FOXBORO - Police Chief Edward O'Leary said he is shocked that almost a third of the establishments checked by his officers in town last week failed a simple liquor license compliance check by selling alcohol to a minor.
Nine of the 29 businesses with liquor licenses checked last Thursday served alcohol to an underage student without questioning his age. Last year, three failed the test.
Five of the businesses were in Patriot Place, according to a list provided by Town Manager William Keegan, including Skipjack's Seafood Restaurant, which also failed the compliance test last fall.
The following establishments will be brought before selectmen: Chickie Flynn's, Demitri's Red Snapper, Lafayette House, Renaissance Hotel at Patriot Place, Saga Hibachi Steakhouse, Showcase Cinema De Lux, Skipjack's, Tavolino's and Waxy O'Connor's Irish Pub.
Selectmen have disciplined Waxy O'Connor's in the past for alcohol violations, although not since it changed management.
Police Sgt. Richard Noonan and officer James Parrah conducted the annual check last Thursday by sending a 19-year-old Stonehill College student into 29 businesses that sell or serve alcohol.
The undercover operative asked for an alcoholic beverage at each, and was instructed by police to show his under-21 license with date of birth on it, or give his true age if asked by the server.
"I am shocked and disappointed," O'Leary said. "I know that a lot of effort has gone into training for the staff at these establishments. But the message is not getting down to the servers about precautions against serving minors."
O'Leary noted that all of the establishments in town with liquor licenses receive an annual letter outlining the compliance check and how it will be conducted.
In addition, O'Leary pointed out, the officers conducted the operation on a Thursday night, when bars and restaurants are usually not that busy, allowing servers more time to ask questions and properly check IDs than might be the case on a crowded weekend night.
He said that simply asking "How old are you?" to the student would have revealed that he was underage.
"Like everything, the people on the front line are the most crucial," O'Leary said. "We give them reminders all the time."
All businesses which sell or serve alcoholic beverages are required by the town to provide some training to staff under terms of the liquor license.
O'Leary said there are several programs that have been used, including a large conference last fall conducted by well-known trainer Jim Staples at Showcase Live in Patriot Place.
"They go over all the state laws and teach staff members how to identify people who are underage or impaired by previous drinking who should not be served any more," O'Leary said.
But this year, 31 percent of those checked forgot or ignored that training.
Last fall, three Foxboro restaurants admitted selling alcohol to an underage operative in the annual check.
The establishments that owned up to the first-time violations and discussed steps taken to reduce the chances of future violations were: Skipjack's, 226 Patriot Place, manager Peter Dowd; Tastings Wine Bar & Bistro of Patriot Place (since has gone out of business); and Foxboro Country Club, 33 Walnut St., manager Stephen Champagne.
The three were issued a letter of reprimand. The board also decided to suspend the country club's license for one day of its choice in February after noting that the manager had been on the job only two years when it received its violation.