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Bar owner at odds with state alcohol agents, claims his employee was set up

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BATON ROUGE- Tonight the owner of the Bandit Bar in Baton Rouge is calling the actions of undercover Alcohol Tobacco Control agents a "set up."

Over the weekend, his bar tender refused to sell alcohol to an underage patron. However, the bar was still cited for selling to someone under 21, and improper activity.

The bar is located on East Boyd, and was one of four other bars that were part of "Operation Tigerland." That operation was conducted by the State Office of Alcohol Tobacco Control looking for bar tenders who sell to underage drinkers. The Bandit Bar was one of four establishments targeted during the month long operation.

In this situation, the bar owner, Andrew Bayard said surveillance video will hopefully exonerate him. The surveillance video clearly shows two females entering the establishment. One is over 21, and the other is under 21. Initially, the female who is under 21 tried to buy a drink. The bartender refused to sell to her. However, when the 21 year old ordered a drink, the bartender sold a drink to her. That's when things get murky. The 21 year old slid the drink to the underage patron. When the bartender went to return the customer's change, the beer was in front of the underage female, even though she never took a sip. That's why a citation was issued, according to ATC Commissioner Troy Hebert.

"That server is taught that they are to remove the drink from the individual who is underage," Hebert said.

However, the owner of the bar said his employee followed his training and obeyed the guidelines.

"She slides the beer to the underage girl," Bayard said. "She assumed possession and gives it to the underage girl. I don't feel that is a fault of my employee. He followed the protocol, and I have to take his back on that."

Bayard's attorney stands behind his clients, and believes they did nothing wrong.

"When you sell a beer to someone who is 21, you've completed that transaction," Attorney John Delgado said. "As far as if the 21 year old then gives it to an 18 year old outside of your view and without your knowledge that isn't a violation of the law.  It is a violation of the law to purchase for 18 year old. So if anyone violated the law, it was the agent that did that transfer of the beer."

Commissioner Hebert said his agents did what they were supposed to. He said the reason why this operation was launched was due to the high number of calls for medical help involving underage drinkers. Each weekend, Hebert said there are at least five medical calls in the Tigerland area where paramedics are summoned to assist those who aren't old enough to drink.

"Some kids are going to get hurt out there, and then they are going to be looking at ATC wanting to know what we did to prevent this," Hebert said.

But, Bayard said this feels like a set up. His attorney is ready to challenge it.

"If the hearing at the ATC office does not provide full exoneration of my client, we will pursue this as far as it takes to clear their name," Delgado said.

A hearing on this matter has not been scheduled yet.

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