POLICE have warned of further action after a test purchase operation led to fines for staff at four Sutton pubs who sold alcohol to an underage volunteer.
Senior officers have told landlords to strengthen procedures or face tougher penalties as police continue to take a tough stance on licensed premises selling to underage drinkers.
The female volunteer was served drink at the New Cross on Outram Street, Wetherspoons pub the Picture House on Fox Street, the Devonshire Arms on High Pavement, and the White Swan on Devonshire Square.
Only the Market Tavern on Market Place refused to serve the teenager in the 18th February operation.
Staff members who did serve the volunteer were handed fines, while licensees of the premises were warned to strengthen age-checking procedures.
Andy Clarke, safer neighbourhoods inspector for Ashfield north, said: “I’m extremely disappointed with these results, as our licensing officers have been working closely with the pubs and bars in Sutton.
“This is part of an ongoing initiative to ensure we work in partnership with them to create a safe environment for patrons and remind those working in the licensing trade of their obligations.”
He added officers had spoken to licensees and warned of more test purchase operations to come.
Added Insp Clarke: “I expect to see a significant improvement in results, otherwise we will be forced to look at taking stronger action against those premises that continue to serve underage drinkers.”
Police can review subsequent test purchase incidents and other licensing breaches.
This can lead to a prosecution of any offences or a review of a pub’s license to sell alcohol.
Folllowing the crackdown, landlords have promised to tighten procedures.
Marguerit Severn, landlady of the New Cross, said: “The staff are trained and told to ID everyone who looks under 25.
“The biggest problem is you can’t be stood behind your staff all the time.
“I agree with the police being tough on these issues and they have a hard job to do, but the most you can do is train your staff and hope they use their initiative.”
Devonshire Arms landlady Amy Worthington said: “The staff member involved has been reprimanded and there will be extra training.
“We will make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
Wetherspoons spokesman Eddie Gershon said the issue was taken seriously at the Picture House and management and staff were committed to ensuring those underage are not served.
“If someone looks underage staff will ask them for ID, but in this particular case it appears the necessary steps were not taken and someone underage was served,” he said.
“We apologise for that and will be re-doubling our efforts to ensure this doesn’t happen again.
He added: “Wetherspoons would like to say it is completely against this type of police sting operation,” but declined to comment further.
No-one from the White Swan was available for comment.