Polk County Completes Alcohol Compliance Checks

34% of checked establishments were found to be selling to an underage person

POLK COUNTY, Wisconsin—The Polk County Health Department, in collaboration with the Polk County Sheriff's Office, has announced the completion of the 2023 Alcohol Compliance Checks. This important initiative marks a significant milestone as the first year these checks have been conducted since 2019, due to various challenges such as the COVID-19 pandemic and staffing shortages.

“We are committed to continuing these checks in the years to come to ensure the responsible sale of alcohol in our county,” said Helen Swanson, Director of Public Health at Polk County. “These checks are not meant to deceive or trick retailers; our 18-year-old volunteer used their legitimate vertical Wisconsin state ID to attempt the purchase of alcohol. All establishments were informed in advance that these checks would be taking place through mail notifications.”

The objective of these compliance checks is to ensure that alcohol retailers in Polk County adhere to the law, regarding the sale of alcoholic beverages to minors. These checks were for establishments such as convenience, liquor and grocery stores, but not bars or restaurants. Out of the 38 checks conducted, there were 13 instances where sales occurred (34.2%), which is slightly down from 36.1% in 2019. In 10 of these cases, the 18-year-old's ID was requested, yet the sale was still completed.

“We urge our community to collaborate with us in addressing this issue and strive for continuous improvement in the years ahead,” said Swanson. “The age at which an individual has their first alcoholic drink is closely associated with an increased risk of substance use and abuse. Underage alcohol consumption can impede brain development, potentially causing permanent effects on memory, attention, and decision-making abilities. Moreover, alcohol consumption among minors has been linked to higher rates of depression and anxiety.”

The fine for selling alcohol to a minor in Polk County is presently set at $452.20, subject to change if the citation is issued by a municipality. Importantly, this fine is imposed on the individual who directly sold the alcohol to the minor, not the retailer or company.

Polk County encourages you to do what you can to keep alcohol out of the hands of underage individuals.