SANTA FE (KRQE) - An effort by a Santa Fe group to try and stop merchants from selling alcohol to already-intoxicated customers appears to be paying off.
Just a few years ago, the Santa Fe Retailing Project found that about 30 percent of businesses sold to the actors it sent in who pretended to be drunk.
Today that number has dropped to less than 20 percent, said Lisa Grace Giuffra the project coordinator. It's illegal to sell booze to person who already appears drunk.
"I think we all have days where we just don't enjoy our job, but there is an obligation by state law," Giuffra said. "They are responsible."
KRQE News 13 went along with Giuffra one recent Saturday night and watched as the actor she hired stumbled into a dozen Santa Fe gas stations, grocery stores and liquor stores.
"What we try to do is provide the most realistic scenario," Giuffra said.
Most employees at the stores noticed the actor's pseudo-drunkenness.
"How many you had to drink tonight, bro?" said a clerk at a Santa Fe liquor store.
"A little bit," the actor replied.
Some employees even made up some symptoms.
"You smell of liquor," said a gas station clerk, who did not know the actor hadn't had a drop of alcohol and was sober.
The actor was turned away at almost all the retail stores except at Albertson's grocery store on St. Francis Drive. Even though the actor gripped the counter to steady himself and slurred his words, the clerk sold to him anyway.
"Our history will show we've got a problem, we still do, with alcohol abuse and DWIs in this state," said Sgt. Victor Rodriguez with the Special Investigations Division of the New Mexico Department of Public Safety
According to DPS, investigators cited 107 businesses statewide for selling alcohol to already intoxicated people last year. So far this year, DPS handed out 61 citations to businesses who sold to people who appeared intoxicated.
House of Booze on Agua Fria Street is a repeat offender.
"Within the last year, they've had three violations," Rodriguez said. "Two of them (were) for sales to an intoxicated persons, and one of them for selling or giving alcohol to a minor."
But during our undercover sting, a House of Booze cashier turned the actor away.
"Once you're intoxicated, I can't sell you no more," the clerk said.
Businesses caught by police who sell to people that appear intoxicated face a fine, suspension or revocation of their liquor license. The clerk or server could also face criminal charges.
The Santa Fe Retailing Project is only an educational tool for businesses. The retailers receive letters after their stings, not punishment.
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