to curb the sale of beer, wine and liquor to minors. Suspending the licenses of liquor stores or taverns and then slapping them with heavy fines of $500 or $1,000 sends precisely the right message: Selling liquor to minors is an extremely serious offense and carries heavy penalties.
Convenience store clerks and bartenders may find it a burden to ask for identification of younger patrons.
However, if they know that the failure to ask could cause their place of employment to shut down or even lose its license, they will take the time to request and examine ID cards.
If teen-agers are "carded" regularly, it will be one more "hassle" to impede them from illegally purchasing alcohol. Of course, some teens won't be deterred because no system is foolproof. Teen-agers determined to get alcohol may resort to obtaining fake identifications or cajoling older people into buying liquor for them. These youths may ultimately obtain alcohol, but it won't be a casual spur of the moment purchase.
Surprise liquor inspections also should help assure greater compliance with the county liquor laws. Under the old system, inspections were conducted only in response to a specific complaint.
If given notice, most owners will make sure their employees comply with the liquor laws. By dropping in unannounced, inspectors are more likely to see the standard practices of a liquor establishment.
Russell Mayer, the board's new chairman, and newly appointed members Romeo Valianti and John Buchheister Jr. are telegraphing a clear message to all licensees they regulate. Liquor laws are to be obeyed.
When licensees commit violations, which impact on the health and safety of Carroll countians, they can expect the consequences to be serious.