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Archive for Sunday, October 8, 2000

Agents target illegal drinking

Game day not all fun and games for some young people

October 8, 2000

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Minutes after Alcoholic Beverage Control agents issued their first citation for underage drinking Saturday, the outside deck of The Crossing had cleared.

After visiting two liquor stores and another bar earlier in the afternoon, agent Jim Spence caught a 19-year-old Kansas University drinking a beer at the popular off-campus bar.

He took the minor to the unmarked van in the parking lot to issue a citation for minor in possession and unlawful use of a driver's license.

ABC Director Robert Longino tagged along with two of the agents in town after the Kansas University-Kansas State football game.

"Two to three times a year we bring a big group in," Longino said. "We work with local law enforcement and when there's a big event in town, our agents will come in and handle alcohol enforcement."

Longino, who took over the department in January after more than 20 years in the U.S. Marine Corps, said nearly half of his 18 agents from across the state were in Lawrence on Saturday to make sure establishments licensed to sell alcohol were not selling to minors and minors were not trying to buy.

"My philosophy of underage drinking is it's like water running down a hill. You need to put something up to stop it," he said. "We work with education programs and community groups so you have less to deal with later."

His agents oversee 2,800 licensed alcohol sellers across the state, 150 of which, including bars, restaurants and liquor stores, are in Lawrence.

A minor caught drinking can face a minimum of a $200 fine for the Class C misdemeanor, and often as much as $400.

A liquor licensee could face fines, suspensions or permanent revocation of their license. The clerk or bartender who sells alcohol to a minor could also face a criminal charge.

"I try to stress to bartenders and waitresses that the doorman can mess up," Spence said. "The responsibility is on them to card people before selling drinks."

Spence, who has worked for ABC for six years, said he runs into a lot of attitude, but tries to send cited drinkers on their way with a minimum of discomfort. The last thing he wants to do on a night off, however, is hit the bars.

"This job makes you step back and take a look at it," he said. "You deal with so many intoxicated people, the last thing you want to do with your free time is go to a bar."

By 11 p.m. Friday, agents had visited 18 liquor stores, eight bars and one tavern, a city licensed establishment that serves no liquor. Six minor-in-possession citations were issued, as was one citation for furnishing alcohol to a minor.

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