The Hannibal City Council rejected an appeal from the owners of a local business who sought to have a $500 fine waived for selling liquor to a minor twice during a 12-month period.

The Hannibal City Council rejected an appeal from the owners of a local business who sought to have a $500 fine waived for selling liquor to a minor twice during a 12-month period.

Section 3-85 of the City Code states that any person or entity holding a Hannibal liquor license is subject to administrative penalty or license suspension if two or more convictions for selling liquor to a minor occur at the same location within a 12-month period. According to city court records, two different employees of Game On Sports Bar & Grill pled guilty on Jan. 9, 2014, and June 23, 2014, to the charge of selling alcohol to a minor at the business on 211 Munger Lane. The sales to an HPD informant reportedly occurred on Nov. 19, 2013, and May 12, 2014.

Owners of the establishment – Steve Shaw, Doug Williams and Vicki Cassady – wrote in a letter to the city they were appealing on “general grounds,” stating it would not be “fair or just” to impose any penalty or sanction on Game On based on the circumstances surrounding the incidents. They noted in their letter that the business goes to “great lengths” to avoid serving alcohol to minors, explaining that every employee is instructed to check IDs. It was also noted that employee meetings are held daily where the importance of checking IDs is stressed.

According to police reports from the incidents, in November a waitress asked for identification. Reportedly the waitress asked the informant if they were old enough to purchase alcohol and the informant shook their head no. The waitress still served the informant a beer.

In May, the server took the informant’s drink order and served the beer without ever asking their age or for identification.

Cassady stated the initial incident occurred less than a month after Game On opened and that a lot of training remained to be done with the staff. She conceded there was “no excuse” for the second violation.

“The employee just didn’t listen,” said Cassady.

Mayor Pro Tem Kevin Knickerbocker noted the Council has heard appeals before and it is important for it to be “consistent.”

Police Chief Lyndell Davis reminded the Council that the criteria necessary for the fine to be administered has been met. He expressed concern that if the fine was waived the Council would be starting down a “slippery slope” from which there’s “no going back.”

The city toughened its ordinances regarding minors purchasing liquor roughly seven years ago. Prior to that it was “relatively simple for minors to purchase liquor in Hannibal,” according to City Manager Jeff LaGarce.

At the time city ordinances held the individual making the underage sale fully accountable.

“Consequently, underage sales repeatedly occurred at the same businesses, with some owners doing little more than terminating employee-after-employee for making illegal sales, but failing to take proactive measures to prevent these sales in the first place,” wrote LaGarce in a memo to the Council.

In 2007-08 an ordinance was proposed that would have seen a business’ liquor license be temporarily revoked if there were two convictions for underage sales at the same business within a 12-month period. However, due to protests from local business owners, the penalty was changed so that the penalty following a second conviction within a year’s time would be a $500 administrative penalty, rather than temporary license revocation.

“In essence, an ‘extra strike’ was built-in before any revocation would occur,” said LaGarce.

According to Section 3-85, a three-day liquor license suspension is required for a third conviction, and a five-day revocation follows a fourth conviction.