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Thursday, August 12, 2010

Liquor Control Board Cracks Down on Art Galleries

Posted by on Thu, Aug 12, 2010 at 10:22 AM

Tom Waits toasting youth.
  • mfehrenbach via Flickr
  • Tom Waits toasting youth.
Art gallery owners in Pioneer Square say they were the target of an undercover Washington State Liquor Control Board sting this month, after several gallery workers were criminally cited for offering complimentary glasses of wine to an undercover 19-year-old WSLCB aide during the neighborhood's popular First Thursday art walk. Businesses commonly have beer and wine available for people to enjoy.

"They sent in an underage person working for them to grab alcohol and leave the place with it," explained one gallery owner, who asked to remain anonymous. "Then they sent in an undercover plain clothes cop to confront the business owners and in my case warned me that I need to card everyone and if it happens again I will face criminal charges."

But the WSLCB says the sting came as a direct result of a 19-year-old who allegedly got drunk at the popular art walk and then received a DUI while driving home. Her family filed a complaint with the board.

"Our main concern is public safety," says Brian Smith, spokesman for the WSLCB. "Whenever we receive a complaint, we follow up on locations. We wouldn’t have gone through the effort of these premise checks without a complaint."

Smith says that the results of last Thursday's sting were "cause for concern. Our undercover aid hit six art galleries, and in the six locations, they all provided liquor to the 19-year-old. We witnessed 100 percent noncompliance."

The targeted locations included: Shotgun Ceremonies, Statements Distinctive Tile & Stone, Art Exchange, Flatcolor Gallery, Seattle Center of Contemporary Art, and Art Studio.

One gallery owner argues that facilitating this type of alcohol compliance check during First Thursday this month was unfair, given that Seafair was also occurring. "I had tons of drunks up and down the street who had nothing to do with art walk." Others say that on this particular First Thursday, policing their businesses with larger-than-normal crowds, many of them already drinking, was overwhelming.

But Smith says the problem is many galleries don't have the proper training for serving alcohol to the public. In 2009, legislation was adopted that allowed art galleries and wedding boutiques to offer a complimentary glass of wine or beer to patrons without having to go through the hassle of obtaining a banquet license or special occasion license. Since then, more businesses have opted to do so. "We offered some of the art galleries training in advance of the summer activities and were turned down," Smith says. "Since then, some have come forward and said they want the training."

Because the galleries aren't licensed, they can't be slapped with an administrative violation from the WSLCB like a bar would in this situation. Instead, the penalty is shouldered by the person serving the alcohol, who receives a criminal citation for offering alcohol to a minor. Like a traffic fine, it requires the person to go to court and pay a fine. For a first offense, the fine is typically in the range of $500, says Smith.


Comments (40) RSS

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YakHerder 1
What needs to change, rather than the art galleries, is the schizophrenic attitude we have toward alcohol in this country. After all...OH WAIT, OMG AN ADULT DRANK SOME ALCOHOL!! NOW i understand what all the fuss is about!
Posted by YakHerder on August 12, 2010 at 10:29 AM · Report this
Between all the coffeshops that don't realise you need a PRO license to have live music and the art galleries that don't realise there are stringent laws surrounding handing out drugs to anyone who asks for them, I'm wondering if any small business owner bothers to "read" these days.
Posted by tiktok on August 12, 2010 at 10:33 AM · Report this
Ratatoskr 3
Lame! I'm an art student in NYC and art gallery openings is how the under 21s get alcohol. (and everyone, regardless of age, actually gets fed)
Posted by Ratatoskr on August 12, 2010 at 10:36 AM · Report this
I don't really see how all the roving Seafair drunks prevented the art galleries from carding people...does that gallery owner expect us to believe that, were it not Seafair, the results of the sting would have been different? Cause I'm not buying it.

No one expects to be carded at an art event, because there's no money changing hands for the drink. When I was a teenager, that was the whole reason to go to an art opening. I feel bad for the person who gets stuck with the fine, because they probably didn't know they were personally at risk - it is the gallery's responsibility to make sure the person pouring understands the law around alcohol - but hopefully the galleries will step up and pay the fines for them.
Posted by genevieve on August 12, 2010 at 10:40 AM · Report this
lark 5
This setup is ridiculous. The WSLCB was out-of-line. This crackdown on an art gallery was heavy-handed and deceitful. Yes, under the law, the police had a right to cite the gallery but the way it was done was wrong.

Granted, I disagree with the law. There should be no drinking age or if that isn't workable, 18 y/o for all alcohol including spirits. I figure if one can be drafted, serve and possibly die for our country he/she should be able to have a beer.

