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Total Wine & More Hit With One Day Liquor Sale Suspension After Compliance Check Failure

Burlington’s most recently opened liquor store will have to close for a day after failing an alcohol compliance check.

Representatives from Total Wine & More were before the Board of Selectmen meeting on Monday night for a hearing after an employee of the store sold a six pack of beer to an underage female working with the Burlington Police during a December 12 sting.

Police Chief Michael Kent read a report from Officer Keith Sheppard who conducted the sting with the help of two Burlington High School students. In the report Sheppard said the group hit almost all of businesses in town that sell alcohol and that Total Wine & More was the only to fail this round of compliance checks.

Representatives of the business did not contest the fact that alcohol was sold to a minor but did raise a minor point of fact concerning how the transaction was made. They said that under the Massachusetts Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission’s guidelines a sting is supposed to end once an ID is asked for. However, according to the report when the minor was asked for her identification she said it was in the car and offered to go get it. It was at this point the cashier said not to bother and sold the minor the alcohol. Technically, they argued, under the guidelines she should have left as soon as the ID was asked for.

“The ABCC requirements say that if the decoy is asked for an ID she is supposed to leave,” Total Wine & More Senior Vice President and General Counsel Robert Shaffer said, though he quickly added the business didn’t want to argue the larger point that alcohol was sold to an underage person.

“We’re not casting any aspersions, this isn’t the case,” he said.

In fact Shaffer expressed remorse over the incident and said he flew up from Maryland just to tell the board the company will do everything it can to ensure it never happens again.

“I feel embarrassed because I’m the chief legal officer for the company,” he said. “We’ve done a lot of soul searching to understand how this could happen. We never held ourselves out as perfect and we certainly weren’t in this circumstance.”

Shaffer said the company does a lot of training with employees and even offers bonuses to employees who are seen denying underage customers service. He added that more training will be conducted in the Burlington store.

Members of the board said they appreciated the seriousness shown by the representatives of the company.

However, in the end, they did vote to find that a violation had occurred and applied the standard penalty of a first-time violation with a one-day liquor license suspension. Normally the suspension is applied to the following Monday but in this case they agreed, at the store representative’s request, that it be applied to Monday, February 25 instead to give them time to adjust staff schedules.