In 2011, 17 Lawrence bars racked up a total of 119 citations from Alcohol Beverage Control for serving alcohol to minors. Those same bars were prosecuted by ABC 44 times since 2009.
About the data
• The Journal-World requested a list of all citations issued by the ABC and law enforcement as part of several enforcement actions in Lawrence in 2011.
• 17 bars received citations for serving minors during those enforcement actions.
• The Journal-World then requested citation and prosecution information for those 17 bars between 2009 and 2011.
• Between 2009 and 2011, the ABC prosecuted 44 cases, resulting in six days of suspension and about $29,000 in fines.
Bars with the most citations issued by ABC for serving minors in 2011 as part of special enforcement actions:
• Abe & Jake’s: 28
• The Hawk: 23
• El Mezcal: 12
• The Wheel: 11
Kansas penalties for bars that serve to minors (per minor)
• First offense: $500 fine
• Second: $750 fine
• Third: $1,000 fine
• Fourth: $1,000 fine and two weekend days’ suspension
• Fifth: $1,000 fine and four weekend days’ suspension
• Sixth: $1,000 fine and seven consecutive days’ suspension
• Seventh: $1,000 fine and 14 consecutive days’ suspension
• Eighth and beyond: $1,000 fine and license revocation
- Provided by the Kansas Department of Revenue. Violations are counted over a four-year period.
Total days those bars have had their liquor license suspended: six.
As the city of Lawrence looks for ways to curb police calls to area bars, and Kansas University seeks to cut down on underage drinking, little has been made about Kansas laws — some of the most lenient in the country — for punishing bars that serve minors.
“That’s unusual,” said Jim Mosher, president Alcohol Policy Consultations, as he examined the Kansas laws and penalties. “That really sounds crazy.”
This is what Mosher was referring to:
l Kansas bars caught serving minors face a $500 fine for a first offense. Penalties creep up to $1,000 for a third violation. Not until the fourth does a bar face a license suspension of two days. It would take eight violations before a bar could lose its license.
The Kansas laws look paltry when compared with other states.
In Nebraska, for instance, a bar would face license revocation by a fourth violation. In Oklahoma, it’s possible to face revocation after a first offense.
Just for violations in 2011, nine Lawrence bars had enough citations to face license revocation under the Nebraska law.
“This is what works for us,” said Hobert Rupe, executive director of the Nebraska Liquor Control Commission. The stricter laws help the state separate the bars willing to implement better identification checking policies from those who are unwilling, he said.
In Lawrence, four bars had more than 10 citations for serving minors in 2011: Abe & Jake’s Landing, 28; the Hawk, 23; El Mezcal, 12; and the Wheel, 11.
And bars will often be penalized for only a fraction of those violations, as many of the violations will get “bundled” into one violation. For instance, if a bar had multiple violations on one visit by ABC officers, those typically gets prosecuted as one violation, said Doug Jorgenson, director of ABC.
“That’s pretty much how we do it across the board,” Jorgenson said.
Then there’s a lag time between issuing a citation, prosecution and suspension. In the cases examined by the Journal-World, several took more than a year to prosecute.
The Wheel, for instance, had a dozen cases pending from previous years, in addition to the 11 violations last year. Abe & Jake’s, Tonic, and the Hawk each had eight pending cases.
“It does take time,” said Jorgenson of the lengthy appeal process available for bars.
But Jorgenson said he hasn’t heard any buzz about changing the law.
“We haven’t heard a lot about it being too lenient,” Jorgenson said. “The (liquor) industry thinks it’s too strict.”
None of the bar owners contacted by the Journal-World returned calls for comment.
While the issue of penalties for bars serving minors has been discussed among city leaders, the main focus has been public safety, said David Corliss, Lawrence city manager.
But increasing penalties for bars that serve minors is one surefire method for cutting down on underage drinking, Mosher said.
“It works,” Mosher said. “You’ve got to let the industry know they will be punished.”
That means ramping up suspension days and increasing fines.
Since 2009, Abe & Jake’s has been fined the most from the bars in the Journal-World study — $6,500 — followed by Phoggy Dog at $5,800 and the Cadillac Ranch at $3,750.
But compared with sales, the fines mean little, Mosher said.
“They figure it’s the price of doing business,” he said.