PITTSFIELD, Mass. — A-Mart won't be selling alcohol for three days ... after the holidays.
The Licensing Board sanctioned the North Street package store with the suspension relating back to an incident in May. In July, the board had punished A-Mart with a three-day suspension for the incident in which an intoxicated person was sold more alcohol at the store.
That suspension, however, was held in abeyance and would only be required to be served if there was another incident.
Two days after the hearing on the May case, an A-Mart employee was caught by the Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission selling alcohol to a minor.
"It was literally two days and they sold to an underage person," board member Thomas Campoli said.
Police said that on May 25, officers responded to the area because of a heavily intoxicated man was reported stumbling in the street. That individual blew a .32 -- four times the legal limit -- on a breathalyzer and he had just purchased more alcohol at A-mart moments before.
A-Mart owner Bhumi Karia had a hearing before the board on July 30 and promised that she was taking the incident seriously and gave her word that it wouldn't happen again.
On Aug. 1, the ABCC ran a compliance check and an A-Mart clerk sold a can of beer to an underage individual. The ABCC in September issued a two-day license suspension on that violation -- but also chose to hold that in abeyance for two years.
The second violation led A-Mart back to the board on Monday for consideration of the previously imposed local suspension.
Karia's attorney Matthew Porter said the company brought in the Massachusetts Package Stores Association to retrain all of the employees, implemented a rule that all employees must be TIPS-certified before they can work there, and created an incentive program to keep employees motivated and focused.
"We are trying to find all possible ways for employees to not only be trained but motivated," Porter said.
A-Mart asked for another chance now that those aspects have been implemented in the business. Porter said that while having the second incident right after the hearing looks bad, the store also didn't have the new policies and training in place.
"Since they've been able to implement that, have all of their training, there haven't been any issues," Porter said.
Campoli countered saying there was plenty of time between the May incident and the August incident to implement those changes.
"If the board says we are going to do one thing, then we can't do something else," said board member Dina Guiel.
The board agreed to have the suspension served from Monday, Jan. 7, 2019, through Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2019.
The board recognized that it is a busy time for package stores and agreed to push off the suspension until a slower time, lessening the financial impact of the punishment.
"I understand the board's need to come down but this is their livelihood," Porter said after it was clear the board wasn't going to let A-Mart off the hook and he pitched to delay the suspension.
Board member Richard Stockwell attempted to sway the board into having A-Mart serve a one-day suspension effective on Tuesday and have the remaining two days remain in abeyance but he received little support.
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