Metropolitan Police arrested three GW students for underage drinking at the Madhatter bar Tuesday night.
At 11:45 p.m., undercover MPD officers entered the bar, located on 19th and M streets, and began asking patrons if they were 21 years old and checking IDs, said a sophomore who was arrested.
Officers arrested four people, including two female students and one male student, for underage possession of alcohol, according to MPD arrest records.
The sophomore, who used a fake ID to get into the bar, said he saw four or five undercover officers approach several of his friends in the bar.
“I thought they were hitting on one of my friends,” said the sophomore, who said the “older-looking” officers were dressed in ordinary clothes.
But when he got closer, he saw that the men identified themselves as MPD officers and began asking people their age. The sophomore, who said he had a beer in his hand, was taken to MPD’s Second District headquarters, where he sat in a jail cell for three hours.
“It was extremely boring,” the sophomore said of his time in jail. “You’re left in the dark; you don’t know what’s going on.”
Later this month, the sophomore will have to appear in court, where he could be charged for underage possession of alcohol or select to volunteer for community service. He said the three other people arrested are also scheduled to appear in court Jan. 30.
Cynthia Simms, community resource officer for the District’s Alcohol Beverage Regulation Administration, said MPD officers are going into every establishment that sells liquor to make sure vendors are not selling alcohol to minors.
“They are conducting compliance checks at every business that serves alcoholic beverages,” she said.
Madhatter manager Mike Tobin said employees would be scrutinizing IDs more carefully in the future and that employees checked IDs of all patrons Tuesday night.
“If this is happening, we’ve got to be more vigilant,” said Tobin, adding that MPD “very rarely” enters Madhatter to arrest underage drinkers.
Tobin said the bar will not be incurring any financial penalty after Tuesday night’s arrests.
On Tuesdays, the bar advertises several drink specials – including $1.50 cans of Heineken – that make it a popular hangout for GW students, manager Danny Ott said.
“It’s a hot bar on a Tuesday night,” he said. “A lot of students come over for (the specials).”
Madhatter does not use a scanner to check IDs but would be providing additional training to employees that will help them spot fake IDs, Tobin said.
“We’ll have to go over all the fake IDs and what to look for in real IDs,” he said.
“We have to do everything in our power to prevent it,” he added. “And we certainly make an effort at it.”
Simms said the city provides free ID training classes for liquor vendors, and noted that Madhatter employees have attended a training course.
“They’ve been taught how to look at (an) ID, the touch and the feel of it,” she said.
But Simms conceded that there is no “foolproof” way to ensure that employees can always spot fake IDs.
“It’s not 100 percent,” she said. “There are some that are really good out there.”
The sophomore, who has been to Madhatter on several occasions, said the bar’s employees are “usually pretty lax” about checking fake IDs.
“You could approach them with a false ID, but it has to be decent,” the sophomore said.
He said MPD officers did not confiscate his fake ID and that he would be using it to buy alcohol in the future, but he will “probably be a lot more careful from now on.”