Underage drinking draws fines for bars

Police use undercover minors to check bars’ compliance with laws.

by Patricia Drey

Last week, news of underage football recruits drinking at a local bar brought publicity to one establishment while underage drinking has brought fines for others.

Several underage recruits said they drank alcohol at the Library Bar & Grill, but that is not the only bar that has dealt with underage patrons, police and bar employees said.

Although the Library Bar & Grill passed its last two compliance checks, the License Investigation Division of the Minneapolis Police Department received complaints of underage drinking in the bar in the past, said Sgt. Kent Warnberg, a liquor investigator in the division.

To do compliance checks, Minneapolis police send 18- or 19-year-olds into bars with their valid state IDs to test whether the bar will serve them, Warnberg said. If a bar served a minor, the server would be charged criminally with serving alcohol to a minor, the bar would be fined, and it would be checked more frequently, he said.

Shortly after the April 2003 Gophers men’s hockey national championship, Warnberg’s department received a complaint from a student that underage team members were drinking in the Library Bar & Grill as part of a post-championship celebration, he said. Warnberg said he was unsure how many days after the championship the incident occurred.

“It appears that they let selective underage drinkers in, namely athletes,” Warnberg said of the Library Bar & Grill.

Men’s hockey coach Don Lucia said he had not heard of the incident but regularly talks to his team about drinking, warning them not to drink and drive and to avoid bad situations.

The complaint came from a student, whom Warnberg said he questioned at length.

The bar’s owner, George Medich Jr., declined to comment.

Another Dinkytown bar, Bobby Z’s, also passed its last compliance check, but the division issued the bar two administrative citations last summer totaling $1,500 in fines, Warnberg said.

The division issued the first fine for $500 after a criminal sexual conduct incident Sept. 18, Warnberg said. Police found that the bar served the underage alleged victim prior to the crime, he said.

Bobby Z’s was also fined $1,000 following an aggravated assault that occurred outside the bar 10 days later, Warnberg said. Police fined the bar after determining the underage alleged victim of the assault had been drinking at the bar prior to the fight, he said.

Tony Patterson, owner and general manager of Bobby Z’s, said he did not remember either incident or the fines. Patterson has owned the bar for the 18 months it has been open, he said.

Patterson said he thought Bobby Z’s had a reputation around campus as being tough for underage people to enter.

The bar keeps the same person at the door from 8 p.m. to close every night to prevent underage people who are denied entrance from trying to enter again later, he said.

Patterson, who also owns Sally’s Saloon & Eatery in Stadium Village, said staff members at both bars go through alcohol awareness training, including how to spot fake IDs.

Sally’s does a good job preventing underage drinking at the bar, Warnberg said. He said his department has not received any complaints about the bar.

“(Bar employees) do very good screening going in the doors,” Warnberg said.

Tom Nesheim, who said he has been an assistant manager at Sally’s for five and a half years, said underage drinkers are not a problem for the bar because it has a properly trained staff. He also said students know by word of mouth that it is not worth trying to get into the bar with a fake ID.