Council penalizes Walmart for booze sale to teen

OAK PARK HEIGHTS — The Oak Park Heights City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to fine the city’s Walmart $1,000 and suspend the store’s liquor license five days after a store clerk was charged with selling alcohol to a minor.

Oak Park Heights Police Chief Mark DeRosier recommended the fine and suspension of the store’s liquor license from Jan. 28 to Feb. 1.

Along with approving the administrative sanctions against Walmart, the council also set a Feb. 12 hearing date if store officials want to appeal the penalty.

Walmart Supercenter Manager Amber Wright said today she had no comment about the council’s actions and was contacting company attorneys to determine what the store should do next.

“I’m contacting my legal department this morning to find out what course of action to take,” she said.

Police Chief Mark DeRosier said the penalties fall under the city’s liquor ordinance and noted that the November incident was the second at the store in two years.

“This will be their second violation in two years,” he said.

DeRosier said the Nov. 23, 2012, incident came to the police department’s attention after a clerk at the Liquor Time store in Oak Park Heights called police to report that a customer attempted to buy alcohol using a fake Illinois driver’s license.

DeRosier said officers were looking for the West Lakeland Township teenager and the model of his vehicle when they found the teen in his car in the Walmart parking lot with alcoholic beverages the teen purchased at store.

According to a police report, the teenager purchased a 12-pack and 24-pack of beer and a bottle of liquor. The report added that the store clerk told officers she did not ask for identification because she believed the teenager was a regular customer who was older than 21.

Officers charged the store clerk with a gross misdemeanor in Washington County District Court.

DeRosier said Walmart’s previous violation occurred in December 2010. The store paid a $500 fine but did not have its liquor license suspended.

City Attorney Mark Vierling said that Walmart’s fine and liquor license suspension would be put on hold if the store requests a show cause hearing with the council.

Councilman Mike Runk noted that if Walmart does not request an administrative hearing, the license suspension would affect the store during one of the peak liquor sale periods of the year.

“We’ll be shutting them down Super Bowl weekend,” he said.

This year’s Super Bowl game is Feb. 3.