Liquor store given green light after multiple sting operations
GYPSUM – After being busted twice within a year for selling to underage people, the staff at Jake’s Liquors is shaken up, but they will continue to do business with new management.
Jake’s Liquors is located in Costco but not operated by the store. Sara Herrmann owns Jake’s and she appeared before Gypsum Town Council with her attorney, Kevin Coates, and her new manager, Clay Williams, for an informal hearing Tuesday.
Gypsum Council members granted the informal hearing in November to see if they were satisfied with the way Jake’s is doing business, or if they felt more penalties or precautions should be made to ensure the store isn’t stung again. Ultimately, the store was allowed to continue business after cautionary words from the council.
Facing the consequences
The store was closed from Oct. 14 to Oct. 29 for the most recent violation, when it sold alcohol to an underage person June 28.
“The store had just come off a penalty from selling to a minor Nov. 12, 2012,” said Gypsum Town Clerk Danette Schlegel.
For the first violation, Jake’s Liquors had to close for five days in April and paid a $5,000 fine to the state.
“The week after the manager came in for the liquor license renewal and to explain why it wouldn’t happen again, they got another violation,” Schlegel said.
Herrmann said the man who was the manager at the time of the second violation still works at the store but was demoted from his position. Williams has been the manager since the store reopened and Herrmann touted his record.
“He’s been in the liquor business more than 20 years without a violation,” she said.
The employee who made the illegal sale was terminated. Williams said he has brought in some new employees and introduced a more careful attitude among them.
“You should hear the stories I tell new hires,” he said. “I scare the bejeezus out of them. I want employees who care because I can trust people who care.”
The store also has a new point-of-sale system that prompts clerks to check everyone’s ID, and there are security cameras that allow Herrmann or Williams to check up on things there at any time from anywhere.
Council members encouraged the store to card everyone no matter how old a person appears to be, but Williams said that’s not exactly the path they want to take. “It’s difficult to balance a card-everyone policy because people do get angry (when they are obviously over 21 or repeat customers),” Herrmann said.
“It’s your store and you’ll do what you will, I just don’t want to see you back here again,” said Council member Tim McMichael.
Council member Pam Schultz said Jake’s Liquors makes an important contribution to the town as a business.
“The 16 days of lost revenue from when the store was closed actually showed up on our budget, that’s how much sales tax we get from the store,” said Gypsum Town Manager Jeff Shroll.
Williams said the “culture” of the store has changed a lot since he’s been there and pointed out that they did pass a recent sting operation.
Shroll said the state law enforcement seems to focus heavily on areas like the Vail Valley.
“For some reason, the Department of Revenue has really zeroed in on this valley for sting operations,” he said.
“Bring ‘em on,” Williams said. “It makes me smile every time we pass a sting.”