As for for preventing drunken driving, I suggest a drinking age of 18 y/o and issuance of a Driver's License NOT earlier than 21 y/o. This state/country needs to learn how to drink first. Then, the citizens will take driving more seriously.

From my understanding, some countries (Finland?) actually revoke a driver's license upon the 1st drunken driving offense. We need to get monitor DD obvisously. But, if we learned how to drink, we would make better decisions about whether to drive at all.
Posted by lark on August 12, 2010 at 10:41 AM · Report this
reverend dr dj riz 6
gotta love paris and new orleans - to name two off the top of my head - where they've actually figured out that there are far more pressing civic problems than teens trying to get drunk at art galleries, titties, vagina, and cola at strip bars and pictures of dick at gay bars..
Posted by reverend dr dj riz on August 12, 2010 at 10:46 AM · Report this
in-frequent 7
@4 how was what was done "wrong" ?

It seemed rather straight-forward. There weren't any fines issued either -- just warnings. The board was responding to a legitimate complaint (as the laws currently stand), and were actually reasonable in this instance.
Posted by in-frequent on August 12, 2010 at 10:49 AM · Report this
person159 8
also, how about the parents blaming the artwalk instead of holding their child (and themselves as parents) accountable for the decision to drink and drive?
Posted by person159 on August 12, 2010 at 10:49 AM · Report this
keshmeshi 9
Her family filed a complaint with the board.

Jesus Christ, fuck them. OMG! No one protected our kid from herself!
Posted by keshmeshi on August 12, 2010 at 10:50 AM · Report this
Reverse Polarity 10

Wine at art openings sounds like a groovy idea, but in reality they serve cheap shitty wine, improperly aged, in little plastic cups, alongside Costco cheese trays. It is a thin veneer of class over a core of white trash.

It wouldn't break my heart to end this charade of a practice entirely.
Posted by Reverse Polarity on August 12, 2010 at 10:51 AM · Report this
in-frequent 11
Please note I am not commenting on the current laws or the current attitude towards alcohol. Perhpaps those should change, but since they are no changed yer, this operation seemed about as fair as possible. Unless I'm missing something.....
Posted by in-frequent on August 12, 2010 at 10:51 AM · Report this
seandr 12
WSLCB, please find something more important to do with our taxpayer money.
Posted by seandr on August 12, 2010 at 10:54 AM · Report this
in-frequent 13
@5 how was this heavy handed and wrong?

@parents taking responsibility: sure, but does that mean every place should be allowed to serve alcohol to minors?
Posted by in-frequent on August 12, 2010 at 11:02 AM · Report this
schmacky 14
All it takes is one bad apple--or rather, the control-freak, tight-assed, my-kid-is-perfect-so-I-must-blame-everyone-else parents of a bad apple--to ruin it for everybody.

Having said that, everybody knows the only proper way to roam art walk is with a flask full of whiskey, which makes the wine superfluous.
Posted by schmacky on August 12, 2010 at 11:07 AM · Report this
Will in Seattle 15
Good thing they're not cracking down on political fundraisers.
Posted by Will in Seattle on August 12, 2010 at 11:12 AM · Report this
Rhett Oracle 16
Next, the in loco parentis crowd will insist gallery owners ID teeners where explicit frontal nudity is on display. "Sorry, kid, you're only 16 - can't look at David's dick until you're 18." This country is being nannified to death while youngsters regularly volunteer to be sent off to Afghanistan and Iraq only to be IED'd.
Posted by Rhett Oracle on August 12, 2010 at 11:14 AM · Report this
seandr 17
@10: It's free wine, and you've missed the point of it entirely. Yawn indeed.
Posted by seandr on August 12, 2010 at 11:16 AM · Report this
The gallery owner should sue the DUI-getting 19 yo for telling the cops who gave her the booze.
Posted by gloomy gus on August 12, 2010 at 11:23 AM · Report this
DOUG. 19
Seattle has a swizzle stick up its ass.
Posted by DOUG. on August 12, 2010 at 11:31 AM · Report this
lark 20
Thanks for the questions. It was heavy-handed in the "set-up". Sending in a 19 y/o to be served alcohol and thus have the gallery (s) violate the law. I just don't think that was fair. I mentioned that it was all right for the citation to be issued under WA state law.

