Pasco Walmart banned from selling booze until Aug. 13

The state Liquor Control Board has suspended the Walmart store in Pasco from selling alcohol until Aug. 13.

The store was handed the 10-day suspension, which started Friday, after getting caught selling alcohol to a minor in a sting operation run by the board as part of its efforts to track compliance with state liquor laws.

Mikhail Carpenter, spokesman for the Liquor Control Board, told the Herald that the board's compliance checks involve sending a person between the ages of 18 and 20 into places that sell alcohol -- using their own valid driver's licenses or identification cards -- and having them attempt to buy alcohol.

State law doesn't allow the sale of alcohol to anyone under 21. If the minors are successful in buying booze, the store gets a citation.

Carpenter said the Pasco Walmart failed to respond to the citation within the 20 days allowed by law, and that triggered a mandatory suspension of the store's license to sell alcohol.

If the store had responded, it would have faced a $1,000 fine instead of a suspension, Carpenter said.

He added that if the store had opted to participate in the board's Responsible Vendor Program, the penalty would have been a five-day suspension or $500 fine.

"If they're not a member and they're selling spirits, the penalty doubles," Carpenter said.

The Pasco Walmart is the only one of the big box chain's Tri-City locations suspended from alcohol sales, he said.

Ashley Hardie, a Walmart spokeswoman in Bentonville, Ark., said the retail chain recognizes that sale of alcohol to minors is a serious matter.

"As soon as we were made aware of this, we took appropriate steps," Hardie told the Herald. "We re-emphasized our policy to our associates and provided training. We are working with local law enforcement on training for our stores."

Hardie said the company appreciates Pasco customers' patience and understanding while alcohol sales have been suspended.

How alcohol is sold in the state changed June 1 with the privatization of liquor sales, which previously were the domain of state-run liquor stores.

Voters in November approved Initiative 1183 allowing liquor to be sold in places such as grocery and convenience stores and directing that the state sell off its own retail liquor stores.