Posted February 15, 2017
Fake identification (IDs), most often driver’s licenses, have been used in many establishments in River Falls, especially in the downtown area. Bailey Zastrow, a bartender at Broz, a popular spot for college students, is no stranger to them.
“We probably get at least 10 per week,” he said. “Of kids trying to use fake IDs that we catch, a lot of them are pretty impossible to catch because they’ll have their real name on their fake ID.”
Another issue that bars and liquor stores experience is underage drinkers using a borrowed ID from someone over the age of 21.
“Borrowed IDs are way more of an issue because it is obviously not the person’s picture and we are responsible for being able to see that and it is really hard a lot of times, especially with girls changing their hair color or make up all the time,” Zastrow said.
Dan Suffield, owner of Shooter’s Pub, has experienced similar complications when it comes to underage drinkers using fake IDs. He calls upon his staff to handle those instances.
“Everybody on premise is responsible for checking IDs,” he said. “If there is a doorman on, generally they are the first line of defense. If a bartender has a suspicion or someone says that person is underage, the bartender has the right to make a challenge to that person to provide legal ID.”
Suffield said he has a whole sack of fake IDs and catches at least half a dozen on a typical weekend while UW-River Falls is in session. Those fake IDs eventually get turned over to the police.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, people aged 12 to 20 years drink 11 percent of all alcohol consumed in the United States. Underage drinking is especially relevant in a college town like River Falls.
Officer Paul Jensen of the River Falls Police Department (RFPD) has witnessed the issues surrounding underage drinking firsthand.
“Like most college towns, we routinely find ourselves dealing with intoxicated underage persons for a variety of reasons,” he said. “Things like physical fights, medicals, noise complaints, and trespassing are just a few call types we receive routinely. Alcohol is usually a problem in any city, but when you have a large percent of your population between 18 and 20, these issues are more apparent.”
A problem some establishments face is that many fake IDs will pass through a scanner the same as a legitimate ID would. RFPD is aware of the problem and is encouraging business owners to stop using the scanners, said Jensen.
“This is the biggest issue we are finding right now. Some bars have invested $1,000 plus on scanners that do not work and are merely giving them a false sense that they are not selling alcohol to underage customers. Almost every ID I have seen recently scans and many businesses do not know about the issue,” Jensen said.
To combat underage drinking, RFPD has begun working on compliance checks.
“The checks are with underage volunteers that are 18-20 years old who go into any alcohol license holding business in the city limits and attempt to purchase alcohol. This includes all bars, liquor stores, convenience stores, social clubs, restaurants, breweries or whoever else can legally sell alcohol,” Jensen said.
River Falls has 40 alcohol licensees and compliance checks have been completed for 23 of them.
“Of those checked, six allowed our underage agents to purchase alcohol. Of the six, one did not check ID at all and the other five looked at it, but did not check the age,” Jensen said. He understands some establishments may be nervous about the checks but assures them if they continue to do their job and properly check IDs, they will pass every time.
Being caught with a fake or borrowed ID can lead to hefty fines especially when additional citations are added. Drinking underage carries a fine of $187, but doing so with a fake or borrowed ID would tack on an extra $98.80. Operating a vehicle while intoxicated can carry a fine of over $800.
For establishments that provide alcohol, selling to underage drinkers may warrant a citation of $313 and serving after hours adds another citation of $187.
Jensen said he believes the rapport between the RFPD, bar owners and patrons is a positive one.
“Overall, I think we have a good working relationship with both bars and students,” he said. “We understand the alcohol by its nature is going to have some problems associated with it when consumed. We just ask bar employees to do their part and check ID properly and to not continue to serve intoxicated patrons until they are unable to stand.”