No, I don't want under the law now, for underage people to be served alcohol. I merely want the law to be changed to a workable 18 y/o or older. I prefer parents to teach youngsters how to drink. And, for a far more responsible approach to driving. I figure raising the driving age would enable both responsible drinking and driving.
Posted by lark on August 12, 2010 at 11:44 AM · Report this
I feel safer already.
Posted by yuiop on August 12, 2010 at 11:46 AM · Report this
34x42 22
@10. you sound like the worst time ever.
Posted by 34x42 on August 12, 2010 at 11:47 AM · Report this
Timrrr 23
@8, 9,18, etc:

When someone is pulled over for a DUI the police always ask where they were drinking & where they've come from. That information is put in the police report which is forwarded to WSLCB. LCB enforcement keeps a running tally of "DUI hotspots" and uses that list as a basis for mounting its compliance checks.

Even if her mommy hadn't complained, the DUI itself (w/ service to a minor implied) would have sent up a red flag & generated an LCB visit all on its own -- just as it would have if the minor had said they'd been at a bar or club before getting on the road.

Only difference is that, since she said "the artwalk" instead of a specific gallery, all the galleries in Pioneer Square ended up getting that looksee from LCB.
Posted by Timrrr on August 12, 2010 at 11:49 AM · Report this
Timrrr 24
@23: Moral of the story:

Next time you're sighted for DUI, tell them you were drinking at that douchebag bar you really hate.
Posted by Timrrr on August 12, 2010 at 11:52 AM · Report this
@24, and if some underage kid claims you served them, claim they showed you a legitimate looking ID.
Posted by tiktok on August 12, 2010 at 12:05 PM · Report this
Will in Seattle 26
Remember, if you hate a gallery owner, always say you got drunk there, not at your favorite bar.
Posted by Will in Seattle on August 12, 2010 at 12:26 PM · Report this
@20 this is how the police catch people violating the law. They perform sting operations to catch people who sell drugs, people who sell stolen property, people who molest children and exchange child pornography, people who sell other people, and yes, even people who give alcohol to teenagers. There are rules in place that the police have to follow while conducting sting operations to make sure rights and laws are not violated. Usually the people who complain about it being "unfair" are the people who are caught doing something illegal.

The #1 cause of death for 15-25s in America is car crashes. Many are caused by drunk driving. This is a bigger issue than the mean State wasting money on a nonissue. And if you think Europe has it right with it's drinking policy check out what's happening in Great Britan. They have a serious problem with legal underaged drinking.
Posted by BallardNelson on August 12, 2010 at 12:49 PM · Report this
Well, in that case, if I ever do get pulled over on suspicion of DUI, I'm gonna tell them I was drinking at Sharon Foster's house...
Posted by COMTE on August 12, 2010 at 12:49 PM · Report this
lark 29
I don't have a problem with what you said. Note, I remarked I don't want people served underage under the law. And, I want Washington & the US for that matter to remain vigilant regarding DD. I just think driving is taken for granted in this country. There's too much of it inebriated or not. I want to lessen accidents overall. Mostly, I want parents to teach their children restraint when it comes to drinking. Drink but drink responsibly.

As for "sting" operations, I still have reservations about them. Fine for the crimes you mention but all it takes is for a bouncer/bartender to check the age of the patron. All the server had to do at the gallery was ask for ID. I just think a "sting" was unnecessary. I didn't know about the problems in Great Britain.
Posted by lark on August 12, 2010 at 1:15 PM · Report this
Yeah, it's stupid that a 19 year old can't legally have a drink.

I also have a totally different view of the drinking and driving thing. I think anyone should be able to drink at age 18. When you get busted for some alcohol related crime (drinking and driving mostly, but there are obviously others) I think you should get your license to DRINK taken away...not your license to drive. I've always thought it was stupid that a habitual alcoholic can get a DUI and lose their privilege to drive (ie, including driving sober), but not lose their privilege to drink. If you screw up one too many times with booze, feel free to drive til your heart's content, but no booze for you. If youth really is an issue, then maybe if you get busted doing something stupid while drinking between the ages of 18-21, you get your drinking license taken away til you're 25 or something.

A little silly and complicated and difficult to enforce? Sure, but is the system we have now.
Posted by jabuhrer on August 12, 2010 at 1:42 PM · Report this
The reason for being 21 before legally being able to have a drink all lies within the age you are when your liver fully matures. But that said, is your liver really that much more developed at 21 than 19? Than at 16? Is a drink here and there going to destroy your liver completely before its too late?

I started shooting nightlife in venues sometime last year when I was 20, and having to deal with all this rubbish for doing my job in areas with alcohol, and eventually having police CALLED on me while doing my job and ask me for my ID just seemed a bit ridiculous..

For christ's sake.. Nail them for DUIs or poor behavior, but believe it or not, people who drink under-aged are surprisingly able to be just as responsible about it as we are and know their limits. If you don't, fine. Your fault.
Posted by Last Night Blue on August 12, 2010 at 2:01 PM · Report this
elenchos 32
If the WSLCB didn't exist, the Seattle Police Department would shoulder primary responsibility for any alcohol violations by art galleries.

