OREGON COUNTY -- Linda Crase remembers the evening of Dec. 28 very well.
That was the evening a young man entered her business, Discount Liquor and Tobacco, located on Business 63 and 9th Street in Thayer and tried to buy alcohol.
"I didn't realize at first what was going on. An older fellow came in and was looking around. A few minutes later a young guy came into the store and brought to the counter a single can of beer," she said. "That is when I became suspicious. I immediately carded him (ask for identification to see if he was 21)," Crase said.
Crase said his identification showed he was not 21 and she didn't sell him the beer.
Discount Liquor and Tobacco, owned by Linda and her husband Bob Crase, was one of 10 businesses in Oregon County where the Missouri Division of Alcohol and Tobacco Control conducted alcohol compliance check investigations last month.
The investigation resulted in the arrest of four individuals for selling liquor to a minor, according to Nancy McGhee, an official with the Division of Alcohol and Tobacco Control for Missouri. "In addition, the retail locations (the business owners) were cited for the sale of liquor to a minor and will face possible fines and/or suspension of their liquor licenses," McGhee said.
The offenders are Carrie Jackson, 31, from Flash Market 382 at Koshkonong; Rita Higer, 48, Bucksnort Package Store at Alton; Lana Parker, 58, The Beer Shed at Alton and Mary Hardwick, 46, Bullseye 28 at Thayer.
A press release from Peter W. Lobdell with the Missouri Division of Alcohol and Tobacco Control said five locations in addition to Discount Liquor and Tobacco did not sale liquor to minors. They were: Flash Market at Myrtle, Flash Market at Thayer, Fuel Express at Alton, The Beverage Shoppe at Thayer and Ray-Noble Package Store at Thayer.
A clerk at Ray Noble said they have a very strict policy about carding individuals they believe to be underage.
"I was not working the night it happened but the clerk that was working that night talked about it with me.
"We may not card people every day but I would guess we do it at least several times a week. We are very cautious. At our business we don't think people under the age of 21 should be buying alcohol," she said.
Lobdell said that these establishments and their employees are the first line of defense in the battle against underage drinking. He praised them for their continued efforts in making Missouri a safer and healthier environment for the youth of the state.
"If a person looks like they're less than 30 years old we card them. If a person is in our business and they don't have enough money to pay for their alcohol, and someone we think may be underage gives them the money to finish paying for their purchase, we even card them. If they aren't of age we do not sale them the alcohol. No one under 21 ever carries any alcohol out of our business," Bob Crase said.
"I'm not sure if this is the first compliance check in Oregon County or not. We first began doing them in 2006. I do know we did every county in the state before we started re-doing compliance checks," McGhee said.
McGhee said the underage person that is selected to try and buy the alcohol is always accompanied by one to three special agents.
"As soon as I refused to sell him the beer the older gentleman who was already in the store came up to the counter and showed me his badge and told me that I just saved my business some trouble and money," Linda Crase said.
McGhee said the charges mentioned and the individuals arrested is not evidence of guilt. The charges are evidence in support of the charges which must be presented before a court of competent jurisdiction, whose duty is to determine guilt or innocence.