Audrey Leutjen, with Granny’s Kuntry Kitchen, and Susan Mayfield, a former server with Rumor Hazit, were arrested Feb. 15 on charges of furnishing alcohol to a minor during a sting operation conducted in Clayton.
During a public hearing, council agreed to fine both restaurants $500 for a first-time offense of underage sales, as recommended by City Attorney Mitch Baker.
Baker told council it should be consistent with a previous ordinance that was put into effect in 2007.
“The minimum amount is whatever the council wants to do, but I will say whatever the council does in one situation it should do uniformly,” he said. “You may see more of these coming in, so I would not recommend changing it. If it were to be more or less, it would be contradictory to the ordinance.”
Clayton’s outgoing code enforcement officer, Richard Moncus, said Clayton police had been hearing complaints from people throughout the city, which prompted the planning of a sting operation.
John Leutjen, owner of Granny’s Kuntry Kitchen, requested a gentle penalty.
“I’ve done business in Clayton for 20 years and have had a beer and wine license for at least 17,” he said. “I’ve never had a violation before. We don’t get a lot of younger people. Being the first violation in all these years, I hope you will go lenient with me because I know it won’t happen again.”
Chisholm said she thought fining Granny’s Kuntry Kitchen would hurt its business.
“I think all our businesses are struggling, and $500 is a lot of money,” she said. “I don’t think these are habitual violators that we’re talking about. I think that makes a big difference in whether or not you’re going to attack them.”
Al English, a lawyer representing Rumor Hazit owners Jeff and James Laufer, said his clients took the underage sales incident seriously.
“The employee that served the alcohol was an experienced employee,” he said. “She was also a trained bartender. That employee was fired the next morning after the incident. My clients have entered a plea of no contest with the Department of Revenue and they are awaiting the decision there. They have taken a step to clear the problem with state revenue.”
English added that his clients were doing everything they could to recover from the situation.
“My clients have made some changes,” he said. “They read policies and procedures manuals to their employees, and now each employee is taking an online training certification. The state Revenue Department suggests this training, so now all employees who deal with alcohol are now certified.”
English asked council to consider his clients’ efforts when determining a penalty.
Councilman Buff Green told English he didn’t think council could make an exception.
“I appreciate everything you and your clients have done in terms of education and steps that you’ve taken,” he said. “But I don’t see how we can go against the ordinance at this time.”
In other business, council:
• Voted to return $1,100 in monthly fees to the Clayton-Rabun County Water and Sewer Authority budget to pay for a share of the salaries for City Clerk Rhonda Lunsford and City Accountant Kathy Allen.
• Voted to accept a letter of resignation of Moncus and appointed Scott Crane as the new code enforcement officer. Crane formerly was a Clayton police lieutenant, and Moncus is going to work for the police department.