State department targets underage drinking in bars

The Minnesota Department of Public Safety will begin random compliance checks.

Bartender Libby Kvasnicka washes glasses at Blarney Pub & Grill on Saturday. This fall, The Department of Public Safety and State Gambling Control Board will begin running checks for compliance to liquor and gambling laws, tightening down on college bars to better enforce existing laws.

Alex Tuthill-Preus

Bartender Libby Kvasnicka washes glasses at Blarney Pub & Grill on Saturday. This fall, The Department of Public Safety and State Gambling Control Board will begin running checks for compliance to liquor and gambling laws, tightening down on college bars to better enforce existing laws.

Haley Hansen

With homecomings, football games and the upcoming holiday season, state officials are gearing up to combat underage drinking and gambling at college bars across the state. 
 
The Minnesota Department of Public Safety announced last week that it will begin a statewide compliance check of college bars — potentially including those surrounding the University of Minnesota — over the course of the fall season. 
 
The main goal of the random compliance checks is to educate businesses on how to prevent underage drinking and illegal gambling, said Terry Kelley, a special agent with the department’s Alcohol and Gambling Enforcement Division.
 
“We’re really hoping we get 100 percent compliance from everywhere we go,” he said. 
 
The random checks will be conducted by the department’s Alcohol and Gambling Enforcement Division along with the state’s Gambling Control Board. 
 
Mike Mulrooney, owner of Blarney Pub and Grill in Dinkytown, said his business uses scanners at the front door to check IDs. He said the number of fake IDs taken away usually fluctuates from week to week. 
 
Mulrooney said he has his employees undergo a training program on how to spot fakes and how to properly check IDs, and he said he also conducts spot checks himself at the restaurant. 
 
“The only thing you can do is really just keep watching every single one on every single day and making sure you’re really doing the right things at the door,” Mulrooney said.
 
Along with checking for underage drinking and over-serving, the department is also targeting illegal gambling. Kelley said there can be confusion surrounding what is considered to be illegal gambling. 
 
“We have found in our experiences that there’s a lot of people who don’t understand what illegal gambling is and what constitutes illegal gambling,” he said.
 
Gambling that involves consideration, chance and prize is illegal, but removing one of those three elements makes it legal, according to the department.
 
Along with upcoming statewide checks, Kelley said the department often coordinates their efforts with county and city officials to ensure businesses are in compliance.
 
The department will publish data from their checks at the end of the month, Kelley said.
 
He said the best way to combat underage drinking is to avoid complacency and for businesses to be diligent at all times. 
 
“It’s awareness and education. That’s really what it comes down to,” he said.