Midtown faces fine for underage drinking charges

Correction appended.

The city agency responsible for governing alcohol policies slapped the popular nightclub Midtown with a fine last week after the bar was caught serving minors.

In a 4-3 decision, members of the Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration board accepted the Dupont Circle nightclub’s offer to pay a $3,000 fine and serve out a three-day suspension for the charges, ABRA spokeswoman Cynthia Simms said.

Midtown, at 1219 Connecticut Ave., NW, will shut its doors from March 13 to March 17 as part of the penalty for failing to “take steps necessary to ascertain legal drinking age” among patrons. Two of those days stem from previous troubles with ABRA for operating a summer garden for smokers without approval.

Midtown’s management did not return multiple requests for comment.

The instance was the first set of charges Midtown has faced for underage drinking. If Midtown is found selling to a minor again within two years, it will automatically receive two days of suspension and other sanctions, Simms said.

The penalties stem from complaints received by ABRA and the Metropolitan Police Department in February 2011 of underage drinking at Midtown. One complaint came from an underage girl’s mother, who said her daughter was given a drink there.

While the club was open to individuals 18 years and older, some who appeared underage were served alcohol while wearing wristbands signifying they were over 21, according to ABRA’s May investigation. Patrons confirmed they were under 21 years old during questioning by the investigators, saying they received wristbands from the promotional group Synergy.

“When security was going to do their checks for underaged patrons consuming alcohol, they were looking for wristbands or persons without wristbands consuming alcohol, when in fact, the promotional group was giving wristbands to the 18-year-olds,” ABRA investigator Erin Mathieson said in a hearing. Synergy’s website and Facebook page showed that underage patrons drank alcohol at Midtown on multiple occasions.   

This article was updated on January 23, 2011 to reflect the following:
The Hatchet incorrectly associated Max Lightman, who previously worked for a different promotional group called Synergy, with the Synergy involved in the Midtown case.

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