An award-winning Poway brewery is in trouble after a woman below the legal drinking age was able to get alcohol during a county underage decoy sting operation over the weekend.
Lightning Brewery at 13200 Kirkham Way was the only Poway retailer tested during the Minor Decoy Operation, and was one of a handful cited by the San Diego County Sheriff's Department on Saturday.
"I'm embarrassed. I feel bad about it," owner Jim Crute said in a phone interview Sunday.
Through a partnership with the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC), the Sheriff's Department goes to retailers and servers throughout the county with underage decoys to test whether the minors are able to get alcohol.
Crute said two employees were cited after one of the decoys was able to get a "taster"—a small portion of alcohol—by redeeming a token brewery patrons purchase.
Crute, who said he was not at the brewery at the time, said a "multiple-level breakdown" of protocol was behind the breach.
"Needless to say, we're not the Joe Camel of the beer trade. We're not interested in having underage folks have access to Lightning Brewery," Crute said.
According to protocol, the brewery's patrons are supposed to go through a meet-and-greet with staff, ID check and another check if they appear to be under the age of 30 when they try to get drinks, Crute said.
Something went wrong during that process and the young woman was able to slip through, Crute said.
According to state regulations, a first-time citation could result in a suspended alcohol license or fines. An autmoatic license suspension comes with a second sale to a minor within three years.
Lightning Brewery's staff is in for additional training, practice and a meeting with Crute this week in light of the citations, the owner said.
"I'm pretty disappointed in the staff and we're going to take action to make sure it doesn't happen again," Crute said.
Fifteen county retailers were checked during Saturday's sting and six employees at five locations were cited, including at Lightning Brewery. The other citations went to retailers in Ramona, Oceanside and Vista.