Underage Drinking Sting Leaves 18 Isla Vista and Goleta Establishments with Citations


Gwendolyn Wu

Recent undercover operations by local law enforcement targeted establishments that serve alcohol in the area. A press release issued June 7 by the Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Office reported that 21 citations were issued to 18 establishments in Isla Vista and Goleta.

Over the last eight months, two types of minor decoy operations were carried out. The “Minor Decoy” operation sent individuals below the legal drinking age into establishments to buy alcohol from cashiers or clerks on May 12 and May 20 which resulted in one citation. During the process, law enforcement supervised the individuals.

Another type of operation called “Shoulder Tap” stationed minors outside of convenience and liquor stores to ask adults entering the stores to buy them alcohol. The decoys made it clear that they were under 21 and cannot legally buy alcohol. Of 38 adults approached, 10 were cited for offering to purchase liquor for the minor. Violators must pay a minimum $1,000 fine and perform 24 hours of community service.

“Establishments cited during minor decoy operations may face administrative sanctions through [the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control],” Kelly Hoover, the spokesperson for the Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Office, wrote in an email to The Bottom Line.

Citations are not criminal violations, but rather sanctions that could ultimately affect a businesses’ liquor license. The California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) can suspend or revoke the licenses of repeated offenders, and selling alcohol to minors is a “big one,” Hoover wrote.

Deputies also carried out programs to ensure that establishments were not violating the terms of their liquor licenses. One citation was issued to a business for possessing liquor prohibited by its license, while three more were issued for the acceptance of fake IDs. The county will not release the names of the 18 vendors who were issued citations.

“We do not release the names of the businesses cited because the business owner is typically not the one who is cited but an employee,” Hoover wrote.

The press release also states that the Sheriff’s Office, including I.V. Foot Patrol, conducted 28 general alcohol enforcement operations outside of the establishments. Over 50 alcohol-related bookings and 350 citations were issued for alcohol-related offenses.

In September, Noozhawk reported that California’s ABC grant provided the county with $50,000 to carry out the operations. The Sheriff’s Office uses the funding in unincorporated areas of Santa Barbara County, such as I.V., which has a higher concentration of incidents because of its large student population.

Some of the funding went toward the creation of alcohol awareness programs for business owners.

“The ABC grant was instrumental in helping the Sheriff’s Office mitigate underage drinking in Isla Vista and Goleta,” said I.V. Foot Patrol Sergeant Joe Schmidt in a press release. “The directed alcohol enforcement and awareness education facilitated by the grant undoubtedly prevented more serious problems in our community.”