Breckenridge businesses facing discipline over December drug bust
Last December, local law enforcement agencies countywide teamed up for an undercover drug operation that nabbed 21 suspects, most of whom allegedly sold drugs to police officers in a handful of bars and restaurants in Breckenridge and several other locations. One case — when a man allegedly sold a half-ounce of cocaine over the counter of the Mine — was so egregious that the state Department of Revenue swiftly shut it down, police say.
“The state is handling the Mine, because that was pretty serious,” Breckenridge police chief Dennis McLaughlin said. “It may come to a point where the local (liquor) board is waiting for the outcome of that and may take action as well.”
Two other establishments are facing scrutiny by the Breckenridge Liquor and Marijuana Licensing Authority, although they will likely only pay fines or serve suspensions for being implicated in what police described as a loose but brazen drug ring.
On Tuesday morning, the Blue Stag Saloon conceded it may have committed a conduct of establishment violation at a licensing authority hearing related to two alleged cocaine deals that happened there in December.
Hero, a bar where cocaine was allegedly sold to officers four times, was granted a continuance on its proceedings.
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The Blue Stag hearings were also postponed because the bar was issued a citation two weeks ago for sale to a minor. Authority chair J.B. Katz also suggested that another underage drinking incident might have occurred there over the weekend, although owner Terry Barbu said he wasn’t aware of any new incident.
During the hearing, Katz said she would rather delay proceedings to establish the full extent of the alleged violations and avoid having new issues arise midway through.
Barbu told the authority that he and his staff were unaware of the illegal activity and had made changes to their policies in response to it, including ramping up ID enforcement.
“We’ve invested $3 million in this town. I’m taking everything very seriously, … everything in that letter is things that we did after we found out about this last year,” he said, referring to correspondence with the authority.
The penalty for a first conduct of establishment violation is up to a 30-day license suspension and possible fine, although Katz said that the corrective actions carried out by the Blue Stag would be considered in assessing a punishment.
The first offense for sale to a minor can carry up to a 15-day suspension. There is no penalty guideline for a second offense within the same year, according to the town code.
Police typically conduct ID enforcement during routine bar checks or when they receive a tip and investigate, as was the case at the Blue Stag, McLaughlin said.
“If a bar doesn’t check an ID and the Department of Revenue happens to be there, they sometimes catch it, or if we receive information that there’s someone who is underage we look into it,” he said. “I think most of our bars are very good about checking.”
If they sell to minors, bars and eateries are issued citations through the municipal court and typically have to appear before the liquor authority as well.
The fake ID offenders, meanwhile, are issued a town citation and tend to also face criminal charges, including minor in possession of alcohol.
Breckenridge police have checked a total of 111 IDs so far this year, but only 20 of them were related to underage drinking.
The rest were conducted at the request of local marijuana shops, which a police spokeswoman said tend to be extremely careful with IDs given the extra scrutiny on their industry.