Five Germantown restaurants were caught selling beer to minors during stings late in July, police said. The Board of Mayor and Aldermen, acting as the beer board, heard the details Monday evening, including that wait staff in four cases actually checked IDs and served the minors anyway.
Chili's, 7810 Poplar, Petra Cafe, 6641 Poplar, and Soul Fish Cafe, 3160 Village Shops Drive, all repeat offenders, each received a $1,000 fine or 45-day suspension of their beer permits. In the case of Chili's, it was half of the $2,000 fine city prosecutor Mark McDaniel recommended. Alderman John Barzizza said $2,000 was too high for a simple math error on the server's part.
He also suggested Chili's and other establishments that fire servers for serving underage patrons consider rehiring them, suggesting they will never make the error again.
Maui Brick Oven, 7850 Poplar, which has closed since the sting, had its beer permit revoked. First-time violator Elfo's, 2285 S. Germantown Road, received a $500 fine or 14-day suspension of its permit.
Alex Grisanti, proprietor of Elfo's, said it would not happen again. His server, a longtime manager, was not fired. When Barzizza recommended the server retake a "responsible server course," Grisanti said he had already ordered it.
Elfo's was the only restaurant that served the teenager working with police without carding. All others did check ID, apparently not noticing the red line around the photo on driver's licenses issued to those under 21 by the state of Tennessee. In some cases, the servers had been given a paper copy of the cutoff year and date to put in their pockets at the start of their shift and still failed.
An Elfo's spokesman said the teenage girl was served at 4 p.m., just as the restaurant opened, although he admitted it was no excuse. Others said their establishments had redoubled efforts to make sure all are carded.
"Our community takes alcohol sales to minors very seriously, with enforcement a priority of our police department," Mayor Mike Palazzolo said before the meeting. "With so much emphasis on not serving to minors, I'm always mystified why servers continue to violate this law."
In all five cases, the servers were charged with misdemeanors.
The board has authority to fine the establishments up to $2,500 or suspend or revoke their beer licenses.
Establishments have seven days to pay the fine before their license is suspended.
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Mark McDaniel has made news headlines in Tennessee for over 3 decades.