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PAWTUCKET â€” A Broad Street liquor store owner has been fined and his business temporarily closed for selling alcohol to a minor in what is his fifth such violation in 11 years.
Following a hearing on Wednesday at the City Council's Board of License Commissioners, the board voted to order Gee's Liquors at 400 Broadway to remain closed effective March 11 through March 30. The store is allowed to re-open on March 31.
Additionally, the board voted to impose a fine of $1,000 on John-Anthony Santos, of Lookout Ave., North Providence, in his capacity as president and agent of Great Entrepreneurial Endeavors, Inc., (doing business as Gee's Liquors).
According to city officials, the latest incident occurred on Jan. 15 when Santos' brother, Alselmo Santos, of Vine Street, East Providence, sold a six pack of Coors light cans to a 19-year-old woman who was acting in the capacity of a decoy for the purposes of a liquor control compliance check being conducted by the Pawtucket Police Department. Santos was issued a summons for sale of alcohol to an underage person. It was also the second time he had been fined for this offense while working as a clerk at the store.
Pawtucket Police Major Bruce Moreau told the board the Police Department had received a grant through the state Department of Mental Health, Retardation and Hospitals to conduct underage liquor compliance checks of alcohol retail outlets and businesses in possession of various liquor licenses. The department decided to conduct compliance checks in January and had notified all alcohol retail outlets about the program. He told the board that after conducting surveys in all 26 of the city's Class A licensed businesses (liquor stores), Gee's Liquors was the only business that failed the compliance check.
According to the City Clerk's Office, Santos, as the owner, had been cited four previous times for the same offense of selling alcohol to a minor and had been fined and temporarily shut down in the past. This has been the most violations for the same offense by any city establishment since the Police Department began doing the compliance checks.
City Council President David Moran, the district councilor for Gee's Liquors, said that as these offenses were repeated, the punishments had gotten progressively harsher. In 2008, Santos was fined $500 and the store was ordered closed for four days, and on the last occasion, in 2010, he was fined $750 and shuttered for six days.
â€śThe record speaks for itself. Obviously, the message is not getting through to this license holder,â€ť said Moran. He added that he told Santos at the hearing that this failure to comply with laws regarding the proper sale of liquor will not be tolerated and if another such violation occurs, he will move to revoke the store's license permanently.
â€śIt's all about public safety,â€ť said Moran. â€śGod forbid, some underage person went into that store and bought liquor and then got drunk and hurt themselves or someone else,â€ť he said. â€śI hope people will learn from this.â€ť
Moreau later told The Times that it is the police department's desire to partner with the local alcohol business community to achieve a 100 percent success rate with compliance. He added that while Gee's Liquors has â€śa disappointing record,â€ť he was pleased at the near-perfect rate of compliance by the city's other 25 liquor stores.