March 7, 2005

N.Y. State Discusses Alcohol

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Last Friday, Tom Butler, senior attorney for the New York State Liquor Authority, fielded questions from Ithaca bar owners, landlords, students and others about under-age drinking, fake IDs and fraternity and house parties.

One of the main topics discussed was whether or not local bars should extend their operating hours to 2 a.m.

“The Ithaca Common Council has been debating the advantages to having bars open later, in order to have patrons in a controlled area instead of wandering around Collegetown,” said Joel Zumoff MS ’70 (D-3rd ward).

Butler responded that what may be good for one town could be a total disaster for another.

“The Liquor Authority defers to each county’s legislation in this case, because the appropriateness varies widely between different towns — our experiences have been all over the lot regarding extended hours,” Butler said. “The concerns are that when young people are involved, the later a bar is open the greater the chance of drunk driving,” he added.

According to, Dave Pepin, owner of the bar Dunbars in Collegetown, extending bar hours to 2 a.m. might discourage students from driving across campus to after-hour parties at fraternities.

“When kids leave our bar at 1 a.m., I could tell you every single after-hours that is going on, because they talk about them all, and many of them are across campus,” Pepin said. “I think police being wary of this extension would be wrong,” he added.

Another area of concern among many of the bar owners in attendance was the lack of recourse the owners feel they have when dealing with fake IDs and repeat offenders. A representative of Collegetown Bagels asked if the Liquor Authority deals with enforcement of fake ID violations.

“Offenders who are minors are not subject to the State Liquor Authority, because we deal mostly with alcohol-providing license issues,” Butler said. “Even if the fake ID is incredibly good, that doesn’t forgo the licensee of their obligation — common sense needs to tell you when something is wrong.”

Owners of bars, restaurants and stores that sell alcohol expressed concern that the fines for minors paled in comparison to those levied on an establishment for permitting underage drinking.

Rich Leonardo, a landlord with residences in Collegetown and a tavern downtown, said that the “problem isn’t going to get any better until we punish underage drinkers as much as purveyors.”

“It’s just a game to these kids, a slap on the wrist — in the worst case a $50 fine and a night of drinking,” Leonardo added.

In response, Butler encouraged everyone concerned to contact their state legislators, as such laws could not be changed at the local level.

The owner of Ruloff’s restaurant and bar in Collegetown sought alternative recourse that a bar owner could take when faced with a fake ID situation, such as the ability to call the offender’s parents.

Tim Marchell ’82, director of alcohol policy initiatives at Cornell, said that there wasn’t much that could be done by the University in regards to such alternatives.

“The Cornell code of conduct applies only to the geographical locations of the University, which precludes most fake ID cases from being sent to the Judicial Administrator,” Marchell said. “What usually happens in an extreme case involving a student is that the Dean of Students will sit down with them for an ‘educational’ meeting,” he added.

Another option to curb the use of fake IDs, ID scanners, was also discussed at the meeting. ID scanners check to see if a license has actually been issued by the Department of Motor Vehicles, but since even such scanners can be fooled by fake IDs, this option was not seen as in ideal solution.

“My main problem is with people borrowing IDs,” said Dale Casler, owner of Collegetown Wine and Spirits. “I’ve got kids coming in who have borrowed ID from a friend, and they won’t produce a second ID even though I can see it sitting right there in their wallet, and the fact is some expensive scanner does nothing against that.”

“You just have to train your people well, that’s all there is to it,” Casler said. “I train my employees to actually hold the ID up to the person’s face — many times the pictures obviously don’t match, it’s just a matter of not rushing it.”

The question-and-answer session was sponsored by the Campus-Community Coalition and held at St. Luke’s Lutheran Church in Collegetown.

Archived article by Dennis Dunegan
Sun Staff Writer