Fairbanks bars cited for selling alcohol to minors

Posted: Thursday, May 18, 2000

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- Half the bars, restaurants and liquor stores Fairbanks police contacted this month during a sting operation sold alcohol to underage undercover buyers, police said.

Employees of 12 out of 23 establishments have been cited as a result of the joint Alcohol Beverage Control Board and police investigation.

Mary Jo Fitch, a server at the Bush Pilot Lounge, has been suspended from her job indefinitely. Fitch, a bartender the last 25 years, said she feels set up.

''They sent in two guys. I served them. They were plenty old,'' she said. ''In comes two younger girls. They wanted Bud Lights. They wanted bottles -- because of the fingerprints -- and I told them all we had in bottles was Corona. They said, 'OK, we'll have Corona.' They paid for their beers separately, each with $10 bills. I guess all they did was touch it because I turned around and they were gone.''

That's when the two men who had ordered drinks -- police officers, she learned -- cited Fitch.

She said she looked at the girls' state identification cards and that she thought the birth years had said 1960 and 1962.

As it turns out, the individuals police sent to buy from Fitch were 18 and 19 years old, said ABC investigator Richard Finney.

Fitch's situation is similar to what happened to the 12 others facing the same charge. Their employers could also face sanctions from the ABC board, including a loss of liquor license.

The money for the sting comes from a $92,000 federal grant to the state. Fairbanks received $15,000 to pay for extra law enforcement hours.

Finney said Fairbanks' liquor problem eclipses that of Anchorage.

Anchorage police, who are using the same funding, have checked 50 locations and found only five places that sold to minors, Finney said.

Finney blames the Fairbanks problem on what he describes as a lackadaisical attitude about alcohol.

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