Two local bars were given citations after compliance checks carried out by the Steamboat Springs Police Department showed they served alcohol to underage drinkers.
During the weekend, police officers sent a number of 20-year-olds into bars and without identification to see if they would be served. Two bars, Mahogany Ridge and Sabre's Comedy Den, were cited for serving at least one of the underage drinkers, Steamboat Springs police Capt. Joel Rae said.
The bartenders were issued a citation and a summons to appear in Routt County Court for serving alcohol to people younger than 21, and the liquor license holder was issued a citation for permitting the sale of alcohol to a person younger than 21.
Representatives from both bars said they take the citations very seriously and are taking steps to ensure underage drinkers do not get served.
The Tap House, Lupo's, Mambo Italiano and Rio Grande all passed the tests this weekend. Rae said the police department would check for underage serving at bars on a random but routine basis.
"It's a problem any time you have an underage population in the community, coupled with hundreds of businesses with liquor licenses," Rae said. "We need to do consistent enforcement. We need to step that up and do more compliance checks on the serving of underage persons and the over serving."
In the past few months, police officers have reported an increased incidence of problems with underage drinkers, especially among students at Colorado Mountain College. The police department has pointed to a number of close calls where students were drinking too much and ended up either in the hospital or in an accident.
On Oct. 27, Joseph Michael Osborne, a 24-year-old CMC student, died of alcohol poisoning. A police report states he had been drinking at Sabre's that night. Sabre's owner Dale Walter said his staff did nothing wrong that night.
The police department had been trying to put the compliance checks together for quite some time, but Rae said it had trouble finding 20-year-olds who were willing to participate.
The police worked with Grand Futures to come up with the undercover 20-year-olds.
"We were finally able to do it, and we plan on doing a lot more of them," Rae said.
Serving alcohol to those underage is a Class 2 misdemeanor, which carries a penalty of up to 12 months in jail and up to $1,000 in fines. The establishments' liquor licenses could be put in suspension or even revoked if repeat offenses occur, Rae said.
Walter said his establishment has never had a problem with underage drinking. By the end of the week, the bar should have an electronic ID scanner in place that would be able to indicate if an ID is a fake. The bar also will alternate between stamps and wristbands to indicate drinkers inside the bar are of age.
"We are making damn sure this will never happen again," Walter said.
Torie MacDermid, the general manager of Mahogany Ridge, said this was the restaurant's first underage drinking offense that she is aware of and the bar has stepped up its enforcement of underage drinking.
"It is something we are always taking precautions against. I am really surprised we got cited. We don't cater to underage drinkers," MacDermid said.
The bar does have a doorman in place to check identification, MacDermid said, but the bar plans to put in a system of double checking IDs to make sure underage drinkers do not get served.
"Even if someone could get in the front door, we are putting the responsibility on the servers and waiters, as well," she said.