A Forsyth County package store will have its license suspended for nearly a month against the wishes of the district’s commissioner, who wanted to see the license revoked.
At a meeting on Thursday, Sept. 17, members of the Forsyth County Board of Commissioners voted 4-1, with District 1 Commissioner Molly Cooper opposed, to suspend the alcohol license for Georgia Liquor Barn, located at 701 Atlanta Road, and licensee for 29 days beginning on Thursday, Oct. 1 after an employee sold alcohol to an undercover officer of the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office.
Cooper said she voted in opposition “because I feel as though his license should have been revoked, that’s why I am the dissenting vote on that.”
Before the final motion was made by District 4 Commissioner Cindy Jones Mills, Cooper made a motion to revoke the license, which first got a second from Chairwoman Laura Semanson for discussion but did not get a second when restated.
As other commissioners considered lesser penalties, Cooper said she was “not backing down, so if someone else wants to make a lighter motion and let them go, then that’s up to you, but I won’t be doing that.”
Cooper said she wanted to see revocation as this was the fourth violation at the store in 24 months and “certainly gives the impression that Mr. Patel is not taking seriously the code we have here for alcohol sales.”
The most recent violation, from June, was for the sale of alcohol to an underage customer, and the previous violations all occurred on the same day on July 27, 2019 for alcohol with no pricing, breaking of packages and no signage.
Commissioners previously voted to give the store a warning for the previous violation.
Mills said she was against stores selling to underage customers, but revocation was a stiffer penalty than businesses usually get for one underage sale violation.
“He sold underage one time, and it wasn’t him, it was an employee, and he did fire the employee,” Mills said. “I’ve seen other people do it two and three times, and they didn’t have to close their business.”
Patel said the violation was committed by an employee when he was out of the store, the employee had been fired and he and remaining employees had been trained through Operation 21, a local company that provides a variety of public safety programs, including courses on Georgia laws, gun safety and certification for alcohol serving license.
“I’m being proactive about it and making sure that this never, ever happens again,” Patel said. “I take this matter very, very seriously. In my six years of history [at this store] and 10 years in retail in general, this has never, ever happened to me. Unfortunately, it did happen. I understand how serious the situation is.”
Operation 21 owner Brian DeBlois said Patel has made changes including installing new surveillance equipment, a new ID scanning system required for alcohol or tobacco purchases, not allowing vertical licenses and including signage for customers and employees.
According to the county’s alcohol ordinance, for non-underage sale violations, the code calls for a warning letter for a first violation within 24 months, a 30- to 90-day suspension for a second violation and between 90 days and six months for a third.
For underage sales, stores:
- Receive a warning letter, $500 fine to the county magistrate court and go through required responsible alcohol and sales training within 30 days for a first violation;
- A mandatory hearing before commissioners, a license suspension for a minimum of 7-60 days and a fine of $750 for a second;
- And a required meeting before commissioners, a minimum fine of $1,000 and revocation “absent a showing of mitigation circumstances deemed sufficient in the discretion” of the board for a third.
The board picked 29 days because if a suspension goes for 30 or more it requires the store to remove all its alcohol, which commissioners said can be a headache for the store and the state.