Police visits keep businesses selling alcohol in check

Elizabeth Cook

Underage students might rejoice when they get served alcohol in a bar, but bar owners have little to celebrate if they are caught.

Last week, The Manhattan Loft was cited with serving alcohol to a minor, joining a list of hundreds of businesses that yearly are charged by the city with serving underage drinkers.

The Minneapolis Police Department has a license investigation division, part of which does random compliance checks throughout the city.

Compliance checks are administered to ensure businesses such as restaurants, bars, liquor stores and convenience stores are properly identifying underage drinkers, Minneapolis Sgt. Travis Glampe said.

In the past two months a couple of bars near campus have failed, but others continued to pass.

The Manhattan Loft failed a check Feb. 11, but had passed all previous ones, Glampe said.

Manhattan Loft owner Julie Hasan said in past interviews that the compliance check had been at an awkward time, but that she still understands failing to check the ID was unacceptable.

Mechanical engineering senior Dan Oster said it would be easier for minors to get served at a restaurant, like Manhattan Loft, instead of a traditional bar.

Matt Kretman, also a mechanical engineering senior, said a bar would be more difficult because many ID at the door.

But The Library Bar and Grill also failed its compliance check Jan. 19, Glampe said. Decoys went there at about 6 p.m., when there was no door staff checking IDs.

Jon Schroeder, the barís manager, said it failed because of a miscommunication with an employee who incorrectly read the birth date on the ID.

The city tests businesses like The Library and Manhattan Loft by having underage decoys go into establishments to order a drink. The decoys have real IDs and if asked must give their real age, Glampe said.

If the minor decoy is served, the business is fined $500 for the first offense and the server is charged with a gross misdemeanor, which could result in a $3,000 fine and as much as a year in prison, Glampe said.

Jennifer Vry, a first-year mechanical engineering student, said she doesnít agree with employees getting punished for serving minors.

After a business fails a compliance check, it is re-checked usually within 30 days to 60 days, Glampe said.

If it fails again, it is fined $1,000 and the server is given a gross misdemeanor.

If a business fails a third time, there is a possibility its license could be revoked, Glampe said.

Glampe said decoys will go during the day or happy hour and sometimes at night.

Blarney Pub and Grill, which was accused in November of allowing underage Gophers hockey players to drink, failed a compliance check in September 2004, but passed its re-check. The Steak Knife also failed in April 2005, but passed in the summer and Village Wok failed in February 2005, but passed in April.

Mike Mulrooney, the owner of Blarney, said that when it failed, the business was still new and so was the bartender.

Mulrooney said Blarney IDs anyone who looks younger than 40, anyone who orders alcohol and anyone who comes in after 9 p.m.

Many establishments around campus always have passed, Glampe said, such as Sallyís Saloon, Stub & Herbís, Annieís Parlor, Café 421, Applebeeís, Dinkytown Wine and Spirits and Joeís Market.

Sue Jeffers, owner of Stub & Herbs, said her staff checks all IDs.

ìWeíre a college bar, we have to,î she said.

Jeffers said all employees have training on alcohol awareness.

Employees are shown samples of fake IDs, how to cut someone off and a book that is kept behind the bar that shows the correct forms of ID for all states, Jeffers said.

Jeffers said the compliance checks are unfair to businesses because they involve trapping the business owner and increase the cost of business.

First-year mechanical engineering student Chad Stroh, a minor who has been to a bar before, but did not say which, said itís hard for bartenders to be able to tell a personís age.

A lot of times itís hard to tell if people at a bar are minors because they just seem like they belong there, he said.