One of Lawrence's biggest and busiest campus-area bars is at risk of losing its liquor license for serving alcohol to underage drinkers.
The Hawk, 1340 Ohio, has been cited at least 18 times in the past three years for serving minors, according to the state's Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control. In a hearing Tuesday at the Judicial and Law Enforcement Center, 111 E. 11th St., the director of the ABC heard testimony from police and reviewed fake IDs seized from bar patrons.
The state dismissed seven of the alleged violations, but ABC director Tom Groneman will consider in coming weeks whether the bar is guilty of the remaining 11 and whether those cases are serious enough to cause the bar to lose its license.
Lawrence Police officer Larry Hamilton testified that when he wants to cite someone for underage drinking, he goes to The Hawk. Invariably, he said, he sees someone in the bar acting suspiciously - dropping a drink, sliding it across the table to a friend or running to the back of the room - when he arrives.
"It's what officers commonly refer to as an easy pick," Hamilton said. "It's easy to go into The Hawk and get a minor in possession."
But the bar's owners, Tom Devlin and John Heleniak, claimed they're being unfairly singled out by the state, in part because the bar is such a popular spot. Devlin said between 700 and 1,000 people pass through the bar each night.
Devlin said the bar has added surveillance cameras and other technology to document exactly who comes through the doors, but that fake IDs are getting more sophisticated and more difficult to catch.
At the owners' request, ABC director Groneman visited the bar after the hearing to inspect the security equipment.
"It is not humanly possible for anybody to run a tighter ship," said Dan Owen, an attorney representing The Hawk.
Devlin said underage drinkers are drawn to his bar because of its location near the university. If he could pick up his bar and move it he would, he said.
"I get policed more than anyone in town," he said.
One of the issues Groneman will consider is how closely the underage drinkers resembled the pictures on their fake IDs that were seized by police.
Two of the underage drinkers caught in the bar testified at Tuesday's hearing, including Kansas University student Matthew Lamantia, 19, who was caught drinking a Pacifico beer on June 25. He testified that he got the fake ID he used to get into the bar from someone who gave it to him while he was considering joining a fraternity.
1340 Ohio, Lawrence
"He basically said, 'As long as the guy's the same hair color as you and the same eyes and it's not expired, you should be fine'" to get into The Hawk, Lamantia said.
Both Lamantia and the police officer who cited him said they didn't think he looked like the person pictured on the ID.
Owen, the bar's attorney, said it's not in the bar owners' financial interests to serve underage drinkers.
Bar owners face a range of penalties up to revocation of their license each time an underage drinker is caught in the bar. The cases filed against the bar are separate from the criminal cases against the underage drinkers.
Before these cases, The Hawk's owners had been found guilty of eight violations for serving minors. Earlier this year, they reached a settlement with the state, paying $10,000 to settle with ABC for some of those earlier violations.
Groneman's decision won't be made for at least two months.