Ashley He/Sun Staff Photographer

Collegetown nightlife staple Hideaway has been busted by state authorities for selling alcohol to minors. Although competing bars like Loco and Level B were safe, the widespread use of fake IDs has made underage sales commonplace.

November 24, 2019

NYS Busts Hideaway for Underage Sales, Loco and Others Found in Compliance

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In the wake of an IFC mixing ban, the dimly lit bars of Collegetown have risen to increased significance for Cornell’s social scene — even for those under 21. New York State Liquor Authority Agents busted Hideaway in October for selling to an underage decoy, according to a Nov. 18 press release.

Hideaway was the only location in Tompkins County caught in this sting. In Collegetown, both Loco and Level B were found to be in compliance, refusing to sell to minors. At Loco, however, the prevalence of underage drinkers using tattered or poorly reproduced fake IDs is no secret to the staff.

On the night of Sept. 26, State Police raided Ithaca bars including both Loco and Hideaway, the Ithaca Voice reported. At Loco, the raid uncovered a slew of underage customers.

“That night, I think 90% of the people in here had fakes,” Anna*, a bartender at Loco who was working the busy night of the 26, told The Sun. She shared how once State Police raided the “packed” bar, people panicked, with groups of people hiding in bathrooms and in the downstairs stockroom. “Once they cleared it out there were like six people left in the bar,” she added.

“For the sake of business, it was unfortunate,” Anna said of the raid.

Loco uses a mobile scanner to verify IDs, and sometimes, Anna said, the bar will ask for a second form to ensure the name on the ID matches the name of the customer. September’s raid, however, proved this system less than foolproof.

“We’re not Vegas,” Emily*, also a bartender at Loco, added, highlighting the challenges the bar faces in stopping fake ID usage.

Olivia*, a junior at Cornell, shared how her fake ID consistently worked at Loco. “Loco just scans your ID and if it scans hands it back to you … there was one night last spring where they asked for a second form of ID and that was wild.”

At Hideaway, students likewise shared the ease of using a fake ID. Josh*, a sophomore at Cornell, told The Sun how “I’ve never gone there and had my ID scanned,” adding that he was “not shocked” to learn Hideaway had been slapped with a violation.

Some of the IDs are obviously poor quality, students said. Laura*, a junior at Cornell, has a fake ID that was picked up off a street in Manhattan by her uncle’s co-worker. Her uncle thought it looked like her. “My fake ID is awful, it’s not even me. It’s comical,” she told The Sun.

And Laura’s ID still works at Hideaway, though sometimes with some difficulty: “I’ve been scanned, and then it’s been red” –– the machine flagged her ID as fake –– “and then they still let me in,” Laura said.

“Right now we have the best scanner … but I know it is not 100 percent,” Hossain Shakawat, the owner of Hideaway, told The Sun. Shakawat often stands in the entryway of Hideaway to double-check the work of his bouncers.

Currently, Shakawat trains his bouncers with a FakeID book from the DMV — but he stressed that, with the ever-evolving dexterity of fake IDs, and with states releasing new and updated driver’s licenses, it’s still difficult to differentiate fake IDs from real.

Shakawat, neverthless, expressed frustration that he was the only bar in Collegetown cited with violating New York State Law by selling to a minor. He recalled the night of Sept. 26, when State Police also raided his bar.

“The whole night when [the] bar [was] full … they found only three or four people us[ing] fake ID,” he said, adding that police found many more underage customers at Loco than at his bar.

According to the press release, the State Liquor Authority deployed 55 underage details in 38 counties across the state, canvassing 812 locations with a liquor license. Of these 812 locations, 156 sold to decoys. The list of 656 businesses who refused to serve a minor included Loco, Moonies, Level B and Silky Jones.

Fines for not complying begin at $2,500 to $3,000 for first-offenders, with more severe consequences, including loss of liquor license for repeat offenders, according to the press release.

*Names have been changed to protect anonymity.