SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Local News

August 29, 2013

Two eateries caught in underage drinking sting

(Continued)

Murtagh balked at such a severe punishment. He suggested a compromise, “and next time, we give them four.”

In response, O’Keefe wondered what he was expected to tell others who had served out the usual suspensions.

“Blame me,” he urged the board members. He added that all this was hard for him, too, as he knows personally the man who was fired for serving the drink.

“He knows my wife. And my dog’s name. So, I feel terrible,” he said.

“These guys are good guys,” Dakos said of Mitchell and Houlden. “It’s too bad this happened. But something has to be done.”

The board settled on a three-day suspension, and the owners were allowed to choose the days, Sept. 1, 2 and 3.

Delaney said, however, that the city’s lawyer has ruled that while all the liquor must be put away or covered, Champion’s can continue to serve food during the suspension.

The sting involves sending out an underage operative to each of 80 Peabody establishments dealing in alcohol, O’Keefe said. The drink, if served, is never sampled.

“We do the whole city three times a year,” he said.

Nordstrom’s displayed its concern over its violation by sending a regional manager, Michael Gross, to the hearing. O’Keefe said the Nordstrom’s employee who served the beer had gone awry after doing one right thing, asking for an ID.

“She was halfway there,” he said.

But when the customer did not have an ID, the server replied, “Aw, you look like you’re old enough.”

“Lieutenant, thank you for the job you all do. ... It keeps us on our toes,” Gross said.

He said that the server hasn’t been fired, but the cafe has reviewed procedures with the staff.

Staff writer Alan Burke can be reached at aburke@salemnews.com.

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