The Columbia County Sheriff's Office wants to send a clear message to stores that sell alcohol -- don't sell to anyone underage, especially during prom season.
To drive that point home, officers sent an underage reserve officer into several stores Tuesday to see if he could purchase alcohol, sheriff's Lt. Clay Smith said.
Six stores sold to the officer and were cited under the county ordinance banning sale of alcohol to a minor, he said.
"We've got the prom season in. We were trying to tighten up the belts of all these people who sell alcohol and let them know we're out there," Lt. Smith said. "I don't want these kids drinking and driving during their prom night."
The stores police said violated the ordinance were Holiday Market at 398 South Belair Road, Holiday Market at 4474 Columbia Road, Phillips 66-Short Stop on Belair Road, Circle K (formerly Smile) on Fury's Ferry Road, Circle K (formerly Smile) on Belair Road and Pump & Shop on Flowing Wells Road.
"Hopefully, even the stores that didn't sell to us will still tighten their belts, and stores that we did catch will tighten up some belts, and that will help keep alcohol off the streets. That's the reason we do it around prom time," Lt. Smith said.
Twelve stores that were visited did not sell to the minor.
A hearing should be scheduled sometime next month in magistrate's court. The stores can be fined up to $1,000 and placed on 60 days' probation for the first violation.
Both Holiday Market stores were cited in April 1999, but that probation has been served, Lt. Smith said. A violation while on probation can cost a store its license to sell beer and wine.
Last year, the sheriff's office conducted raids that resulted in supermarkets and convenience stores being forced to surrender their beer and wine licenses for 30 days.
Reach Jennifer Miller at (706) 868-1222, Ext. 114, or firstname.lastname@example.org.