By Matthew Lauster, Alexander Ulatowski and Zach Wagner:
The start of the weekend is often celebrated by those who are above the age of 21 by going to their favorite bar for a drink. Bars in college towns like the Village of Brockport are packed Thursday through Saturday. For many students at the College at Brockport, their go to spot for drinks is The Red Jug Pub, located at 38 Merchant street.
The Red Jug Pub opened three years ago serving 38 beers on draft. The Red Jug Pub has two other locations in Cortland, and Oneonta, N.Y. For most college towns, underage drinking has become an ongoing issue, not only pressed by law enforcement and town governments, but by local businesses as well. Those who are under the age of 21 in New York will find ways to consume and possess alcohol illegally either by stealing alcohol from their parents, getting alcohol from someone over 21, and by using fake identification cards or drivers’ licenses. Teenagers in high school and underclassmen in college will use these fake identification cards to get into local bars and clubs that serve alcohol.
At Gov. Cuomo’s Crackdowns to Combat Underage Drinking press conference in April, he stated: “Persons under the age of 21 found to be using fake IDs or false documents with the intent to purchase alcohol can be arrested and have their license revoked for a minimum of 90 days or up to one year.” The Red Jug Pub deals with customers using fake IDs, and it has been investigated by the New York State Liquor Authority for serving alcohol to underage customers.
In April 2017 seven underage customers were arrested for trying to use fake licenses to purchase alcohol or enter bars. Five of those arrested possessed a second New York State driver’s license. Two fraudulent licenses allegedly from New Jersey and Ohio were recovered. Brockport Police along with New York State Troopers arrested those individuals at The Red Jug Pub.
Kosta Sfikas one of the bouncers at Red Jug Pub, said that sting operations conducted by the Liquor Authority don’t happen as much as people might think. “It was towards either the beginning or the end of the semester last year the NYS liquor Authority was watching us pretty hard just because we are one of the only college bars left in town. They left like two or three people outside with us. If we had a questionable ID, we gave it to them and they would watch over it, but we haven’t really had a sting operation,” Sfikas said.
Sfikas has been working at The Red Jug Pub since August 2018. “I work floor security, so I pick up empty glasses, watch the floors making sure no one is vaping inside, causing trouble, leaving our personal property alone, and changing out used kegs,” Sfikas said.
Last month Gov. Cuomo announced that the NYS liquor Authority, the Department of Motor Vehicles, and law enforcement departments would continue their investigation of underage drinking and consumption in New York State. In January 2019, Cuomo announced the DMV charged 892 people in fake IDs in 2018. NYS State Liquor Authority Chairman Vincent Bradley stated: “It is a priority for the State Liquor Authority to prevent the sale of alcohol to minors and our responsibility to make sure businesses are following the law. Working with the DMV enables us to target both businesses selling to minors as well as those attempting to purchase fake IDs.”
For a restaurant or a business to be able to serve alcohol to patrons they must request forms and go through a background check with the NYS Liquor Authority in order to receive a certificate to sell alcoholic beverages for their establishment. If a business is found to have been selling alcoholic beverages to underage people who are found to have fake identification there often is an investigation conducted by the NYS Liquor Authority, with the involvement of the Brockport Police and Monroe County Sheriff. Often bar owners and employees may be arrested and charged for serving alcohol to these customers.
“There is a hefty fine for being caught with having an underage person inside your establishment,” Sfikas said.
According to the public safety press release, “Businesses charged by the SLA with underage sales face civil penalties of up to $10,000 per violation, and repeat offenders face potential suspension or revocation of their licenses. Additionally, employees or licensees who sell to minors can be arrested and charged with a misdemeanor.” The NYS Liquor Authority conducts random sweeps of establishments by sending in informants with fake IDs. The NYS Liquor Authority also reviews the establishments revenue and income information for investigation purposes.
It is common for establishments to be investigated for serving to underage minors because it is often difficult to determined what is presented to be a fake Identification license and what is an actual state issued licensed. When asked about the investigation by the NYS Liquor Authority in April 2017 Sfikas said; “It happens to a lot of bars; it happens to at least to every bar once a year where the state liquor authority wants to make sure the bar has like update screening processes and stuff like that.”
The reason some bars at times serve alcohol when they shouldn’t is because a bouncer or bartender overlooks an ID and fails to go through the protocol. Sfikas said that Red Jug Pub’s protocol for carding people at the door is to ask the person for their ID. They hand it over; the bouncer checks it with a backlight, bends it in half to check for lamination; looks at the picture on the ID, the stated height, eye color, etc., Sfikas said, adding they also are required to use a scanner. If there is doubt, the employee asks for a second form of ID such as a school ID, military ID, or debit card that matches with their name on it.
The Red Jug Pub’s scanner is called Tokenworks IDVisor Smart ID Scanner which is sold for $795 online. These scanners use the NYS ID database and by scanning the barcode on the back of each legal NYS Drivers License the information will show up and read that the individual is of legal age. Red Jug Pub only has two working scanners and the bar is required to pay for a yearly subscription fee to use the software on the Smart ID scanner. When both scanners are out being used or charging, the bouncers are required to use an app on their smart phones called Bar & Club Stats ID Scanner and scan each ID by taking a photo of the back of the ID, which like the Smart ID Scanner pulls up the details of the ID. When the App detects a fake ID, it will flash a red bar and an X stating that it “Appears Fake” but if it’s a real ID the app will show a green bar stating that its “Valid” with a green check mark.
Sfikas said that “most of the ID’s you’ll see in NYS, you can tell that it is a fake right away even right before most of them come to my hand I can tell that’s a New York State fake.” He said “Literally the printing on its completely different and that I see more regular NYS ID’s than fake NYS IDs, you can tell the difference pretty regularly.” Sfikas said that the way you can tell the differences between a real ID and a fake ID is that on fake IDs the coloring on it usually is way too bright, the picture is contrasted differently from the rest of the ID making things out of proportion.
A bouncer at the Red Jug Pub who asked to remain anonymous said: “If a bar is filled with 100 people and 15 people have Fake ID’s and get in, NYS doesn’t bat an eye. If there are 30 people in a bar and 15 have fakes and are underage, then NYS will press charges against the bar for serving to underage patrons.” The NYS Liquor Authority did not respond to repeated requests for comment.
Red Jug Pub is one of the last college bars in Brockport because most of the other bars have shut their doors due to financial problems. The Liquor Authority has found them guilty of serving alcohol to underage customers.
“We are one of the last college bars left in town,” Sfikas said. “We do see an increased volume on the weekends, and so we do end up having a line with one going in and the other going out to reach our compacity and people start to get agitated somebody starts misbehaving their done for the night.”
The NYS Liquor Authority knows bars at one point will deal with someone with a fake ID. In that situation, it is up to the bouncers and bar staff to make the right judgement.