Plot thickens in liquor board compliance checks

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The buzz about the Washington State Liquor Control Board's compliance checks at local wineries about 10 days ago has a new twist.

After concerns surfaced over what appeared to be odd behavior during a visit to CrossRoads Steakhouse a week ago last Saturday, the communication director for the Liquor Control Board, said no one from the state agency was ever there that night.

A little background: The Liquor Control Board was in town Feb. 26 for what the agency refers to as "compliance checks." The checks are intended to reduce the sale of alcohol to minors, said Communication Director Brian Smith. In this case, the Liquor Control Board sent a 19-year-old male and an 18-year-old female into 14 Walla Walla tasting rooms to see whether the operators would ask to see identification and whether a sale could be completed. Eight wineries were cited for selling to minors.

The experience left a bad taste for many tasting room operators, who receive criminal citations as a result of a process in which they say the mistake of selling is honest. But it became downright weird later that night at CrossRoads. Employees told steakhouse owner Kim Kelly-Frank that a man eating dinner in the bar with a couple of companions warned that the Liquor Control Board was in town and began scrutinizing customers in the dining room and asking for identification on at least one patron having dinner and a drink with her family.

The man never identified himself as being with the Liquor Control Board. And that, Smith said, is because he wasn't. After hearing of the strange incident, Smith said Liquor Control Board officials talked further about what happened in Walla Walla. No one from the agency was apparently dining at CrossRoads that weekend. The plot thickens.

Walla Walla's real estate community is rallying around one of their own.

A major fundraiser event is in the works for Jerry Holm, longtime Walla Walla resident and local Realtor who is in the midst of challenging and expensive medical treatment for cancer.

To help offset the cost of his treatment, local Realtors are organization a spaghetti dinner and fundraising event planned for March 29.

The event at the Walla Walla County Fairgrounds offers food, raffles, live music, auctions and more.

The cost will be $6 per person or $20 per family. It runs 4:30-7 p.m. that Tuesday. A live dessert auction is in the pipeline, as well as a 50/50 raffle and Chinese auction, which is a combination of a raffle and auction.

Donations are appreciated. For more information or to donate contact Les Griffith at griffith@windermere.com or 301-8525.

Strictly Business is a local business column. Vicki Hillhouse can be reached at vickihillhouse@wwub.com or 526-8321.

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