Officials from the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control and the Arcadia Police Department announced Thursday morning that they were removing the alcoholic beverage license of Arcadia’s All Star Liquor owner, Wesley Kwong, for repeatedly selling to minors.
“We would do sting operations here and he would sell to minors,” said Arcadia Chief of Police Bob Sanderson. “In one case he did it within minutes of us citing him on a sting.”
The Arcadia Police Department does occasional alcohol stings in all liquor stores in town and usually the stores do not sell to minors but Kwong had 14 documented violations within 8 months.
“We had kids coming from all over because they knew that as long as they had money this was the place to get their alcohol,” said Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control Deputy Division Chief Rick Ryan. “It’s very rare that a licensee rises to this level. The majority of ABC licensees are hard-working, law-abiding, community-conscious individuals.”
Kwong was also fined 1500 dollars to be paid to Mothers Against Drunk Driving and was placed on 36 months probation, during which time he will not be able to get another liquor license, said Sanderson.
“The license cancellation will be good here for probably at least a year,” said Sanderson, who later added that this applies to anyone who wants to get a license to sell at that location, even if Kwong sells his business.
Some of Kwong’s alcohol sales to minors resulted in drunk driving arrests and an alcohol poisoning, which was reported by a minor’s parents.
“I don’t doubt that I could send my four-year-old in there and he would sell her a bottle of beer,” said Roma Pizzeria owner Jim Carroll, who saw Kwong repeatedly sell to minors. “I’m glad he got caught.”
When a licensee sells to a minor he is issued a fine, but after repeated offenses the state filed an action, seeking revocation of Kwong’s license through the administrative hearing process which was ongoing. During that time more arrests occurred at All Star Liquor.
Normally ABC would let the administrative hearing process run its course, said Ryan, which may take up to two or three years, and all that time a licensee remains open and selling alcoholic beverages.
“We felt that this operator was posing such a direct threat to public safety that we needed to take further action, which is why we appeared in Superior Court (on November 6) and petitioned the judge to, in effect, order this gentleman to cancel his license,” said Ryan. “We have someone that’s willfully selling alcoholic beverages to minors within 200 yards of a high school. This cannot be tolerated, has never been tolerated, and the state takes a very dim view on operators such as this, so we’re very pleased with the results.”
The license cancellation was effective Thursday morning and Kwong had until then to liquidate his stock, but All Star Liquor still had dozens of hard alcohol bottles and beer in the store that morning. The store can legally remain open and sell non-alcohol items, but Kwong faces jail time if he sells alcohol.
“He was not surprised (at the court hearing),” said Vazquez. “He spent four days in jail prior to making his bail after the last arrest (in October), so he knew he was in a lot of trouble.”
Kwong was also in All Star Liquor on Friday but did not want to comment on his license cancellation.
Vazquez said Kwong plans on staying open and to ensure Kwong does not continue to sell alcohol he will be subject to random inspections by ABC staff and the Arcadia Police Department.