Powder Springs police and the Georgia Department of Revenue went to the 18 businesses licensed to sell alcohol in the city limits on Aug. 9 to make sure they weren’t selling to minors, and all of them passed—except one.
An undercover 18-year-old entered the S & A Food Mart at 3930 Austell-Powder Springs Road and purchased a 24-ounce can of Bud Light, Powder Springs police Lt. Lane Cadwell told the City Council at Monday’s meeting.
The seller, Asiel Gonzalez, also 18, of Austell, was on his third day and still under the supervision of a manager. He was arrested for selling to a minor, a misdemeanor, and made his $711 bond the next day, jail records show. (His mugshot is attached.)
Gonzalez, who was fired, had been checking customers’ IDs. But when the manager went outside for “maybe a minute” to help an elderly customer, he sold the beer to the undercover teenager without checking ID or bagging the drink, S & A's owners told the council during a hearing Monday.
“She’s watching him (and) right when she leaves to go outside, he does the sale,” said one of the owners, Irshad Khan, referencing surveillance footage of the incident.
When Khan and the other owner, Shahid Khan, again noted it was Gonzalez’s third day, Mayor Pat Vaughn said: “That’s inexcusable. I don’t care if it’s his first day or his third day. He needs to know because some young person (could) come in there and buy that alcohol and have an accident and kill someone.”
At the end of the nearly 30-minute hearing, the council voted 5-0 to suspend S & A’s alcohol license for 30 days, effective immediately, as well as require training for all employees through the Cobb Alcohol Taskforce.
The council requires the training of all business when they apply for an alcohol license.
But the Khans—who took over the station in 2007 and haven’t had any prior violations—said they were unaware of the requirement. They said they have their own training, which includes new employees signing a form saying they understand the alcohol laws and that they will be arrested for underage sales.
“We require everyone who obtains a license” to go through the Cobb Alcohol Taskforce training, Vaughn said.
“We didn’t know about it,” Irshad Khan said. “Nobody ever told us.”
“It was in your hearing when you came and asked for the license,” Vaughn said. “It was part of the stipulations of you getting your license.”
Councilwoman Cheryl Sarvis questioned why someone as young as 18 was hired.
The owners explained that employees can be bad workers regardless of age.
“Let’s see how many times we’ve been robbed by our own employees,” Irshad Khan said. “I lost almost $30,000 (in lottery tickets) by a guy I hired in his late 20s because he decided he was going to get high on drugs. … I can’t find good employees.”
“You can’t force a person to care. … The level of stupidity is at an all-time high,” Shahid Khan said, noting employees in their 30s and 40s who can't count change. “You can’t help negligence. … We’re the ones that are going to have to suffer.”
The owners said that since the incident, they have installed new registers that can’t be overridden and require a birthday when alcohol is scanned regardless of how old the customer looks. They said alcohol sales make up 10 to 15 percent of their sales, and that “one new guy is going to cost us this much.”