Despite Robust Laws And Police Work, Under Aged Drinking Festers

Sep 6, 2013

 Drunken college students are almost as common on campus as football games and Saturday night parties.  The penalties for the providers and abusers of alcohol are tough, but some young people now pursue drunkenness with a new intensity.

Mike Razor, Executive Director of Enforcement with ABC, outside a Lexington watering hole.
Credit Stu Johnson / WEKU News

Times change, and apparently, so have drinking habits.  Mike Razor, who directs Enforcement in the Department for Alcoholic Beverage Control, believes too many kids set out to get drunk.  Besides risky behavior, Razor says blood alcohol levels of point-four and higher can be fatal.  The danger has only intensified the  crack down by the ABC.  Assisting in the effort is a new law that allows an under aged drinker to summon help, without fear of prosecution...

“Basically what it means is if there is somebody in danger from alcohol or anything like that, you have got an opportunity to call for help and not be in trouble,” said Razor.

While the amnesty’s aim is to provide a quick medical response to the victims of alcohol poisoning, the ABC is also working to keep alcohol beyond their reach. 

The state agency commonly uses sting operations, in which minors attempt to buy beer and liquor from retailers and saloons.  They also target under aged buyers…with A-B-C agents posing as liquor store clerks.  Plus, they patrol tailgate parties commonly seen before college and high school athletic events.  Razor says fake identification remains all-too common, but few people fully understand the potential penalty.

“If you have a false ID or drivers’ license, you could be considered a forged instrument, which could be a felony charge, and I don’t know that I would want to have a felony charge on my record for a bottle of beer,” added Razor.

If someone underage borrows an adult ID, Razor says the borrower could lose driving privileges for a year.  He adds most liquor stores and bars don’t want to sell to underage drinkers.  In fact, Razor says about 90 percent comply with alcohol laws.

A Saturday night in downtown Lexington means increased foot traffic at restaurants and bars near the University of Kentucky.  The Tin Roof is a popular college hang out and Bar Manager Patrick Edmonson says his staff is well trained and ready for under aged drinkers.

“You know, we’re gonna ID them at the door.  We got door guys after ten o clock every night so, nobody under age is gonna get in here, then we got servers, bar tenders knowing what they are -doing and have been to all the ABC classes and everything, know what they are looking for,” said Edmonson.

Edmonson says he and his staff don’t hesitate to call upon Lexington police when they have a minor causing a fuss.

“We’ve kind of built that relationship over the past couple of years, so we’ve been open for four and a half years now, so we’ve built that relationship with them.  They’re good to us, so we try to be good to them, as good as we can,” added Edmonson.

A couple of blocks away, a steady stream of college-aged buyers flow through Coliseum Liquors.  Owner Shirish  Petel  says about 70 percent of his business comes from UK students.  He says the first few weeks of fall classes are when he sees a lot of fake ID’s. 

Two UK freshmen are enjoying an ice cream cone.  Lexington’s Jessie Dalton hasn’t felt pressured to drink so far.  And Dalton admits the penalties associated with underage drinking are a definite deterrent.

“The money, if you got in trouble, not necessarily arrested, but written up, you know.  I know that you would have to pay fines, go to court, try to get it off your record, all that stuff,” explained Dalton.

Co-Ed Kiera Black comes to Lexington from near Atlanta, where she says underage buying is not difficult.  Like Dalton, she worries about the long term impact of citations and fines.

“I’m very major and goal oriented.  I can’t say that all college students are like that because there are kids that come in with undecided majors, they don’t have an idea of what they want to do, but I do, so that threat is definitely there.  Definitely makes me think twice before I do something,” said Black.

But trying to doing something illegal is increasingly being made more convenient.  ABC Enforcement Director Mike Razor says there are more liquor stores, more bars and more Kentucky counties that allow the sale of alcohol.

“Well these are expanding tenfold over the state.  There’s a wet-dry election constantly, so our area of responsibility is increasing,” said Razor.

While alcohol is more available, Razor says his agency has seen historic staff reductions.  Over the last decade, he says budget cuts have reduced the number of investigators by about a third.