Selectmen suspend alcohol license for Edgartown convenience mart

— File photo by Ralph Stewart

Edgartown selectmen suspended the retail alcohol license of Sophia’s One Stop Mart for ten days, after a hearing in which police outlined the store’s fourth violation in two years for selling alcohol to minors. The violations included routine compliance checks in which police told store owners in advance they would be doing compliance checks soon.

At the beginning of the formal hearing Monday, Paulo Rodrigues, manager of the convenience store and gas station on Upper Main Street and the licensee, declined to be sworn in prior to giving testimony. During the hearing, he and two men who spoke on behalf of the store but did not publicly identify themselves offered explanations and defended their efforts to comply with state and local laws.

Edgartown police Det. Sgt. Chris Dolby testified under oath about two violations this summer, including an incident when a 20-year-old man working under cover with police was able to purchase alcohol after presenting his real driver’s license, which showed he was under age.

During a hearing last year, selectmen issued a strong warning and managers promised to purchase an age verification device. The device can detect false identification with a quick scan.

Attorney Marilyn Vukota, who represented Sophia’s, said the owners recently sent their age verification device back for service. Det. Sgt. Dolby testified that he has never observed the age verification device in use at the store, and he said that the receipt submitted as evidence the owners actually purchased the device was not legitimate proof.

The owners said they now have two card readers, and have already caught several underage drinkers.

Det. Sgt. Dolby disputed that, noting that police have received only one call to report an underage person attempting to buy alcohol at Sophia’s. He said over the past two months, police received more than 50 calls from the other two package stores in Edgartown. He said license holders are required to report all attempts to buy alcohol illegally.

The owners asked that any suspension of their license be served in the off-season, but selectmen rejected that request, and ordered that the license suspension begin August 15.