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Fines suggested for Wheaton businesses that served alcohol to minors

Published: Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014 1:04 a.m. CST • Updated: Friday, July 25, 2014 4:32 a.m. CST

WHEATON – Representatives of several local businesses pleaded guilty to serving alcohol to minors during a Wheaton Liquor Control Commission meeting Feb. 13.

The meeting was held after Romano’s Macaroni Grill, Warren’s Ale House, Smashburger, Aldi’s and Front Street Cocina were caught during the holiday season selling to minors working with the Wheaton Police as part of operations at more than 40 of the city’s liquor licenses holders, according to the department.

Chairman Mark Taylor said there are many safeguards, such as minors having a vertical driver’s license, to give workers every chance of avoiding these mistakes.

“In four of the instances, the young people were carded, and even so, a sale took place,” Taylor said. “Give me a break, people. We try to make it very easy for you and your staff to tell instantly whether this ID is somebody under the age of 21.”

The commission recommended that Mayor Mike Gresk, the city’s liquor commissioner, fine the businesses $500 each, plus a portion of the expenses of the meeting.

“I look at these pictures of the IDs that I looked at and I’m so embarrassed,” said Garrett Kent, general manager of Front Street Cocina.

Kent is the son of Cocina founding partner Gary Kent.

The offense marked the first in the restaurant’s 21-year history, Garrett said, adding that the restaurant has taken several measures after his mistake to reinforce policies already in place.

Representatives from Aldi’s and Romano’s Macaroni Grill said in the hearing that the employees who served alcohol to minors were fired in accordance with their zero tolerance policies. Smashburger said the manager responsible was transferred to a new branch to gain more experience. The employee at Warren’s Ale House was made to re-take a certification class, restaurant representatives said.

Taylor said he respected the businesses taking responsibility for their errors.

“We appreciate the good work you folks do,” he said. “You’re an asset to the city of Wheaton and we hope that we won’t ever see you back here in this kind of context.”

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