Police will continue covert alcohol stings

Sheila Burt

Police said Monday they plan to continue undercover operations that check if bars will serve alcohol to a minor accompanied by officers.

The operation marks the first time the Evanston Police Department has used an underage assistant to test liquor establishments, said Cmdr. Joe Bellino of EPD.

“What we’re more interested in is making people in establishments sensitive to their responsibility in the sale of liquor,” he said. “Our hope is that all establishments will be in compliance, but in order to accomplish that you have to take actions such as these to ensure compliance with the law.”

The plan was put into effect for the first time Thursday, when EPD cited bartenders at three of 12 liquor establishments they tested, Bellino said. Officers accompanied a 19-year-old female into bars and stores to see if she could order alcoholic beverages.

Bartenders were cited with serving alcohol to the 19-year-old at Prairie Moon, 1502 Sherman Ave.; The Keg of Evanston, 810 Grove St.; and Bar Louie, 1520 Sherman Ave., Bellino said. Managers at the three bars could not reached for comment Monday night.

Police officials will run the alcohol checks frequently, randomly selecting establishments that sell liquor, Bellino said. Future EPD operations also may focus on fake IDs.

Although fake IDs were not the focus of Thursday’s operation, police also charged a Northwestern sophomore with possession of another person’s identification.

Pete Miller’s Steakhouse, 1557 Sherman Ave., has an average of three incidents per week in which a minor or someone who looks underage and doesn’t have an ID attempts to order alcohol, said manager Paul Huber.

The 19-year-old working with EPD tried to purchase alcohol Thursday from Pete Miller’s but was rejected. Huber attributed his bar’s compliance to the bar and restaurant’s policy of hiring more experienced bartenders.

“People try; we catch them,” he said. “We’ve had people that we’ve seen their pictures, we know it’s not them, so we confiscate the ID and tell them they have to go.”

In the past police officials have conducted cigarette compliance checks using an underage assistant but have never done so in liquor busts, Bellino said.

“Ideally we wouldn’t like to have to perform compliance checks, but in this particular situation, liquor was sold to a minor,” Bellino said. “We hope that with continued checks, we’ll find that all establishments are in compliance with state law.”

Bartenders usually will be charged a fine if liquor is sold to minor because they are responsible for the violation, Bellino said. But the establishment may lose its liquor license if the citation is serious enough.

Katie Farrelly, a manager at Tommy Nevin’s Pub, 1450 Sherman Ave., said she’s glad police are completing these operations.

“I don’t want underage people to try and get in my bar,” said Farrelly, whose bar was also tested Thursday but not cited.

In addition to bars, other stores — such as Osco Drug, 1630 Sherman Ave., and Evanston 1st Liquors, 1019 Davis St. — also will be monitored.

Underage people rarely try to buy liquor at Evanston 1st because of the strict policy, said stocker Nayan Patel.

“It’s because we check IDs very often,” he said. “They just don’t try.”

But some NU students said the crackdown wouldn’t affect how much alcohol students try to buy.

Joseph Ferguson, a Weinberg sophomore, said underage students frequently buy alcohol at many of the liquor establishments cited in the EPD’s report without a problem.

“I feel it’s pretty easy to get it with a fake ID,” Ferguson said. “Without an ID, it’s somewhat difficult.”

But Laura Beres, an Education senior, said she sees the operations as a logical way to enforce the law.

“I feel like the police are probably doing what they need to do to be responsible in a college town,” she said.