An investigation by East Hampton Town Police into the sale of alcohol to minors led to the arrest of five people at four different markets and one bar on Friday, June 7.
According to Captain Michael Sarlo, who organized the investigation, the department used an underage agent to attempt to buy alcoholic beverage at various locations throughout the town. Those arrested were charged with violating the New York State Beverage Control Law, Section 65—a misdemeanor.
Captain Sarlo said this week that it is rare to get so many arrests in a row, but said the number depends on a variety of factors. He added that it’s not easy to say whether there are more or fewer alcohol sales to minors this year compared to recent years because records of many of the arrests are sealed after they are reduced to violations in Town Justice Court. He said, however, that the majority of establishments the police checked turned the undercover agent away.
A press release sent out by Town Police listed five deli clerks and a bartender who were arrested after they did not check the minor’s ID: Casal R. Seigas, 67, of Montauk was arrested at the Old Stone Market on Old Stone Highway in Amagansett; Cristina L. Bermeo, 27, of East Hampton, was arrested at Damark’s Deli on Three Mile Harbor in East Hampton; Hollie Myers, 53, of East Hampton, was arrested at the Maidstone Market on Three Mile Harbor-Hog Creek Road in Springs; Nellie M. Lopez, 31, of East Hampton, was arrested at Chiquita Latina on Montauk Highway in East Hampton; and bartender John Caravaggio, 52, of Florida, was arrested at the Memory Motel on Montauk Highway in Montauk.
All were released on appearance tickets, based on the level of the offense, and have been scheduled to appear in East Hampton Town Justice Court on Wednesday,June 26.
The day of the arrests, the police visited several businesses that sell alcohol over the course of eight hours. Captain Sarlo said he is pleased that most of the establishments checked the minor’s ID and turned him or her down.
“It’s a good sign—we made a loop through all the delis and tried to check as many as we could. Essentially, we went to many more places than those we found in violation,” he said. “There are times when we’ve done this and gotten nothing—12 to 15 and we were turned away at the bars and the ID was checked at every deli.”
The undercover operations, which are run under guidelines set by the New York State Liquor Authority, occur several times a year, according to Captain Sarlo. But how often the department conducts investigations largely depends on how busy it is and whether underage subjects are available to help out, he said. When an undercover investigation just isn’t possible, the department relies on surveillance and specific complaints it receives from the community or reports from the State Liquor Authority.
In cases when the department has an underage agent, he or she must present his or her own legitimate driver’s license when attempting to enter a bar or buy an alcoholic beverage and cannot be in the company of someone who is 21 or older.
“We have to make sure it’s not an open deception,” Captain Sarlo said. “We have to make sure they don’t have anything on them and we’re following the State Liquor Authority guidelines.”
He said the department doesn’t work with minors who are close to turning 21 but typically 19- or 20-year-olds.
The point of the investigations is to get the business owners and their employees to be mindful, Captain Sarlo said.
“Sometimes they might be in a rush to turn over customers and mistakes happen,” he said. “If we do this early it is a reminder that the owner is responsible but ultimately it is the responsibility of the person at the point of sale.”
Through the different chambers of commerce each year, the department offers to do a 30-minute presentation on checking ID cards for restaurants, bars and delis, so clerks, bartenders and waiters “really know what they’re looking for,” he said. “We want to make sure the employees at the establishments that sell beer and alcohol, and minors, are aware that we’re looking for these types of violations.”