The Boston Licensing Board today ordered a one-day license suspension for Walsh Wine & Spirits, 388 Washington St. in Brighton Center, which police detectives cited on July 19 for selling tequila, rum and other drinks to two guys who were under 21, in the latest such incident at a place that had become popular among Boston College and Boston University students.
The board also issued a warning for a similar incident at Huntington Wine & Spirits, 303 Huntington Ave. in the Fenway. This store, near Northeastern University, got a less severe punishment because it was the first time it's ever been cited by police for sales to people under 21.
At a hearing on Tuesday, Walsh's attorney, Steffani Boudreau, said the problem that night was that one of the two ID-checking systems the store now uses to scan IDs was out of operation, although she acknowledged that an employee failed to properly card the two. She added the employee was fired.
"Students at BC and BU are not frequenting [Walsh's] nearly as much as they were," she said. "I think the kids are just recognizing they're not able purchase liquor here anymore."
"This licensee has been targeted by college students and frequent stings," BPD Det. Eddie Hernandez said. Hernandez said he and his partner had gone to the store that night not to look for underage drinkers, but to deliver a notice to the store about an upcoming licensing hearing on an earlier incident.
At a meeting this morning, board Chairwoman Kathleen Joyce said the board has been working with the store in recent months to help it figure out how to block under-21 customers from walking out with liquor, but that since the July citation was the latest in a series of citations over the past year, it merited a sterner punishment than just a warning letter.
In contrast, the board voted to issue a warning letter to Huntington Liquors for an incident on Aug. 30 - during Northeastern's move-in weekend.
Huntington's attorney, Stephen Miller, said at a separate Tuesday hearing that owner Steven Rubin has long prided himself on ensuring Northeastern minors get turned away, to the point, he said, that Northeastern routinely warns incoming students not to even try to buy liquor there, during move-in orientations. He showed the board a cardboard box filled with what he said were hundreds of fake IDs confiscated from minors, which he said would soon be turned over to the state Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission for use in training.
"I'm totally embarrassed by what happened," Rubin told the board.
Miller blamed the snafu on the employee who sold the wine, whom he said might not have been in her right mind that night. He said the woman, herself a Northeastern student, had been "one of best employees they've had for a long time," but she had financial issues, was unable to register at Northeastern and was planning to return home to South Carolina the very next day. "Maybe personally she had some issues and lost it," he said.