The owner of a liquor store at the intersection of Commonwealth and Harvard avenues blames his sister, fresh off the plane from Hong Kong, for allowing so many underage teenagers to buy liquor that word spread on social media and attracted kids from as far away as a Marblehead boarding school
The easy access at Comm. Ave. Wines and Spirits, 1229 Commonwealth Ave., came to an end on Feb. 1, when a pair of Boston police detectives, glaringly obvious as they sat in their "undercover" Crown Victoria, watched a steady stream of seemingly underaged customers walking into the place, before finally nabbing two young men from Korea, one 18, the other 19.
The one caught holding the bag - a black, plastic bag containing a 40-oz. bottle of Budweiser, a 40-oz. bottle of Bud Light and three green bottles of Asian liqueurs - said he was sorry and asked if he could just return the liquor, Det. Joseph Scaringello told the Boston Licensing Board this morning. "Well, it doesn't work that way," Scaringello said he replied. He said the kid didn't even have an ID - just a photocopy of one page from his Korean passport.
Scaringello said that even as he in the store talking to a clerk, a group of four young looking women approached the store and one went in. "I told her she better think twice about purchasing alcohol at that location," he said. She turned and left.
Owner Sing Cheung said he was caught totally unaware by his store's popularity among the under-21 set - Scaringello said BU students in particular began flocking there. He said he had always had his staff check IDs and had never had problems in the four years the store has been open, and that at first he was puzzled why he'd been summoned before the board. But he said he realized what must have happened: His sister, who lives in Hong Kong, came to visit and volunteered to work the register at the store while she was here.
Although she said at first she carded almost everybody, he realized she was not doing a good job at it. He said she's since gone back to Hong Kong, but has volunteered to handle the register again on a return visit. He said he told her "just come down and visit us, that's good enough."
In addition to keeping his sister away from the register, he said he and his staff have all undergone alcohol-sales training and that he's purchased a handheld scanner to check licenses.
The board decides Thursday what action, if any, to take. The board could decide to simply warn the store, suspend its license for one or more days or take no action.