Alcohol licenses suspended for several local convenience stores
By Erica Bivens| July 11, 2014 at 2:09 AM CDT - Updated July 21 at 7:00 PM
LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC)
After law enforcement raided several convenience stores in May, in what they called a synthetic urine crackdown, some of those businesses went before the Lake Charles Alcohol Review Board with their alcohol licenses on the line.
On Thursday, seven local businesses came before the Alcohol Review Board per request of the Lake Charles Police Department, in relation to selling synthetic urine.
“Basically synthetic urine is outlawed under Louisiana statutes,” said Attorney Brett Gaspard, a prosecutor with the Calcasieu Parish District Attorney's office.
Gaspard explained an investigation was conducted by local authorities who went undercover to purchase synthetic urine at several convenience stores. He says it’s a problem because, “It falls underneath any devices or anything that's used to falsify a drug screen.”
But one by one, convenience store owners shared their side.
Owner of the Super Food Mart at 1539 North Martin Luther King Highway questioned, “Has anybody sent us any letter? No. Anybody inform us? No. How do we know sir this is harmful?”
Jas Thind, owner of the More For Less #2 at 1310 North Martin Luther King Highway added, “If I were aware of it, this was something I wasn't suppose to sell, I would not have put my business in risk selling, making $10, $5 there and putting my million dollar business in the hole.”
Most business owners shared similar explanations - not knowing it was illegal to sell or that wholesalers sold it to them so they assumed it was legitimate.
“So you're trying to tell us sir that you didn't know it was to disrupt a drug test?” questioned Reggie Landry, chairman of the Alcohol Review Board.
Thind answered, “No sir.”
Even Attorney Clifford Newman, who represented one of the stores, says the law has been around since 2010 but includes common household items that can alter a drug test like bleach. He says it’s not a black and white issue.
“And in fairness to you, I've been practicing law for 42 years and I didn't know it was illegal. It's a misdemeanor,” said Newman.
Other business owners questioned the legality of selling synthetic urine, saying larger stores like GNC and Walgreens sell it.
But board members fired back saying repercussions of selling synthetic urine to those in high-risk jobs in order to pass a drug test are a major concern.
“I am so concerned about our community and people who may be hired at the plants who could blow us all to eternity,” said Helen Curol, an Alcohol Review Board member.
In the end, Landry said, “I honestly, personally think you knew what you were selling because you buy it and you resell it.”
Each of the seven businesses received the same sentence of a 30-day alcohol suspension pending the completion of paperwork. The board also added that any violations during the 30-day suspension will require another appearance and possible indefinite suspension of their alcohol license.