Two liquor stores cited for selling to minors

Sep 18, 2019

Two liquor stores were cited for selling alcohol to minors at Tuesday night’s Board of Selectmen meeting. 

This was the first time that Wareham Liquors and Liquor Locker were cited under current ownership.

The first incident took place at about 3 p.m. on July 23 at Wareham Liquors, which is located in the CVS plaza on Main Street.

Wareham Police Detective Dean Decas was in the parking lot when he saw a young woman who appeared to be underage enter Wareham Liquors and leave shortly after with a small plastic bag that looked like it contained alcohol.

Decas confirmed that the woman was only 20 years old and conducted a motor vehicle stop.

He found a six-pack of beer in the car that she had purchased, which she confirmed she bought at Wareham Liquors, where she was not asked to show an ID.

Decas went back to Wareham Liquor and spoke to the owner, Dipenkumar Patel, who confirmed that he had sold to the young woman and had not asked for an ID.

Patel’s lawyer, Matthew Porter, said that Patel had thought, mistakenly, that he had verified the woman’s age during a past sale, and pointed out that this was the first underage sale during Patel’s seven years of owning the store.

Patel did not dispute the facts of the case.

“Just do what the Red Sox do and card everyone,” suggested Selectman Peter Teitelbaum.

Chair Patrick Tropeano agreed and urged Patel to trust his scanner and scan each ID.

Porter expressed some frustration with the police department’s response to fake IDs. He said when Patel has reported confiscating fake IDs in the past, the police have told him to keep them for his records but haven’t seemed to follow up with the pepetrators, many of whom have fake IDs with their real name on them.

The Board, as they have for other first-time offenders, agreed unanimously to suspend Wareham Liquor’s license for two days in the middle of the week.

On October 1 and 2, Wareham Liquors must be closed with a sign on the door explaining why.

“One offense is not acceptable,” said Selectman Alan Slavin. “I don’t have a lot of patience for that.”

The second store to be cited, Liquor Locker, was also a first-time offense under the current owner.

Detective Bryan Whalen said he was in the parking lot of the store, located at 3021 Cranberry Highway, in an unmarked vehicle at about 6:50 p.m. on August 15 when he saw a sedan pull in.

He knew that the driver of the sedan was underaged, and there appeared to be two other underaged people in the car. 

He set up surveillance in the parking lot across the street, and shortly after saw the owner of the car leave the store carrying a brown paper bag that appeared to hold a pint-size bottle of liquor.

He then conducted a motor vehicle stop, during which he discovered that the operator of the vehicle did not have a license.

The driver claimed to have bought a bottle of water at the store, but a search of the vehicle revealed that the purchase was, in fact, a bottle of Hennessy.

Whalen returned to Liquor Locker, where the clerk confirmed he had made the sale without checking ID and provided a receipt.

The owner, Suhas Patel, did not dispute the facts of the case and fired the clerk the next day. The clerk had sold to a minor once before in July 2017 when the store was under different ownership. 

Patel said that when he bought the store in March 2018, the previous owner had vouched for the clerk, and he did not know about the previous violation.

In addition, Patel informed the Selectmen about the upgraded ID scanning system he purchased about six months ago. He only accepts Massachusetts IDs, and said the system is constantly upgrading so it can catch new types of fake IDs.

“I’m glad you upgraded the employee as well,” said Teitelbaum.

Patel said that he has stepped up his training of employees, all of whom are TIPS certified. He has also brought a stack of confiscated fake IDs that was about an inch thick.

Liquor Locker will face the same consequence as Wareham Liquors, and will be closed with a sign on the door on October 1 and 2.