Liquor store owner feels racism behind license suspension
Appeal Staff Writer
A Carson City business owner who had his liquor license suspended Thursday for selling alcohol to minors, says he is being discriminated against because he is from India.
“I think this is racially motivated,” said Bhupinder Lally, owner of Winnie Liquors since August 2006. “Why was my store singled out and not the other ones? Why were different steps taken with me?”
On March 22, the clerk at Winnie Liquors was cited by Carson City deputies for selling alcohol to an undercover minor working for the sheriff’s department, according to a report by Deputy Jarrod Adams.
Adams said because he’d received “anonymous tips” about the ease at which juveniles could buy alcohol there, he went back on March 24 to watch the business.
At 9 p.m., the report states, Adams cited a group of juveniles as they left Winnie Liquor carrying beer.
At 9:30 p.m., according to the report, Adams cited two 16-year-old teens who walked out of the store with a case of beer.
Following a second citation, the clerk was arrested on suspicion of furnishing or selling alcohol to minors. Those three citations in the course of two days prompted the Carson City Sheriff’s Department to move for revocation of Lally’s license, Adams wrote in a report submitted to the Liquor Board on May 12.
Thursday, after four votes, one in which supervisors could not agree on a seven-day suspension, another in which they could not agree on total revocation and a third in which they could not agree on a 30-day suspension, supervisors finally agreed to suspend Lally’s license for 15 days.
The suspension will be a hardship for the married father of three, who said he was not in his business when the citations were issued because he was at his dying grandfather’s bedside.
Lally also noted he was never informed of the citations. His manager and clerk did not tell him, and by the time the sheriff’s department did, it was too late.
“It’s going to cost me a big financial hit, not only with the loss of income, but having to pay an attorney and the bad publicity,” he said.
In April 2006, Fairl’s bar on Highway 50 East had its liquor license revoked completely after Carson City deputies responded to 160 calls for service many involving fights and weapons. Fairl’s was also cited four times for serving alcohol to minors, and two felony and 11 misdemeanor arrests were made there.
Lally said when one compares the treatment he has received to the leniency shown to Gene and Karen Fairl, it’s hard to come to any conclusion other than racism. Born in India, Lally, a naturalized citizen, immigrated to the U.S. when he was 5 years old. He moved to Carson City nearly a year ago from California when he took over ownership of Winnie Liquors.
“This really has deterred me from moving to Carson City permanently. I wanted to practice real estate here, I wanted to be on the Chamber of Commerce. They have been pushing me to sell and gave me the feeling they didn’t want me here,” he said. “I seriously feel that it’s racial.”
Sheriff Ken Furlong denied that allegation, and said Lally’s situation was motivated solely by law.
“I’m very pleased that the liquor board voted the way it did. Certainly I have a zero tolerance toward selling alcohol to minors.” he said. “(Lally) was not picked on whatsoever. That’s very evident in the way that the board ultimately came to the decision today. They didn’t revoke him. Racism had zero to do with it. Today’s action was precedent setting. I just don’t want minors served alcohol.”
Lally said he will remain open for business, working the store himself after firing his manager and the offending clerk. But instead of selling booze, he’ll try to make a living on nonalcoholic beverages, groceries and cigarettes until the suspension passes.
“My store is still open for customers, and I will try to do a re-grand opening when it’s over,” he said. “I have a family to feed.”
• Contact reporter F.T. Norton at email@example.com or 881-1213.