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Wineries high on priority list due to recent citations


Last updated 4/20/2017 at 4:29am

Wineries, bars and restaurants in San Diego County’s backcountry area are getting individual invitations to an April 26 alcohol-server training in their area, after three employees at wineries in Ramona and Julian were cited for selling alcohol to minors.

The California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC), North Inland Community Prevention Program (NICPP), and Wynola Pizza & Bistro will host the free training from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. April 26 at the bistro, at 4355 Highway 78 in Wynola.

Participants will learn their legal rights and responsibilities, how to spot fake IDs, and safe ways to respond to intoxicated patrons, among other topics.

Known as Licensee Education on Alcohol and Drugs, or L.E.A.D., the training is available in San Diego, East County, San Marcos and Vista on a regular basis. Wynola Pizza & Bistro owner Harry Horner asked the ABC in November to schedule a special backcountry class after he attended a L.E.A.D. class in Ramona.

“The information presented was so valuable that I think the owners and employees of all of my fellow backcountry bars and restaurants should have a chance to hear it,” Horner said. “I believe that so strongly that I’m willing to host it in my restaurant.”

The April 26 training took on new significance in the wake of a “minor decoy operation” that San Diego County Sheriff’s deputies and ABC enforcement agents conducted in Ramona and Julian in February. During the operation, youth under the age of 21 recruited to be “minor decoys” entered the wineries and attempted to purchase wine while law enforcement officers watched.

Law enforcement agencies use grant money to carry out such operations because evidence has shown that limiting minors’ access to alcohol is one of the most effective ways to reduce underage drinking. The “minor decoys” involved in the February operation successfully purchased wine at two Ramona wineries and one in Julian, leading to citations for alcohol sale to a minor.

In an effort to prevent underage access to alcohol, NICPP staff sent letters and fliers to 96 businesses with alcohol licenses in Julian, Santa Ysabel, Wynola, Valley Center, Pauma Valley, Warner Springs and Borrego Springs asking them to consider participating in the April 26 L.E.A.D. training. NICPP staff members are visiting many of those businesses – with an emphasis on wineries -- to encourage the businesses to send their employees to the training.

L.E.A.D. classes are mandatory for people who serve or sell alcohol in several San Diego County cities, like Poway, San Marcos and Solana Beach. It’s voluntary in backcountry areas despite the high number of wineries there.

Department of Alcohol Beverage Control instructor Ken Clark, who teaches the classes, said businesses that voluntarily send their employees are doing themselves a favor.

“Ultimately, it’s the smart thing to do because they stand to lose their (alcohol) licenses if too many of their employees are caught selling alcohol when they shouldn’t,” Clark said.

Advance registration is required for the Wynola training. To register, go to the Alcohol Beverage Control’s website at, click on “LEAD Training” and follow the prompts.

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