Archive for Friday, May 25, 2012

Serving minors: Kansas’ laws for bars lenient

State not nearly as strict as some about underage drinking

May 25, 2012


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.

Google form

Serving Minors

Successful prosecutions, fines paid, days suspended, and cases dismissed reference cases brought by Alcohol Beverage Control against the various bars for serving alcohol to minors between 2009 and 2011. The last column, citations, includes citations given by ABC in 2011 for serving minors as part of several special enforcement actions in Lawrence.

Google Map

2011 ABC citations

View Alcohol violations in a larger map

Map depicts bars in Lawrence who received citations from Alcohol Beverage Control during special enforcement actions in 2011. Does not include actions taken by other law enforcement agencies.

Google Map

Alcohol citations, action taken

View Actions taken by ABC in a larger map

Map depicts bars that had actions taken against them by Alcohol Beverage Control between 2009 and 2011. Does not include actions taken by other law enforcement agencies. Bars on this map were among 17 who had received citations from ABC in 2011.


Roland Gunslinger 6 years ago

It's just another money grab by the State. It's a form of taxation on drinking establishments. a sort of tacit approval to serve minors as long as you grease some palms and make sure you don't get caught too often.

Seriously, prohibition doesn't work. People under the age of 21 will drink alcohol, they always have and they always will. We have more serious things to enforce than minors in possession and bars who serve them.

parrothead8 6 years ago

People under 21 will drink, that's true, but why encourage laws that will make it easier for them to drink in places from which they'll have to DRIVE home? When I was in high school, me and my buddies drank at one particular house, and all of our parents knew (but pretended they didn't) because we always stayed there, and didn't drive home.

Money grab by the state? Those fines are nothing. The total fines they got from Lawrence establishments might build a 1/2-mile of 2-lane road. If the state really wanted to make money, they'd do what you said...leave them alone. Even MORE underage people would drink there and the state would make WAY more in sales tax revenues.

The "we have more serious things" argument isn't really valid, because if you apply that to everything, then we're left enforcing one law.

Fossick 6 years ago

"It's just another money grab by the State."

Of course it is. That makes me wonder if the best way to get the drinking age reduced to a reasonable number would be to convince Brownback that these fines constitute a job-killing tax on small businesses.

jumpin_catfish 6 years ago

You bet, let them 14, 15, 16 year olds drink, why not they're going to do it anyway. Right?

Mike1949 6 years ago

Thank you common, under 21 eh? That explains a lot!

James Minor 6 years ago

Reducing the drinking age does not answer the key issue, poor enforcement and accountability. The fines do not appear to be effective, maybe the bar and liquor store owners and parents, that allow this to happen should be held accountable when an accident occurs that is related to alcohol and underage drinking.

flyin_squirrel 6 years ago

Terribly written article and comparing different states is not comparing apples to apples. In Kansas a bar is guilty for "knowingly or unknowingly" serving a minor. So for the less educated, if someone shows a perfect fake ID the bar is still guilty.

In Nebraska, if someone is busted in a bar with a fake ID, the bar is not fined but the minor is. I know this from experience with my son.

So to compare nebraska's laws with Kansas is not right.

pizzapete 6 years ago

This is awesome, thanks for giving us the names, locations, and directions to all the bars most likely to serve minors, now everyone under 21 will know where they can go to get a drink.

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