The SPD would prioritize that within the context of the big picture: murder, rape, assault, burglary, car theft, etc. Marijuana. If the SPD really didn't have any more serious crime to address, then they would come around and bug the art galleries. Assuming the mayor, the city attorney, and the police chief were doing their jobs and setting priorities intelligently. If not, voters could hold them accountable.

Instead, we have this extra layer of law enforcement bureaucracy, the WSLCB. They have no other priority except chickenshit booze violations. If they weren't doing this, they'd be playing Farmville all day. Get rid of the WSLCB and the whole out of whack problem goes away.
Posted by elenchos on August 12, 2010 at 5:08 PM · Report this
in-frequent 33
it's not like SPD ever harassed establishments over serving underage patrons, or got the priorities "wrong."

at least only warnings were given.
Posted by in-frequent on August 13, 2010 at 10:43 AM · Report this
dan10things 34
I love how one irresponsible 19 year old adult makes the Liquor Control Board and Seattle Police Department waste hundreds, if not thousands of taxpayer dollars implementing a sting operation on art galleries. I wish I could have got that kind of a response when some methhead ripped off my house or when I was hit and run, but in both instances the police said expect no results at all.

Who cares if the 19 year old's parents complained to the Liquor Control Board? Their kid fucked up, chose to drink and drive and got busted. Have some personal responsibility and own up to your mistakes instead of blaming others and wasting all of our tax dollars and police time. Geeze.
Posted by dan10things on August 13, 2010 at 10:58 AM · Report this
The LCB rules are unclear and inflexible. Certainly the gallery crew should be checking ID, but it is unclear whether a requested 'donation' of, say, $2 to recover wine/beer/snacks expenses constitutes illegal sales. The Banquet license doesn't cover this practice. Since there are rarely any art sales on the art walk, providing refreshments for free can seem an expensive overhead expense.
Posted by Dr. JohnnyWow on August 13, 2010 at 11:38 AM · Report this
Part of the WSLCB's job is to do complience checks. They usually use 18-19 year olds with their own legal ID. This is nothing new and it is done on a regular basis to all establishments serving alcohol. If you are serving alcohol, you just need to follow the rules and you will be fine.

Ignorance of the law is a poor defense and a lousy business plan.
Posted by Daddy Jeff on August 13, 2010 at 12:38 PM · Report this
It appears that enforcement is inconsistent at best. The gallery owner quoted says he got a warning. I was told that I was actually being cited - by mail. Don't know for sure though, because the citation hasn't arrived. Also, was never presented with any evidence by the officer. He didn't introduce me to the aide, and therefore I also never saw the aide with the drink. I must say however, it was a great First Thursday if you just measure it by attendance. Thanks for coming down, everyone.
Posted by CoCAray on August 13, 2010 at 11:57 PM · Report this
Six galleries, with six minors getting liquor? Ridiculous! If Grocery Stores and liquor stores are subject to sting operations, then why do the "art walks" get a free pass. There is no excuse ever for serving or selling to a minor, ever, under any circumstances. The law is what it is, 21. If you don't like it, then work to get it changed. We all work under the same laws, so if my store is subject to a sting operation, then so should everybody else. It bothers me that they don't get an administrative ticket, but I do, because I have a license that I pay for. They get a free pass to sell liquor. I have had compliant sales of alcohol for over 20 years. There is no excuse, for uhhh...I was too busy. They could be too busy when it is your child, who then gets a dui and their life is changed for years, that is, if they live through it. Get a grip. If you want the right to sell or serve alcohol, then get the training, & follow the rules. If you don't like the rules, then get off your dead one and get out there and change them. Until then, the art galleries need to quit their whining (no pun intended) and get the training like the rest of us, and pay attention!
Posted by viognier on August 17, 2010 at 6:30 PM · Report this
the booze is just sitting on the table, you walk up and grab it no one tells you that you cant take it outside and walk down the street with it. NOT ever, EVERY fuckin artwalk gallery/shop/museum in every neighborhood artwalk is a violator. the booziest artwalk is the west seattle and the greenwood. maybe the cops should card the all the minors gettin free and bought booze at some of the bars in chinatown? or west seattle? who cares? its been happenin for decades..let it be.
Posted by friend of curator on August 22, 2010 at 5:17 AM · Report this
Henry Senyak is a scumbag of epic proportions.
Posted by F Henry on May 30, 2014 at 10:08 AM · Report this

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