Two Staten Island stores are among dozens of citywide shops caught selling booze to customers under 21, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Monday.
The undercover investigation, the largest ever conducted by the State Liquor Authority (SLA), occurred between Oct. 3 and 11 and found that 7-Eleven, at 2477 Hylan Blvd. in New Dorp, and Dongan Hills Wines and Liquors at 1662 Richmond Road were two of 76 stores across the five boroughs selling alcohol to minors, authorities allege.
Both Island-based stores are expected to receive notice of pleading this week.
The owner of the Dongan Hills shop and manager of the New Dorp 7-Eleven said they were not aware of the allegation until the Advance informed them Monday afternoon. They said customers are told to present identification whenever buying alcohol or other items requiring an age limit.
Soo Hak Yun, owner of Dongan Hills Wine and Liquors for three years, said he’s never sold to underage customers and plans to fight the state’s charge.
“I’ve never sold to anyone under 21. Ever,” Yun said, wishing the state provided him a ticket before announcing its findings to the public.
Juan Balc, 7-Eleven manager for at least two years, said employees are reminded each week to ID customers.
“For alcohol, cigarettes, matches, lighters, anything,” he said.
The effort is part of a coordinated enforcement action to prevent the sale of alcohol to minors statewide, according to the governor.
“Our state is committed to preventing young New Yorkers from buying and abusing alcohol,” said Cuomo. “This investigation should put stores that sell alcohol to minors on notice: if you break the law, we will catch you. The State will continue to identify and hold accountable any grocery or liquor stores that endanger underage New Yorkers.”
The SLA’s Beverage Control Investigators (BCI) sent volunteer minors into 250 licensed groceries and liquor stores in the city. During the investigation, investigators entered the grocery and liquor stores separately from the undercover minor to observe and verify when illegal transactions occurred. In total, the undercover minors were able to purchase alcohol at 76 out of the 250 premises visited, including 26 stores in the Bronx, 23 stores in Brooklyn, 19 stores Manhattan, six stores in Queens, and the two on the Island, authorities said.
The SLA investigated 12 stores on the Island.
“Preventing the sale of alcohol to minors is a priority for the State Liquor Authority,” said State Liquor Authority Chairman Dennis Rosen. “These large-scale enforcement efforts will continue to be a part of our proactive measures to prevent alcohol abuse among our youth.”
Licensees charged by the SLA with underage sales face civil penalties of up to $10,000 per violation, with fines starting from $2,500 to $3,000 for a first time offense. Repeat offenders also face potential suspension or revocation of their licenses.
While outside the New Dorp 7-Eleven, Vincent Gaeta, 42, of Stapleton, said it’s not uncommon for stores to sell booze to people underage.
“When I was younger, it was the best thing in the world, but now not so much,” he said. “If not [this 7-Eleven], someone else. It’s a good thing they caught them.”
When told of the accusation made about the 7-Eleven, Roy Evans, 67, of Huguenot, said it doesn’t impact his shopping decisions, but noted stores shouldn’t break the law.
“They should be more careful,” Evans said.
Gaeta said authorities should conduct similar investigations more often.
“There ain’t just two delis on the Island [doing it]. That’s for sure,” he speculated before opting to not buy cigarettes at the store.