JOHN DAY - Some local store clerks and servers are better prepared to catch minors who try to buy cigarettes or alcohol illegally.

That's the result of an Oregon Liqour Control Commission training held in September at the Grant County Regional Airport in John Day.

The OLCC invited staff from all the stores and restaurants in Grant County that sell alcohol and tobacco to attend the workshop, which was designed to help retailers understand the responsibility of selling alcohol and tobacco, how to do an accurate ID check, and how to spot false IDs and visibly intoxicated individuals.

In all, the session drew 23 people. The turnout included 15 workers from Elkhorn Country Store, Ed's Fast Break/Shell, Mtn. View Mini-Mart, OLCC Liquor Store and El Cocinero.

The meeting was sponsored by the Policy Committee of Grant County Safe Communities Coalition.

"Our hope in working with retailers is to become partners in helping restrict alcohol and tobacco sales to minors," said Thad Labhart, the committee chair who also is site manager of Community Counseling Services.

He said the policy committee wants to see more frequent compliance checks in the county. OLCC generally makes one visit a year.

During their last visit seven out of eight businesses in the county were compliant, and didn't sell alcohol to the visiting decoy - a minor from another county who was accompanied by an undercover police officer and OLCC inspector.

Heading up the Sept. 9 meeting were Jim Marquardt, OLCC inspector, and Jeff Ruscoe, prevention specialist with the state Addictions and Mental Health Division.

"It was a really good meeting, I think," said Emerald Stroops, a clerk at the Canyon City Jackson Shell Mini-Mart.

She said it gave the station employees up-to-date serving information. The group also learned new ways to make sure the person buying alcohol or tobacco is actually the person on the ID card that's handed over. The updated ID cards make it possible to see at a glance if the person is a minor, with a lower possibility of transposing numbers in birthdates. A red bar over the top of a license shows when the person turns 21, and on the right shows when they turn 18.

While Stroops said she enjoyed the meeting and wishes trainings were available more often, she and other retail workers attending also told the instructors that OLCC should come into their businesses and talk with them about the rules, rather than using "sting operations."

"Come in a shake our hands instead," she said.

Grant County prevention manager Russ Comer said the response to the meeting has been positive.

"I've had great feedback," he said. "Everyone I talked to was really excited about it."

Although no one knows exactly when, "the compliance checks are coming," he said.

Labhart lauded the businesses that participated.

"The OLCC and the Grant County Sheriff's office have been fantastic partners willing to help us with this project," he said.


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