Reporting lowered sales because of a year-old police initiative to crack down on underage drinking in the city, local bar and liquor store owners are considering new policies and warning students to obey the law.
MPD spent $88,000 in federal grant money to launch the D.C. Campus Alcohol Reduction Effort last December, said Lt. Patrick Burke, MPD’s traffic safety coordinator.
Burke said underage drinking arrests in MPD’s second district, which includes GW and Georgetown University, rose “substantially” in the last year but he has not yet added the total numbers. He said MPD arrested almost 200 minors in the second district last month and hopes to have the statistics for the year by Dec. 14.
As part of D.C. CARES, plainclothes officers patrol bars and clubs and use scanners to find fake IDs at popular hangouts such as Lulu’s Club Mardi Gras on 22nd Street.
District liquor store and club owners said their establishments are in a difficult situation. They said they try not to promote underage drinking but want to turn a profit. Some said their business has declined since D.C. CARES began.
Lulu’s manager Anthony Cadallo said the club purchased its own ID scanner in March. Bouncers use the scanners on the weekends if they suspect a driver’s license is false.
“It was bad,” he said, referring to fake ID use before he bought the scanners. “We were getting an average of 75 to 100 fake IDs a night.”
When the D.C. CARES program began, Cadallo said, plainclothes officers patrolled for underage drinking every weekend. They visited less frequently as the club started getting only one or two fake IDs a night, he said, adding that he has not seen an arrest in months.
Cadallo said Lulu’s lost its reputation as a college bar after policies for scanning IDs changed. A new reputation for being strict has meant less popularity among students in the area, he said.
“We didn’t want that reputation but we don’t want kids going to jail and don’t want underage drinking in the club,” Cadallo said.
Lulu’s no longer hosts 18 and over events and has changed its target marketing to an older crowd, he said.
Cadallo said MPD has concentrated on smaller bars and pubs and liquor stores recently.
Brian Fischer, owner of Riverside Liquors since 1977, said MPD has recently increased patrols and “camps out in front” of the E Street store. He said students should be aware that police are actively looking to catch them with fake IDs.
“Back in Lima, Ohio, you might have been hot stuff,” Fischer said. “You’re now in Washington, D.C., where the big dogs are waiting in the grass for you to come out with your 30-pack of Busch Light.”
He said MPD officers told him they will double patrols until Christmas and that students should “beware.”
“It changes your life to get this arrest,” Fischer said. “If you want to drink that badly, find someone who is 21 to buy it for you.”
Owners of other local liquor stores also said they have seen an increase in police patrols at their stores in the last year.
Tokay Liquors owner Kyu Shik Kwak said the Columbia Plaza store’s business has gone down in the past year.
Mark Miller, manager and part owner of Dixie Liquors on M Street in Georgetown, said the store’s business has not decreased and he would like to work with MPD to help stop customers from using fake IDs.
When MPD arrested a woman outside his store for using a fake ID a year and a half ago, officers would not tell him how they know it was fake, he said.
Miller said his employees look for vital information on IDs such as eye color to match the person’s appearance, but they are not trained to catch every state’s ID.
“They make the retailers out to be the bad guys,” Miller said. “If someone gives me an ID from Maine, how am I supposed to know they’re not from Maine?”