Ames liquor store suspended license for selling liquor to minors

Ames City Council revoked Neighborhood Liquor Mart’s liquor license for one year after hearing a plea from a parent of Ames on behalf of his underage son who allegedly purchased nicotine and liquor there .

“Only you have the power to prevent these minors from having access to this horrible place,” Brietta Voss, an Ames resident, told members of the city council at their meeting on Tuesday.

Ames Police Chief Geoff Huff said Neighborhood Liquor Mart, 1505 Lincoln Way, had been cited three times in the past 19 months for selling alcohol to underage customers, each time during police compliance checks. Huff said his department also received complaints from Ames residents, mostly parents, that the company sold alcohol, tobacco and vaping products to their underage children.

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“While the police department was unable to substantiate each complaint, the complaints tend to support staff observations made during compliance checks,” Huff told the council.

Voss spoke passionately about her son’s addictions and his access to nicotine and alcohol at the store. She said he was able to buy vape and vape pods “without ever being carded”.

Voss said his son bought large quantities, sold them to friends, and used the products himself.

“It led to addiction to nicotine and alcohol,” she said. “No parent should have to spend $65,000 to get their child into rehab at age 17 because illegal access to their drug of choice is available with such ease.”

Neighborhood Liquor Mart’s liquor license is registered in the name of Humza Firoz, who ran for the board as Vice President of Neighborhood Liquor and Smokes, Inc. The company was incorporated in November 2020 with Farhat Firoz listed as president and founder, and Humza Firoz listed as agent and secretary, according to documents filed with the Iowa secretary of state.

Humza Firoz told the council that store workers had “made mistakes”. During the first few months the store was open, he said he didn’t know the state had a voluntary training program for retailers selling alcohol and tobacco.

Its first breach occurred on March 26, 2021.

“That first breach was just an honest mistake. We had just opened and received no information. We didn’t know how to tell if an ID was fake or real,” Firoz said.

He blamed the second offense, on February 11, 2022, on a disgruntled former employee.

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After the second offense, the state revoked the store’s liquor license for 30 days.

“We lost quite a few sales in the month where we weren’t able to sell alcohol,” Firoz said.

The third offense, on Oct. 20, 2022, was another “honest mistake,” Firoz said.

“Generally, we don’t want street children to have access to anything like alcohol or tobacco,” he said.

He said the company is implementing better identity scanning technologies, but it would help if the police department or the state could provide in-person training.

When asked by council member Tim Garton if he wanted to respond to Voss, Firoz said, “I’m so sorry. In fact, I had no idea this was happening.”

Neighborhood Liquor Mart, 3505 Lincoln Way, had its liquor license revoked for one year by Ames City Council on November 8, 2022.

Gartin was the only council member to speak about the store’s liquor license suspension.

“I’m normally pretty open to trying a suspension, to try six months and see how it goes, and that was our role model in the past. But it was pretty dreadful. And Ms. Voss,” Gartin said, turning towards the seat. audience in the room, “I’m sorry for what you and your family have been through. You’re not the only one who has a son who struggled with alcohol and drugs. It’s a huge problem in our schools of Ames and we need to talk more about it.”

The board voted unanimously to suspend the liquor license for a year.

Teresa Kay Albertson covers politics, crime, courts and local government in Ames and central Iowa for the Ames Tribune and Des Moines Register. Reach her on Twitter @TeresaAlberts11 and at [email protected], 515-419-6098.

Milton S. Rodgers