Twenty Largo businesses have been busted, police say, for selling booze to underage customers.
Police say underage alcohol sales impact the entire community, from crime to drunk driving.
Out of the 61 stores and bars the Largo Police Department checked, investigators say 20 illegally sold to underage, undercover buyers.
“I do have a 15-year-old,” said mother Tricia Kladovasilakis. She says her sophomore son knows the dangers of drinking, but she didn't realize how easy alcohol could be to get in Largo.
In a sting from May to September, police say they uncovered the 20 businesses from convenience stores to bars willing to sell to underage buyers.
East Bay Groceries allegedly got caught twice, even though there's a sign on the beer cooler warning that the clerk will card. Clerk Manuel Marquez says he didn’t sell to minors and understands why it’s important not to sell to teens.
“It's definitely very concerning to me that there's that many places in this area, said Tricia Kladovasilakis. "That's pretty scary. Getting behind the wheel of a car would be my concern,” .
Police insist underage drinking does contribute to crime and impacts the quality of life in the community from noise complaints and vandalism to DUIs and car crashes that can be deadly.
Health leaders say teens mixing alcohol and sex can lead to pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.
“Really scary honestly, and really sad that leads to a lot of crime,” said mother Jamie Augustin.
The owner at Hartson's Food Mart tells 10News that her clerk carded, made a mistake nonetheless, and pled guilty. She's been retrained and but won’t get another chance if it happens again.
The Pinellas County State Attorney’s Office says workers who illegally sell to minors face a second-degree misdemeanor charge: a $500 fine and up to two months in jail. That penalty doubles for a second violation. Business owners can also be charged if they're allowing the underage alcohol sales.
Police say it’s an effort to keep kids and the community safe.
“Hopefully these kids do learn a lesson,” said Augustin.
Largo Police say these are the businesses that sold to the underage buyer:
9 to 9 Food Mart, 13717 Walsingham Road
Michael's Food Store, 1787 Indian Rocks Road
Belcher Food Mart, 12855 S Belcher Road
686 Food Mart, 3445 E Bay Drive
Beverage House, 1875 E Bay Drive
East Bay Grocery (twice), 1555 E Bay Drive
Citgo, 1737 Indian Rocks Road
Citgo Bedford/Bay, 4450 East Bay Drive
Hartson's Food Mart, 3200-G East Bay Drive
Bent Elbow, 14219-G Walsingham Road
Makos, 14450 Walsingham Road
West Bay Public House, 80 Clearwater Largo Road
Gil and Ricks Pizza, 1250 Seminole Boulevard #6
Corner Bar, 2116 East Bay Drive
Corner Pocket, 12686 Starkey Road
Wild Willies, 13355-N Belcher Road
Little Pub, 14107 S. Belcher Road
Dee's Den, 1385-B Belcher Road
Birdie's Pub, 2914 Roosevelt Boulevard