SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

October 17, 2012

Businesses fall under selectmen scrutiny

BY ETHAN FORMAN STAFF WRITER
The Salem News

---- — DANVERS — Selectmen handed out license suspensions to three businesses after police Chief Neil Ouellette outlined slip-ups in their procedures in recent months.

All three had their punishments held in abeyance for a year.

The board voted 5-0 to suspend the license for the sale of secondhand merchandise held by Gold Buyers at the Liberty Tree Mall due to discrepancies in its records.

Ouellette said Detective Robert Sullivan was investigating the sale of jewelry from a past house break in Peabody when he found the record for a transaction in May, about the time of the break, to be incomplete.

Bob Knapp, the Mahwah, N.J.-based company’s director of loss prevention, said it appeared that several transactions in question were the result of employees taking a shortcut to help customers, something that is not acceptable under town bylaws and company policy.

Two employees who were working for the store at the time have since left the company, and Knapp said it appeared the problems were isolated. When transactions are not recorded properly, police are unable to track possibly stolen merchandise.

Knapp called the six transactions in question “an anomaly.”

Selectmen voted to suspend Gold Buyers’ license for seven days, holding the punishment in abeyance for one year, meaning that if there are no more infractions, the store will not lose its license to operate.

The second suspension of the night was handed out to Olive Garden at 153 Andover St. for allegedly selling a Bud Light beer to an underage girl acting as a liquor compliance checker on July 27. Ouellette said the bartender told police that night he was busy at the bar and that he should have known to ask for identification.

Officials for the company said there is an extensive in-house training program to prevent the serving of minors and that the bartender who served the minor without asking for an ID had been fired. The manager on duty was also suspended. The board voted unanimously to suspend Olive Garden’s license for three days, with the punishment held in abeyance for one year.

Olive Garden opened in town in June 2011, and this was its first offense.

The last suspension went to the Onion Town Grill at 175 Water St. A bartender at the popular establishment, owned by Gale Couture of Peabody and her brother Don Harwood of Salem, served a Bud Light to a liquor compliance checker without asking for her ID, Ouellette said. The incident also took place on July 27, when police conducted checks at the approximately 45 establishments in town.

Harwood said the bartender, one of his best, was distraught after police Sgt. Robert Bettencourt came to him and told him what had happened. The bartender received a two-week suspension.

“I don’t think there is anyone who feels worse,” Harwood said of his bartender. “I would like to apologize to the town for the indiscretion.” He said he tells his staff “the one thing we can prevent is serving underage people in our bar.”

Onion Town Grill has tightened its serving policy to now ask for IDs for anyone who looks 40 or under. The previous standard was to card anyone who looks 30 or under. Harwood said he is also looking into buying an electronic license scanner.

Like Olive Garden, Onion Town Grill received a three-day suspension held in abeyance for a year.

Staff writer Ethan Forman can be reached at 978-338-2673, by email at eforman@salemnews.com or on Twitter at @DanverSalemNews.